Last Two Three Tuesdays ago, I was asked by my school (Ibu Evi, specifically) if I had ever been Belitung. Last Two Three Wednesdays ago, I was asked by Ibu Evi for my full name. Last Two Three Thursdays ago, I was taken on a surprise visit to Belitung with Ibu Evi and Ibu Kun, my headmistress. It was a quick trip, no more than 48 hours, but still pretty full of activity….
THURSDAY: Arrival and a couple of meetings.
FRIDAY: The full day of sight-seeing. It started out at the hotel, though we switched to a different hotel for the second night.
First Stop: Rumah Adat [Cultural House]
Our first stop was not far from the hotel. It was a traditional wooden house built on stilts. It was full of old photographs and artifacts that patrons could touch, plus just being in the house itself was an experience. The wood stayed cool even in the heat of the day, which gives little wonder as to why people of yesteryear built houses like this. Apparently it is made of teak, and the scarcity of teak wood means that there are no more homes like this built anymore.
Second Stop: Cultural Artifacts Museum
We drove perhaps 40 minutes through the outskirts of town and ended up at what turned out to be another museum. A few kindly bapaks [term of respect for older men; also literally means dad] were available to greet us and answer our questions. I took this opportunity to make some sketches in my notebook and write down new vocabulary which I will probably never have occasion to use. It turns out that before Ibu Kun became headmistress she was a Bahasa Indonesia teacher, so she was able to help me with my pronunciation, spelling, and such.
Third Stop: Museum Kata [Literary Museum]
Museum Kata literally means Word Museum, and I didn’t know what to expect from this stop. Not having expectations is a good thing, but even if I did have expectations I would not have been disappointed. Museum Kata was amazing and perhaps one of my favorite places that I have been in Indonesia thus far. It was colorful. It was whimsical. It was dedicated to the written word. It even had coffee AND postcards. I could have stayed all day if we didn’t have more sightseeing to do. I’ll let the photos of the placards in the front room of the museum explain Andrea Hirata and Laskar Pelangi.
Sign Number 5 just had pictures of aforementioned awards and newspaper mentions.
Now that we have some context for Museum Kata, here are a few pictures of the museum which sprawled through several buildings and a few gardens/patios. It was awesome and I hope my house is as warm and welcoming someday.
Fourth Stop: SMAN1 Belitung-Timor
One of Ibu Kun’s friends is the headmistress of SMAN1 Belitung-Timor (Senior Public High School 1 in Eastern Belitung). We stopped by the school to pay her a visit, see the school, and check out their up-and-coming computer lab. It also turns out that another American teaches at the school. He had just left when I arrived, but a quick phone call later and he was on his way back to school.
That’s how I met the first American in Indonesia outside of the ETA program. Other bules [foreigners, especially white foreigners] are hard to come by in PKP, so I was excited to meet this teacher and hear his story. While we waited, I almost felt like I was waiting to meet a long-lost cousin.
His name is Chris, and he is married to another American named Melissa. They have been living in various cities in Indonesia for almost nine years now. They have three kids, all of whom have been raised mostly in Indonesia and speak English and Indonesian (and regional dialects) pretty well. He envisions being in Belitung for a few more years to come because, as he said, there is still a lot of work to be done in the community. Power to you, Chris and Melis!
Fifth Stop: Buddhist Temple
We actually drove around for a bit after visiting the school, stopping for lunch at a small warung (where the proprietor was endlessly questioned about his use of fish sauce in various dishes. I am glad I wasn’t placed on Belitung because literally EVERYTHING has fish in it). We dropped off paperwork at a few random houses and then stopped to stretch our legs at a Buddhist temple, though I later found out that we had actually stopped at the temple to wait for the headmistress of SMAN1 to catch up with us because Ibu Kun had forgotten one of her phones at school. Ah well is was a nice break to get out of the car.
Sixth Stop: Pantai Tanjng Tinggi
Our last stop of the day was at a beautiful beach that was the setting for part of the film Laskar Pelangi. It was drizzling when we got there but that didn’t deter us from taken tons of photos. We parked by some rocks and took pictures, then drove down a little ways to where there were fewer rocks and a better view of the water. I was dying to go for a swim both because the water was beautiful and because I had a major case of BO. After repeatedly saying how much I wanted to go in the water, a spare t-shirt and shorts appeared for me. I went with Ibu Evi to change behind some rocks and then immediately dove in. It was fabulous and I still so happy I went in. Supposedly we will come back to Belitung as a school next fall, but why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?
Friday evening we got back after sunset. I bunked with Ibu Evi again. Unbeknownst to me, she called a cab to take us around for the evening. We went oleh-oleh [souvenir] shopping and then had dinner. The cab driver was so friendly that I thought he was a friend or a cousin of hers and he even sat with us during dinner, insisting that we nongkrong (hang out, as I understand from this ETA’s post). I asked about it later and she had never met him before in her life. That’s just the “friendliness factor” at work in Indonesia.
Not much to say about Saturday. We got up at the usual Indonesian time of quarter to six a.m., had breakfast, and then I fiddled around on my tablet while we waited to go to the airport. This was a quick trip, but we squeezed a lot in on Friday that made it all worthwhile.
Belitung: a beautiful island where there is still plenty left to see. Something tells me I will be back.