Thursday, April 13, 2006

Indonesia or Bust






















Welcome to Indonesia or bust
The time has come.
I put on my khaki and clambered aboard a plane heading into the unknown. After many hours of turbulance. I arrived into the jungle, the mists of time the land of Indonesia. Let the fun begin! Welcome my dear and beloved readers to my next installment of my grand adventures which have become world famous and soon will be made into a full lenght feature film with a huge international star playing me. I am hoping for Brad pitt but I reckon I will get Rowan Atkinson! Anyway here I am in Java. One of the larger island in the worlds largest archepelego. Java in Indonesia, or the Dutch East Indies as it was once known by. Java was once governed by Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles while the British were the protectorate soverign of the nation from 1811 - 1815 while the Dutch wre pre occupied by the Napoleonic wars. Then the Dutch took it back and onlt granted independance in 1949. Raffles coincidently founded the free trade port of Singapore and has a namesake in the impressive period hotel. Where the beautiful and wonderous Singapore Gin Sling was invented. Anyway I am getting sidetracked with a small history lesson which I am sure none of you want to hear or really care about. So let me take you on a journey through time and space to the world of Indonesia. Now thr first thing you must know is that ndonesia ia no place for a hedonistic fun loving traveller bum like me, the deeply religious undertones of the place make it very hard for one to procure the refreshing beverage that is commonly known as beer. Oh how I dream for the sweet caress of the froth in my stomach and the solace sought at the bottom of a bottle. All I have are a few minatures left which I was kindly given by the lovley stewradesses on the wondrous free alcoholi laden Singapore airlines. Also what an airport Singapore has, it is a city in itself. You could have spent hours walking around in a trance. But alas I was in an hour bundled away from the massage parlours and onto a silk air jet bound for the hot hot hot and muggy Surabuya. We touched down and the heat was reminissant of Africa but wetter if that can be possible. My first introduction to Indonesian culture wa the fact that no buger queues. There I was with the words 'you are an ambassador to your country' inging in my ears from my pre-deaparture training course held in London two days before we fles and all around me the Ondonesian are pushing and charging in and out of the line. So the only thing to do was to stand my ground, place my feet firmly on the ground and watch them with an inane grin on my face as they bumped off me. In truth I am a small man back in England, but there I am looked up to. Literally I am taller tha mots Indonesians. That in itself is a problem. I went to buy a pair of incredibly cheap trainers and a pair of trousers for my work placemetn as I have to look smart but alas I am juts too big. The shoe sizes go up to 8 and the trousers and jesna, well they are tighter than a Scotman's wallet. So fnally after a long bum numbing flight we were all in the land of temples, motorbikes that rules the road, rice and a language known as Bahasa. I keep saying we. I suppose I better enlighten you on who the collective we actually are. Well there are 9 Brits on this Global Xchange thing that I am doing through VSO. 6 Ladies and 3 lads. All are a cool bunch and I a glad that we have all gelled. Most of the time we spend taking the preverbial out of each other and being rude. But I havnt got one complaint about the group. Our first week which I why I havnt been in touch, we spent up in a Catholic retreat doin loads or work. Yes actually work. e had lectures, teambuilding activities and most of all isolation. It was so odd being up in the Welirang mountains as I knew what wonders leay outside those shut and locked gates but VSO decided that it would be bst to get all the indoctrination out of the way first. A whole week of poxy silly games and so much clapping followed that my mind was numb fo two wholes days. But we did meet our Indonesian buddies and have now all been divided into our counterpart pairs. That was a funny thing in istelf. We wre observed or spied on as I like to call it. We were watched and they (they being the supervisors) observed how we got on with the Indoniesians. Then they put you with the one who chose you as their favourite. I got the comedy option. I am paired with the living legend from Banten. The man who can eat lightbulbs and I kid you not on that. The man who wants to progress up to swallowing and regurgtating live bats as it is his cultural custom. The man with the funniest accent in the world and a great sense of humour and mots of all the biggest Indonesian I have ever seen. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, manthings and mangina's I give you..........MIFTA RACHMAT. Mifta is a gentle giant. He towers above the group althoyugh he is only anoyut an inch taller than me. But his shear gerh is massive. He is the only one to go up for thirds, then forths and keeps going up til the food has all but vanished. The kitchin staff at the catholic retreat fweared him! That is a great pariing as he loves being silly and loves to show off. BUt he has to fast for an entire day before he cabn eat the lightbuld, so he only saves that for special occassions. But although we got on really well I am sure there is another reason why I was paired with him. This reason is quite a serious one, and that is. For the first time in my life I had to dive into a swimmingl pool and save someone. Yes I had to save Mifta who some fool called Yaki pusjhed him in the deep end sank like a stone. In a mater of mini seconds I was in the water and hoisting him to the side. I have never had such a punding hearty beat. But thank goodness I saw him get pushed as many around him juts stood and stared. Our nly outing from the catholic retreat in our first week was a hike up the Welirung mountain to a hotsprings. One of the people who ran the sho was called Mr. Bing and he said that a natural hotspirngs can be found there. He even said that it was deep enough to swim in. So we hiked up the the mountain top and down the side on the Italia jobesque roads. But then as we tuened the final bend and swa through the trees a sbloody green algae infested pool I was rather pissed off. Hot springs my ase I thioght. As it transpiores this pool is filled by a pipe that leads to the hot springs but it is still not the same thing. There was however some really hot pools. One juts about cool enough to slowly and tentetively lower yourself in. The second can only be described as cup of tean hot. Anyway I digress. Mifta cannot swim. This I find most odd as he told me that he was in the flood rescue team in his hometown of Banten in West Java. Anyway he refused to go in and stood on the side in his speedo's and t shirt when that silly sod pushed him in. o Benjy to the recue it was. I then proceeded to give the little shit who pushed him in a right talking too. It was done tactfully and in front of everyone and I am sure I coyuld see tears creeping into his eyes. But luckily he wasnt one of the Indonesian volunteers. He was a mamber off team Bing who seemedto be running the show. Although they didnt have a clue as to what they were doing. So that was the first week, dramatic recues, mindmumbingly boring talks and lectures, visiti smy deaf people to teach us sign language and lot and lots of language lessons. I am slowlty coming along in Bahasa Indonesian, slowly being the major wod in that sentance. But I can tell people off 'kamu nakal'! Bt the language does throw up some silly misunderstandings. For example rioad in Bahasa is 'jalan'. While walk is 'jalan-jalan', But if you say 'jalang' with the G on the end that word then becomes the Indoesian for prostitute. Better not mis that one up then, well not too many times that it doesnt become funny anymore. Finally we left our mountain retreat and headed into the real world. Boy was I glad to finally experienece the real Indonesian. Or Java as I should put it. We travelled the two hiours journey into the centre of east Java to the city of Malang which is going to be my home for the next 3 months. There I will work, live with a host family and spend EAD'S and CAD'S with the rest of the team. We also have money to spend on a trip away and I am championing a bid to go to the ancient temple of Borabudur eight hiours drive away. EAD means Educational activity day. Each counterpart pair has to run one for the entire 20 strong group (18 volunteers 2 paid superviosors). cad = community actionday and we will all togheter run a few of those. As long as they an be made to 'sound' educational then you can almost get away with anything, but my bid of Thai kick boxing was vetoed by the powers that be. Here is my fisrt rant. VSO has the worst insurance in thw rodl. We are not insured to do anything. We cannot ride motorbikes as they are 'dangerous' we cabnot drink alcohol as it is not Muslim and we cannot go paragliding. I mention this as the host family I a with is a single parent in his 40's with a 17 year old dayhter and he is a paragl;iding nut. He is a fantatic, former bational Indo Champ and every thing. Mr. Agung or 'Oowee' as he like to be called. I am so chffed with my host farther. We all met our host families and our work placements at this poxy ceremoney held in the town hall of Malang. A grand old Dutch building and they put on this lovely spread for us. Apparantly a large group of English violubnteers arriving in Malang is a real front page news story. We were treated like celebrities. But we didnt get awaty scott free. We had to wear the worst shirts known to man. The girls got away lightly, they wore these lovely ndo dresses, but the lads. We looked like American wino's in Hawaii. What a atste and to top off the ludicrousness of the event we also had to perform a routine. hank goodness all us Brits are inept dancers as we were supposed to do this funny Indo dance routine. When the Indo;s in dismay twigged that no matter hopw long we spend trying we were not going to get it, changed their tactics and we sang a song in Bahasa instead. With clapping of course. On the bight I tried to put a spabnner in the works by clapping faster and fsater so that I could put them all off. BUt the sods all kept up and lightning speed. Then we had to sit throgh speech after speeech after speech. Fisrt from the Mayor, then the head of the Malang police, then the head of the army barracks in Malanf, then someone else, then a geezer with a moustache, then a woman with a miustache and finally out\r supervisors and the British council chap who I almost broke his hand when I shook it (Indonesians have a really limp wristed handshake). I sat through the speeches and many time did the person next to me jab me in the ribs to keep me awake. It was so boring. But then we met our host fathers , mothers and other reletives and our plcaments. Pac Agung immediatley stood out, a tall large man with riotund belly, goatee beard and westerbn clothes. So I went over and asked him first. ow and behold he was my new daddy. The first thing he said to me was 'Bex and Fifie (supervisors) wont let me take you paragliding'. He is a cool cool man. He used to live In Ametsrdam and owed an Indo reataurant. (Oh Indo is not a racuiisr term, I asked if it is ok to call them that). Pac Agung is a good geezer to be housed with. He has a bloody pool table and already I have won and lots some cash on it. But like 88% of the country he is Muslim and I am woek every morning at 4am by the Mosque next doors lous speakers and Mifta getting up from the bed on the otherside of the room, farting anf\d then praying. But I cant complain. My work placement has got to be the coolest out of all on offer. Some counterpart pairs are working with street children,at blind and deaf schools, or in homes for the mentally diabled. But not me and Milky Mifta the lightbuld muncher from banten. Oh no. We work for Palang Merah. That is the Indonesian Re Cross and spend all day mioncing around in a ambulance wearing these wait coat jackets with the logo on that make us look like UN diplomats in a mind field. We get to see all of the city and the subirds and have already been up the mountain and gazed over the blinking lights of Malang at night and to top it off we are disaster attack team. That means if anything happen we go, go, go!!!!! Already I have been to the site of a collapsed house and after the paramedics had take away the man with the broke back I smiled and waved and was made tom pose for pictures. 'Look white man next to fallen house' snap, snap. I am actually little more than a first aider armed with my sterile gloves and my smile. But on Monday that all changes as I am spenidng a day in the amubulance then a day located somewhere in the city. Then back to the ambulance and then the following day somewhere else. This process will repeat for the duration that I am here. Except on Wednesdays when there wil be EAD'S. This monday I am off ambulance duty (I am not allowed to drive the ambulance so I am combat stretcher bearer) and I am at the Malang army barracks with the blood donor service. We have to take 400 pints of blood in a day amdf I am under the impression that I may be taught hopw to use a needle. Surely not, I am too gun-ho fot\r that. Realistically I should be smile and wave token white guy and the tea boy. But only the future will tell! But the pearce de resistance of my place,ent is that I am the first aid guy aong with a couple of others who stand on the side lines at Arema Malang football matches. Now that is top notch fantastic as they are bloody fotball crazy out here and Arema Malang are the top tesnm in the country with a 30,000 capacity stadium. Already Pac Agung who loves Arema and goes everyweek has decorated the Union Jack I gave him. It is now adormed with the word AREMA on the front. Football is odd out here as the teams are full of fat Brazialian wash ups and random Africans who are alwatys getting off as teIndo's fall over at the slightest touch. But me and Inbby another volunteer have trials next week for some low division team. This is the equivalent of the old English 3rd division in Indoanesia. But very very poer a stabndard. It must be really if I have a chance of playing! Oh I am a long way away from the Capital Jakarta and dont think I will be able to go there but there are riots there at the moment. Can you guess what over? PLAYBOY!!!! Yep the christaisn and the muslims are having a bit of a barny over some dirty mags, hop silly! Our theme of tis whole xchange is disability and also interfaithe, so you wont see me fighting over playboy! But as Mifta is muslim he has never touched a drop of Alcohol in all his 22 years, how the hell did he do that!!!!!!!!!! The country side outside Malang's hustle and bustle with motorbikes and the three wheelsed passeeneger seated bike things everywhere. The country is lush and green with riolling cultivated hills that make them look like they have steps all the way up. Large white oxen plough the fields with men in triangular hats leading them along on a rope. The people smile when they see you but stare horrible and as I am white I hear 'Bule' a lot which is there way of saying whiteman. But they are so deeply religoius that hardly any offer a treat to you. Bescides if they do I am quite bigger tha them. I tried tio buy some jesna and they are for skinny Asian legs. I couldnt get the bloody things over my thinghts. Thats how buig ia m compared to the Indo's. They even make me arm wrestle them. When I beat them they get on the blower and call their mates who all turn up to have a go at the whioteman wrm. So far I am undefeated. Mifta wont have a go as he sayd that it is naughty! Around the city are the mots wondrous Buddhist ancient temples from the era long gone where Buddhism was the major religion. I gaze at them in awe and admiration and no matter what is going on around them you feel relaxed and enlightened just by being in their presence. Now I have written too uch I know but you know me, I do like to tell you lot things. But before I go and vanish I must tell you all that to wipe your botty you dont use paoper! You splash yourself with water from a trough! Yes you do. It is avtually quite liberating to have cold water all over your genitals I can tell you. It is also the same trogh where you wash from...nice! But I dont complain, its cold and freshens you up a treat. Juts like showering in the rain wg\hich I did at the cathlo reteat and shared the crap out of some nuns. I was told that in Indonesia even though I had my swimming shorts on it is impolite to shower in od's piss from the sky! Take care my cherubs and whatever you are \doing and wherever you are try and cold water on the genitals thing. You wont forget it! Love Ben xxxxxxxxxxx P.S. The word wang out here means money, so you have people begging in the street asking for wang. How I giggle to myself at that!

2 Comments:

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