Monday, July 5, 2010

First Week in Padang

Sorry I haven't written in a few days! Things have been pretty crazy but in a good way. We got to the place that we're staying (maybe) for the next two months. Greg and I got here on Tuesday afternoon. One of the Andalas University students met us at the airport and helped us get to the place we're staying. This was really nice because it would be really hard to have to find our way.


Our flight was really fast. It almost felt as fast as the bus ride to the airport. We barely got to the cruising altitude when we started descending. We had no trouble at customs. There was actually a very, very short line for foreigners. One of the first things I saw were the Minangkebau architecture. There were more of these buildings than I had thought.

We took a airport bus to the city. We're staying at the Faculty of Medicine of Andalas University. They have some guest houses for foreigners who have some business with the university but are not students. Our other housemates are from New York, England, Ivory Coast, and Japan. All three of us are staying in one room. It's not too crowded but we only have one bathroom. The showers here are interesting. There's a big thing of water in the corner of the room and a plastic scoop that we use to pour water on ourselves.

The housekeeper was waiting for us when we arrived. So glad that FS was with us because he helped us talk to the housekeeper and figured out a bunch of stuff. Then he took us around our part of town. We got a SIM card and some other stuff.

----Continues writing on 2010.07.04----


The first two days were pretty chill. FS showed us around town and helped us get some necessities. We didn't do too much because we were tired from traveling, jetlag, and waiting for Andi and Veronica to come back from Japan. They arrived in the afternoon of the second day and we all went out for dinner, along with most of our housemates.


Thursday morning, we met with the President of Andalas University. It was nice that he took the time to meet with us and exchange a few words. We met some of the faculty and students as well. After the meeting with the president, we were able to get on the internet for a little while. It seems like internet will be pretty limited to finding wireless while waiting for our meetings and at the construction clinic. We also had a meeting with Professor F, who oversees the Andalas University side of the project. We needed him to help us set up meetings with a few people in the government and he called them up right there. It was great. No back and forth. He took us out to lunch as well.

After lunch, he sent us to the construction clinic with his driver. At the construction clinic, we met with TB, who is a very experienced engineer who advises at the clinic. His view on this whole tsunami thing is that it is a waste of resources and that we should be concentrating on building earthquake safe buildings. I can see where he is coming from but it is still definitely important to plan for the tsunami. It was pretty tense for a while when he talked about his views. And then after he made his point, he starts asking about other stuff, such as where we're staying. He lives in Jakarta and only comes out here once in a while and it turns out that the University had put him at the same place. He thought the place was indecent and had them move him to a hotel. He says he's doing some designs for a school and in return, they're putting him up in a hotel. He proceeds to call Prof F for us and tries to set up the same kind of deal for us. We're not sure what the progress on this is yet. Not even sure we want to move since we've gotten used to this place and our housemates are pretty cool people (more on them later). Anyway, we're not too sure how we should act around this guy. We're hoping he'll just forget this whole thing but apparently, he has a really good memory.

He gave us a ride to a shopping mall where there is a pretty big supermarket. We got some much needed vegetables and other supplies. The cuisine here doesn't seem to have a lot of vegetables, mostly rice+sauce+meat. I will post some pictures soon! I cooked some of the veggies that night for dinner while the other two went out and got fried chicken and rice. We didn't have salt so the veggies were not that great but it was nice to have vegetables. I think I should have brought some vitamins with me but I think I'm doing well so far. Haven't had any stomach problems even though we've eaten at a lot of small family run places.


We started Friday morning off with a two hour wait at our first meeting. It turns out that the guy had a pretty good excuse but he won't tell us what was going on for the longest time. We ended up meeting with some of his subordinates and then he arrived just as we were about to leave. The meeting went pretty well though. I think we got a lot across.

Friday is prayer day and all the men have to go to the mosque and pray around lunch time. So our next meeting was at 2pm. This time the guy was ready for us and he was very receptive. We were all surprised that all the meetings so far have gone so well. The officials were very interested in what we've done during the last quarter and wants copies of our work. It's really cool that the things that we've worked on are actually being used.

That night, we spent some time revising our work, trying to finish everything so that we can watch the world cup. We had plans to go out but ended up just watching the game at our place, which wasn't bad since our housemates were also watching.


We're working 6 day weeks at the minimum on this trip. Saturday was a rough day of field investigation. We visited 4 potential sites for the soil berm and wrote down various pieces of information. It was really tiring to be out walking around all day. We were all super tired by lunch time. We had lunch a little late too because we were visiting a more remote part of town.

We came back exhausted and got some cooked noodles from a shop across the street. The noodles came with soup, tofu, and meatballs. They were really good, definitely eating there again. I think I will miss eating so cheaply when I get back to the US. The food here has been great so far.

After eating and showering, we went out to a bar (not many of these around town since most people are Muslim) to watch the Germany-Argentina game. The bar that we went to had a projector so it was really good. The bar was packed full of people and we managed to cram in there with some friends of friends. We ended up meeting a Cuban economist who is working on similar stuff as us, a German surfer who lives in Australia, and some girls from other countries. The people we've met on this trip so far have very interesting stories. They've all traveled to so many different places and have done so many crazy things. One of our housemates is from New York, did his degree in education, taught in China for two years, worked on a cruise, traveled all over Asia, and is now teaching English in Padang simply because he likes Indonesia and wants to live close to the ocean. Another one of our housemates is English and is here to do research for his Masters dissertation. He seems to have traveled a lot as well. Haven't gotten the his whole story from him yet. We also have a housemate who is from the Ivory Coast and is here teaching French and learning Indonesian. His Indonesian is really good.

Anyway, we stayed at this bar for a while after the game just chatting with people and enjoying the band. We also decided to go to an island the next day for 4th of July.


We got up pretty early considering how late we got back and headed to the harbor. I was not very happy about getting up so early on our day off. I don't believe in setting an alarm for a day off. Anyway, we thought the boat left at 8am but actually the office opens at 8am and the boat doesn't leave until 10am. So we decided to hike up this mountain nearby. It took us a while to get there and on the way up, we met a local who said that he can get us a boat ride back to the harbor. So after we got down from the mountain, we waited a while for his friends to come with a boat. But it got to the point where we didn't think taking a boat would be fast enough so we hired some motorcycles to take us back. This was unfortunate but a much faster option.

We went to Sikwau Island. It took about an hour by boat and we were all squished in the back. But it was totally worth it because the island was super nice. The sand was soft and the water was warm. The only thing was that there were a lot of coral. The water was really really nice and we all got sunburnt.

We came back after a very relaxing day and had coconut juice and a dish consisting of tropical fruits with peanut and chili sauce on top. It was a great day out overall.

Everything is so cheap here. We've spent about $100 this past week for the two of us. This includes food, transportation, stuff that we've bought, etc. This island adventure was a bit on the expensive side, comparatively but it was a good deal still. We paid $20 per person and this included roundtrip boat ride and lunch. We didn't even know that lunch was included at first.

It's been great so far. Hopefully I will learn to find my way around the city soon and pick up some of the language. Everyone thinks I'm a local anyway so that's not a problem. I'll try to post some pictures and write more in the future.

I welcome comments and emails on topics above.

1 comment:

yalu said...

hmm i think you need to write shorter blog entries.. this one is SO long and a bit hard to read so i'm not sure i processed everything that happened. but i'm glad you guys are all moved in, i hate not being able to unpack all my items in a central location