Traveling in Indonesia is unlike any travel I have previously encountered. Granted, most of my previous travel experience has been primarily with family and friends in the States, but still, this ain’t that. Traveling here is like getting dragged to a really bad documentary on dirt with random, chaotic fight scenes that you’re not allowed to leave.
First and foremost, you never really know when your bus is going to leave. Usually when it’s full. How long will that take? How long will you be sitting on this bus in sweltering Indonesian heat? No way of knowing. Then you’re on the bus, usually on roads with more holes than a rotten tomato, for hours. Where are you going? It doesn’t matter. It will take HOURS. In fact, most Indonesians will tell you to leave around 4 or 5 in the morning so that you can hope to get there before it gets too dark. No matter where you’re going.
Sometimes, I’m lucky enough that someone in my host family will flag down some distant relative or friend to drive us somewhere. I am not, however, often that fortunate. To get from my site to Garut (the clostest big-ish city) you must traverse an ungodly, miserable, tiny, winding, mountain road. It’s called Gunung Gelap (Dark Mountain) and it’s the first time I’ve really gotten car sick. In a car, in a bus, in a mini bus (called an ELF), it’s miserable no matter what you take. So, you grab an ELF to Garut and it usually drops you off at the main bus terminal. Immediately upon disembarking there are about 10 men who rush to the entrance shouting at me in various languages. I emerge to “HELLO MISTER!” “MAU KE MANA” “BADE KA MANA” “BANDUNG BANDUNG BANDUNG DUNG DUNG!!!!!!”. It’s super awesome. When traveling with the family, it’s a little easier to ignore them because they believe I belong to someone. If ever I disembark alone it’s a whole different story. People follow me to make sure I ride their bus, or to try to get me on their buddy’s bus and almost always try to over charge me for the fare.
So, how do I survive? I know where I’m going (the station name and the city name); I assert myself and immediately shake off all of the jerks who bombard the bus; I find someone in a uniform and ask them which bus, when it leaves, and how much it costs; and, finally, once I board the bus I look for a sweet looking Ibu and I sit down near her with a big smile and a hello and proceed to inquire as to the destination of the bus, the price, and about how long she thinks it will take. In this way, I make a new friend who will look out for me on the bus ride and I know that I should argue if they try and charge me 50.000 IDR for a 20.000 IDR bus ride. (I don’t get paid, jerks!)
That would be my Idul Fitri in a nutshell. My host family has a lot of family that lives in Garut, so we went up there to spend some QT with the fam and see Court while she was visiting her family. I’m sunburned and happy. I get in the classroom this week to start observing the classes. I’ll be teaching shortly thereafter and I couldn’t be happier about that fact. I’m finally beginning to feel a sort of freedom and independence in a country that, until now, has suffocated me with rules and restrictions. (Ask my mother, that doesn’t turn out well for anyone involved.) Makes sense that it should happen so close to Indonesian Independence Day! Selamat Hari Raya!