Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend activities in Padang

--- Written on Sunday, July 25, 2010 ---

Picking up where I left off last time about our activities for this past week. On Thursday, we had class in the morning and then went off to survey pedestrian overpasses. This was the only day of the week where I wore a shirt and it wasn't very hot. We surveyed two pedestrian overpasses total (there are only two of them in the city) and wrote down what we can about them. They're made with steel and are not very well maintained. This is probably because no one uses them to cross the road. The only people who uses them are people who want to hangout in a quiet place. Not sure about using these as evacuation structures. They really need to be well designed so that people use them in everyday life. Otherwise, people will not think of going there in an emergency.

We got out of class very early on Friday because our instructor had to go off to a meeting. We hung out in one of the offices in the economics building, where one of our housemates work. This office had its own router so we were able to get really good internet. It was great to have such fast internet. Wish we had that at our dorm. It's so hard to get work done without the internet. Especially since I associate nighttime with productiveness and preparing for the next day.

In the afternoon, we went to survey some mosques. We were able to go by car which made everything a lot faster. We did 4 mosques in one afternoon, very big achievement. This was a cultural experience for me. I had to wear long pants, long sleeves, and a head scarf. This head scarf thing is very difficult. All the girls here wear it all the time and they have to use a lot of pins. I wasn't going to wear it for very long so I didn't bothered with the pins. In retrospect, it might have been better to pin it all down since it kept slipping. I wasn't able to concentration on the first mosque at all.

I think we did pretty well on our visits. The first visit was the one that the students evaluated last quarter so we just looked around. The second visit was a mosque/educational center under construction at Padang State University. We literally walked onto a live construction site, without any advance notice, with sandals on. They let us walk around, take pictures, make drawings, etc. We talked to the “engineers” on site who only had architectural drawings and got the name of the company who has the structural drawings. We got some really goo d information though and it was very good to see the thing under construction. We should really go visit more construction sites. This kind of thing would never happen in the US. We would have had to talk to someone way in advance and only be able to go visit after hours or something like that.

After all the surveying, we went to the beach to watch the sunset with Andi. After that, we had dinner at a nice looking restaurant, eating Padang style, and end up paying a pretty reasonable price. We walked back and got juice on the way. Very productive Friday. That night, we planned to run to Air Manis (nearby beach that is on the other side of a hill) Saturday morning and then go to Pariamon on Sunday.

Actual weekend activities. We woke up to go running to Air Manis. Just as Greg was trying to turn off the alarm, we got a call from Andi, who said that he got wrong information and that it's better to go to Pariamon on Saturday instead of Sunday because the trains will be less packed. So we had a quick change of plans, slept for another hour, and went to the train station.

The train ride itself was quite the experience. This was the first train ride in Indonesia for all of us. The train runs from Padang to Pariamon with stops in between. We got on at the first station and they didn't open all the cars so that people at later stations will have space to sit. I think this is a pretty good policy since people will spread out otherwise and take up more room than necessary. Some things to remember about trains here though:

Rule 1: If you're lucky, they might decide to refuel and your departure will be delayed by half an hour or more.
Rule 2: Do not sit near the head of the train. The conductor will keep ringing the train horn forever. This horn is super high pitch and super loud. To ensure a pleasant ride, bring earplugs.
Rule 3: Expect to move slower than traffic. I think the fastest we got was about 20mph.
Rule 4: Don't worry about being hungry on the train because at every stop, there will be different people coming on and selling everything from candy to fried rice. We got some pieces of sugar cane. I was happy. Prices are pretty normal but change is hard to come by.

We only ended up spending about 2 hours in Pariamon. We walked around the beach for a little bit, went to eat lunch, walked around the market a bit, chatted with some English students at UNP, and then went back on the train. The city is pretty much like Padang except smaller and with a nicer beach. The train ride back was much nicer since we adhered to Rule 2 (see above).

It was nice to get out of Padang and see the countryside. I think Greg took about a hundred pictures with my camera. We got back and was tired from this whole train ride experience. We showered, ate some food, and then headed off to Pasar Seni to meet up with one of our housemates. Last Saturday, our housemate went to hang out with people the artists and musicians at Pasar Seni and they took him to a place in Chinatown where they played instruments and sang. He really wanted to show me this place so we managed to get a taxi to go to Chinatown.

I haven't really walked around Chinatown. We got to a place where there were about 30 people gathered and a lot of kids singing. Most people there were Chinese but they were singing in Indonesian and Minang. They pulled me up to the front, gave me a mic, and asked me to sing something. After a lot of discussion and thinking,  I finally thought of 月亮代表我的心. By this point, I had realized that most (almost all) of them don't speak Mandarin or Cantonese so I had a hard time thinking of a song that they would recognize. They recognized this one immediately and everyone sang along. Our friend from Pasar Seni said that I could just start singing something and they will follow with the music. If I had a better voice, I probably would have done so.

After the song, they found someone who spoke Mandarin. She did not grew up somewhere else in Indonesia where the Chinese community still speaks Mandarin and Fujianese, along with some other dialects that I wasn't familiar with. She said that most of the Chinese people here don't speak Chinese anymore; only a few from the older generations. They all communicate in Indonesian. They are all Catholic and everyone there that night were from the same church. I see why everyone I meet thinks I'm Indonesian and expects me to speak the language.

Just as we were about to leave, a huge tour group came in. The group of musicians played a few popular songs, including a very popular Minang one. Everyone was happy and there was a lot of singing. It was all very strange. After the tour group left, they started up the kareoke machine, and we made our exit.

Sunday. We woke up early once again and headed off to running to Air Manis. Greg and our other housemates have gone before and this was the first time I joined them. We took two angkots to get further south and then started running. I was doing fine on the first flat part. And then we hit the hill were the roads became really steep. It was either a very steep incline or a very steep descend. I walked most of this because I was trying to not be out of breath (on the inclines) and not to kill my knees (on the descend). The beach itself was pretty nice. There was a lot of garbage around towards the entrance. The beach was very flat so the water remained shallow for a long way out. The locals say that in the afternoon, you can walk out to one of the nearby islands. There were a lot of surfers. We hung out at this one restaurant on the beach for a long time and then took an angkot down the hill.

We were all pretty tired by the time we got back. We showered and took naps. We met up with a local friend of ours to hang out before she goes to another city for work. We went to the market and got Kevin's guitar fixed and got Greg a watch (finally!). Then we went to eat martebak (the meat kind) and ordered a sweet one to go. We took it to the beach with us and spent some time chatting on the beach. Pretty nice weekend overall.

No comments: