The Good: Flora and fauna like I’ve never seen before; a canoe ride across a volcanic lake; really cheap homestay rooms; delicious Padang food, famous across Indonesia for its spiciness; the feeling of reaching solid ground and fresh air after five hours on a rickety, cigarette-filled public bus; conversation with a real, live American, my friend She Who Must Not Be (Blog) Named; spectacular scenery; touring Japanese World War II-era underground tunnels dug by forced labor; monkeys on the side of the road; singing along, loudly, to Celine Dion on another public bus, wantonly disregarding the real words to “My Heart Will Go On”; watching traditional Minangkabau dances, including one which involves jumping into a pile of ceramic and glass plate shards; cooking chicken fajitas, tortillas, and salsa with SWMNB(B)N and watching “Little Miss Sunshine” as we ate them; buying silver jewelry for cheap; gorgeous 75-degree weather; spending only $160 for the five-day trip, including round-trip airfare, local transportation, souvenirs, and four nights in hotels. I’d say it was worth the money.
The Bad: The only book I brought with me was Moby Dick. Cheap homestay rooms have really dirty sheets, pillows, and bathrooms. I feared for my life on those public buses, especially when twisting and turning down a mountain. I dropped SWMNB(B)N’s cell phone in the squat toilet and ruined it; I gave her mine in exchange, leaving me deprived of communication or a clock. Don't worry, though, it all ends happily: I finally finished Moby Dick, I’m back to clean sheets, I survived the 44 hairpin turns descending to Lake Maninjau, and I paid $20 and got my cell phone fixed and hence can once again send text messages and wake up in the morning.
The Ugly: The scratches on my arms and ankles from branches in the "jungle”; the intense sunburn on my arms, neck, and nose; the peeling of the same, soliciting many questions from my students along the lines of "Miss, what's wrong with your arms?"; the mosquito bites on my legs, arms, feet, and, mysteriously, stomach; my own personal odor after three days of bathing in really cheap homestay bathrooms. Yet, the sacrifice of beauty is but a small price to pay for a west Sumatran adventure.