I arrived in Singapore after three years of living in Indonesia and I must say it is quite overwhelming. Life in Indonesia is slow, small and dirty. In Singapore, it is like stepping into a gigantic amusement park run by Walmart. Just about everything at street level and most stuff below is either shopping or eating. I'm talking an entire city of it! It is also a weird mix of English, Indian, Chinese and Malay cultures. You see people that are clearly one of the ethnic groups and a million westerners here as well.
I've been sorting through all the stuff I left behind to see what stuff I want to bring this time. It is amazing how much stuff I don't really need anymore. Most of the things that I still own are clothing and toiletries. Most of my books I shipped home (by the way mom and dad, three boxes should be arriving soon). I've got everything finished up and I'm ready to go except for my exit permit which, like usual, is taking until the very last minute. I've got to check in a minute to make sure that my passport is ready since I am leaving tomorrow morning.
It was great to get back to Bandung again. I rented a car and driver to drive me from the airport in Jakarta to Bandung on the new toll road. It has cut the drive time from over four hours on a good day (seven on a bad) to around two hours when there is no traffic and not much longer when there is. It was fun to whiz by all the old curves that used to take forever and give you nausea.
By the way, I have a new job! I sent out a newsletter to everyone but it is official now so I can announce it. I'm the new Livelihood Project Manager for Samaritan's Purse and I officially start on the 5th of August when I arrive from Singapore back in Banda Aceh. I'm really excited to be working this job with a great organization.
I love a country where traffic lights are optional depending on traffic. Between my house and the internet cafe there are four lights. Coming here today all four were red but I just went right on through. No one batted an eye. Not even the policemen standing at two of them. That reminds me of an Indonesian joke.
There was a guy who ran a red light. A policeman pulled him over and asked, "What's the matter? Didn't you see the red light?" The guy replied, "Yeah, I saw the red light but I didn't see you."
Tomorrow (Friday) me and a couple other guys are going to go climb a mountain... just because it is there. I've been trying to pick a mountain while they have been in Kuala Lumpur getting a new visa. There is a beautiful volcano not too far away and some mountains near it. At first I wanted to climb the mountains but apparently that is where all the GAM (local freedom fighters) are and it is a little too dangerous. Okay, how about the volcano? It is the polise training center to combat GAM. I think we'll try the volcano since they hopefully won't shoot us.
I've got to leave the country at the end of this month. I have to go to Bandung first for a week to get an exit permit. It is totally Indonesia that I have to get an exit permit and that it takes a week to get it. Oh, and if I'm waiting on them to finish it when my visa runs out, I have to pay the penalty for overstaying my visa. Then I will be going to Singapore for a few days to get a new visa. It will be my first time to visit Singapore which is incredible seeing that I have lived in Indonesia for 3 years and have yet to get there. Can't wait.
Over the three years I've lived here in Indonesia, I've seen just about everything being hauled around on the back of a 100cc motorcycle. I've seen refrigerators, matresses, entire stores. Yesterday finished off the list. I was behind a guy carrying a kitchen sink. That makes it official. I've seen everything being carried around on a motorcycle, even the kitchen sink!
I promise a job update by the end of next week. I'm waiting on things to become official.
Some friends just came back from Singapore on a visa run (having to leave the country to renew their visa) and they brought me a bunch of goodies. I got a Subway Sandwich (first I've had in three years!) and a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, also from Subway. They also brought Apple Jacks and Golden Grahams cerial! I enjoyed a bowl this morning. So good!
Sabang was great. The island was covered with old growth forest and surrounded by tons of coral and fish. I drove my bike there and took a ferry across. On the drive to the beach I saw several troups of monkeys, two huge (4-5 feet) monitor lizards, giant fruit bats and wild boars. I stayed on the beach for $1.50 per night in a little bungalow. I snorkeled the first day and did two dives the second day. The fish were amazing here.
I'm headed out to Sabang which is on Weh Island just north of Banda Aceh. I decided to take a vacation for a few days so I am going to head up there. I'm not sure what the internet is like there so I may be out of contact for a few days. Hopefully I can get some good diving and snorkeling in while I'm there. As usual I will be bringing my video camera to record it for use later on, maybe.
For the last couple of weeks I had been staying with a friend who had a house rented through the 10th of July. On friday as I was on my way back from Meulaboh, i got two smses (text messages on my phone) at the same time. The first one I opened up and it was my friend saying that he was giving the house back to the owner that day and that I needed to move out. The second one was another friend who said he was leaving for the US and needed someone to watch his house for a month. Amazing! So now I've moved in to the second house and out of the first.
I'm staying at the UN base camp which is where the guys are that are running the internet cafe here. If you want to know what it is like, they have made a cool website with lots of pictures. Many of these pictures are similar to the trips I've made recently. Check it out.
I got a call from a potential company last night asking if I wanted to fly down to Meulaboh to check out the area and see if I would be interested in working there. I accepted the flight for early this morning but it was delayed due to bad weather. We eventually made it out and I was able to see most of the road from the air that I took by bike last time. I got some great video of it and will add it to my trip video. Now I'm here in Meulaboh for a few days and will be checking things out...
Happy Independence Day all you Americans out there. It has been non-stop parties out here for the last couple of days. I went to one Friday, Saturday, skipped one yesterday and have another tonight. Things will probably slow down though after the 4th. It is fun to enjoy the holiday with Americans and non-Americans. Enjoy the weekend!
Overall my trip was an incredible experience. I’m very glad I did it although I wouldn’t do this one again. I would do a different part of the world though. The roads in general were very good and traffic was very light across Sumatra. There was a part near Larat that was pretty bad and another part between Bukit Tinggi and Danau Toba that didn’t exist. There were usually potholes in places and occasionally sections that were bad but usually I was able to drive between 25 and 50 miles per hour. The reason I had to go so slow was because of all the millions of turns through the mountain.
Well, officially the first week is not over but I wanted to fill you in on what I've been doing so far. As soon as I arrived I got busy meeting people and running around getting settled. I've met about a million people and been invited out to eat for almost every meal. I'm just now starting to slow down a bit and have time to think about what is going to happen. Right now I've got at least two good opportunities for jobs up here but they are both waiting a couple of weeks for approval and funding. Both of them are very good fits for me and the people are very interested in hiring me.