Hiking, eating, and some local news
There’s a group of (mostly) expats in Bandung who go for a hike once a week. I got on the e-mail list and joined my first hike last Thursday. We saw this family sitting in front of their house beside the paved road (quite narrow and steep) that leads up to the park area where we hiked for about two hours. (To see more photos, click the photo above.)
Our goal for the hike was a waterfall, Curug Cilengkrang, but we didn’t make it. I’m not sure whether our guide took a difficult path or we had just misunderstood the duration, but when it got to be about 12:30 and we were not at the top of the mountain, we backtracked. (We did see two very small waterfalls.) Afterward we were all treated to lunch at a Dutch expat’s home, which had an amazing view of Bandung far, far below.
On my Flickr site there’s a photo of fellow Fulbrighter Ronnie Ward and me at the end of the hike.
Yesterday I had two very delicious things for lunch: oxtail soup and an iced drink made from a mutated variety of coconut that is a big favorite around here — and now I know why! It was so nice to chew, almost fluffy instead of crisp like regular coconut meat. It’s called es kelapa kopyor: kelapa is coconut and kopyor is the name of this special variety.
A Place to Live
I finally (!) signed a contract for an apartment, on Monday. Unfortunately I’m stuck in the hotel until Nov. 7 because someone else is staying there until then. It was not easy to find a place to live here. One agent who I tried repeatedly to contact never called or texted me back. Another one found two or three houses for rent, but none of them were in the area I wanted. The agent who showed me the apartment I chose also showed me two houses, but I really did not like them.
When I was living in Malaysia for eight months (five years ago), I eventually felt a bit depressed about my apartment and its location. With that in mind, I wanted to make sure that here I would be in a central and interesting location, and in a place where I would feel comfortable. In most cases you are required to pay all the rent up front (in my case, that’s nine months’ rent plus a security deposit). So it’s not like I can change my mind later and move. The money will not be refunded.
I’ve been reading The Jakarta Post every morning with my breakfast, and I really enjoy it. The big political news is that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (referred to in headlines as SBY) reshuffled his cabinet, but no one seems to think the changes will have any effect on the corruption and inaction that have marked his second term.
More interesting to me is the unrest in Papua, which was on Page One today. I don’t want to try to summarize, but I’m starting to get the sense that a situation is brewing similar to the one in 1999 in East Timor. Some Papuans have called for independence from Indonesia. There has been some criticism in The Jakarta Post about the military presence in Papua; editorials said that internal matters should be handled by the police and the military should restrict itself to the national defense. Since Papua (the western part of the island of New Guinea) is a regular province of Indonesia, I can see the logic in that.
Other news concerns the floods that have swamped Cambodia and Laos and are now encroaching on Bangkok. There are also reports about this every night on BBC World.
Finally, some news that always interests me when I am in Southeast Asia is news about food security and rice production. I know some of you may think that sounds incredibly boring — I find it fascinating because it’s so different from news about food in the United States. Our news about food is often about consumer prices, or perhaps GM foods or the giant industrial farms and their huge government subsidies. Here the news is about whether Indonesia will have to import more rice this year than last year, and the need for domestic rice yields to be increased (even though Indonesia has done very well at improving rice production).
Hunger is a real issue in some parts of Indonesia. There’s a province called East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) that includes West Timor and more than 500 nearby islands (yes! More than 500!) that have experienced a prolonged drought. A Jakarta Post article on Oct. 14 said that supplies of food have run out, and six people have died in the past month because of the food shortages (although no details were provided).
Last but not least, it’s the season for the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Did you know the Indonesian government manages hajj travel for its citizens? So the price is, in a sense, fixed. This year the price is around $3,500 U.S. The Jakarta Post has run some feature stories about people who have a very, very small income but have managed to save to afford to go. A story on Oct. 14 told of a man in NTT who drives a little horse cart for a living; his wife sells packets of cooked rice for 3,000 rupiah (about 34 cents) each. He has been saving since 1975.