Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wild Wild West (Sumatra): A Roundup

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.


Tolkien Boy said...

You know what I want to say about the combination of Moby Dick and dirty sheets, don't you?

Have I ever mentioned that your life makes mine seem...well, prosaic?

Anonymous said...

Is Tolkien boy related to us? That is EXACTLY what begetters of the firmament were going to say.

Melyngoch said...

I have never read Moby Dick. But I did once have a mosquito bite inside my nostril. It was unpleasant.