Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Back in Padang

--- written on: July 21, 2010 ---

Sorry, the last “back in Padang” post a bit lame. We got back on Sunday afternoon after our flight was delayed for about an hour. This is pretty normal apparently. As soon as our plane landed, it started pouring rain. So we decided to take a taxi. This was a good choice since we would've gotten soaked otherwise. After we sat in the taxi for a while, Andi realizes that he took the same taxi when he was leaving for Japan. He and the taxi driver had a good chat on the way back.

We came back to a pretty quiet dorm. There was no drinking water, as usual. Our housekeeper is supposed to get someone to refill our bottle of water but sometimes he is slow. Water at restaurants are boiled before they are served or made into ice. I haven't had any problems with the water here so far. We spent the night doing a bit of work, mostly figuring out goals for the rest of the summer.

We having language classes this whole week. So we got up bright and early Monday morning for class. These classes have really helped. I wish I have more time to study and review things though. We're always so busy. We spent Monday afternoon doing more planning, replying to emails, scheduling stuff, etc.

Tuesday afternoon, we had a meeting with about 6 students from Andalas University. We talked about our projects and what we are trying to accomplish. They all seemed to be interested in our projects. We asked for help with mosque visits and they were very enthusiastic. We got several volunteers for visiting mosques on Friday. Hopefully that will go well. I need to figure out how to put on a head scarf before this. I just bought one today. Learning something new everyday...

Wednesday afternoon, we got to the construction clinic after our class and waited around for TB, the famous structural engineer to take us to see some retrofits in progress. We went to see the retrofit/rebuilding of a school that the construction clinic is working on. The workers were putting in more reinforcements into joints. Everything seems to be going pretty well. I really think American construction sites are too clean and waste too much construction material. This one feels like real construction is going on. I wouldn't mind helping out, maybe tie some rebar!

After the school, we visited some churches that are being rebuilt. This was kind of weird since Padang is mostly (99%, no joke) Muslim. Apparently there is a Catholic corner. This is probably the biggest concentration of women who don't wear veils in town. The church that TB is working on was built 106 years ago. They are reusing the same bricks and keeping the same architecture. He is really keen on keeping the heritage buildings the way they were. This church is in the same complex as a Catholic school. The little girls here wear short skirts instead of long ones (and no veils). Otherwise, the uniforms look pretty much the same as any other elementary school in town: white shirts and red pants or skirts. It still surprises me how early some of the little girls start wearing the veils. I guess it's also a part of the school uniform.

We also visited a church that was pretty much demolished and being rebuilt altogether. TB was pretty upset about this because apparently, the church owners were advised by some American professor to take out all the old stuff and replace with a steel frame. So now they are tearing out all the stuff that was built 100 years ago. TB thinks a lot of it could have been saved; the building just needed more reinforcement. Prime example of why he seems to dislike foreigners. They come in without any knowledge of the city's history, make some offhand comments, and end up destroying part of the city's heritage unintentionally.

We went through the biggest traditional market in town on our way back and picked up a few things. It started to rain so we didn't stay long. We cooked pasta with lots and lots of vegetables when we got back. It was pretty good, even though we didn't have salt. Pretty proud of what we managed to do with a tiny cutting board, small fruit knife, small gas stove, and mini pots and pans.

For Thursday, we're planning on surveying some pedestrian bridges. On Friday, we're going with some students to doing some mosque assessments. I think we are going to see a nearby site where huge landslides occurred during the last earthquake. We have a ton of things planned for next week as well. We hope to keep ourselves busy until Ramadan. Ramadan will be a very interesting cultural experience for us. It starts mid-August. Will definitely blog about that when it happens.

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