Today has been surreal. I left the comfy hotel with Arzal, my counterpart from the university in Gorontalo, right after breakfast. We took a hotel car to the airport and as soon as we got out everything started to become unfamiliar. I’ve been in countless airports and thought I had the routine down, but this one threw me a bit. First of all, I was traveling on a paper ticket. Not even a computer print out, but a handwritten ticket with carbon copies. We had to go through the x-ray machine before we even checked in. At check in, I didn’t even have to show ID. Arzal showed his and that seemed to suffice. I had to pay nearly 400,000 Rupiah (about $40) for excess baggage, but of course, I couldn’t pay this at the check-in counter. We had to walk over to a different counter, pay the fee, and then walk back to our original check-in counter to finish checking in. Then, before heading up to the gate, we walked by another checkpoint where we had to pay 40,000 Rupiah ($4) departure tax. We somehow manage to find the gate and plane but everything is either labeled in Indonesian or not labeled at all. Or maybe there was an English announcement but at any rate I didn’t understand it. I found myself wondering how I’m going to do on my first solo expedition around Indonesian airports.
After stopping to let some passangers disembark in Makassar, the plane continued on to Gorontalo. As the plane got closer to the ground, I gradually realized that all the verdant green I was seeing out my window was actually coconut trees! Thousands and thousands of coconut trees, mountains and blue water. The sign at the airport welcomed me to Gorontalo – the Hidden Paradise and from what I saw from the plane it certainly looked like paradise. We disembarked on the tarmac and were met in the arrival lounge by the head of the English department. We loaded up the SUV and the driver drove us to my new house. But the roads leading there were really something else. We zipped in and out of our lane and into oncoming traffic at several breathtaking moments while trying to avoid other cars, motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians, cows and bentors – a local form of transportation that essentially consists of a motorcycle pushing a covered bench. Everything and everyone seemed to be coming from everywhere all at once. I’m so glad I didn’t have to drive.
To take my mind off the crazy streets, I checked my new cell phone for messages and found out there had been a 7.4 earthquake 200km south of Jakarta. Our RELO (Regional English Language Officer) asked us all to confirm by text that we were all right. Later I discovered that Abbie, another ELF who was still back at the hotel in Jakarta, had been taking a nap when she realized her bed was shaking and that, in fact, the entire building was swaying. I’m glad I missed that excitement.
My house seems fine. I am lacking a flush toilet and a shower but I was told these would be installed tomorrow. I’m really hoping this happens. In the meantime, I am flushing the toilet with scoops of water from a big bucket standing next to it. (Weren’t you curious??). I also took my first bucket shower today.