a trip to the island (entry from July 24 2009

On the plane to Indonesia.
We haven’t even landed
and I can already feel the spirit of the East
with it’s delicate charm.
I see it in the flight attendant’s sweet and pure face.
I taste it in the steaming hot green tea that is served to me.
I hear it in the high tone of the Asian voices around me.
The beauty of these people holds a timeless wonder
that will never seize to attract me.

I’ve got the aisle seat in the midsection of the plane.
Every now and then, the lady sitting next to me
slightly brushes up against my arm.
For some this would be considered annoying or distracting.
But I find it comforting for some reason.
It relaxes me.
Because of the tight proximity, it’s inevitable anyway.
I can’t help but forfeit my territory in response
and just accept the physical connection.

After a long two day trip,
we finally land in Jakarta, Indonesia
right in the middle of the day
when the sun is at it’s hottest.
I am ready for this new foreign world.
As soon as we get through customs
we are greeted by our crew and bodyguards
that will be escorting us throughout our stay.
We are the center of attention.
A camera crew from a television station
greets us with flower lays.
A small interview is given.
Outside the airport a paparazzi crowds around us
as we wait for our ride.

We have to take a three hour van ride to Bandung.
The countryside is beautiful.
Lined along the freeway are small rickety homes and villages.
They almost look like slum villages in India.
I am told by one of the crew that this is the “suburbs”.

We make our first stop.
Ironically, it’s a Starbucks.
We travel halfway across the world
and our first stop in a foreign country
is an American brand food chain.
I walk in the bathroom
and the floor is drenched with water.
I find out that this is because
of a hose attached to the wall near the toilet.
This is a common device found in all Indonesian restrooms.
You use this to clean yourself after you finish your business.
It is only inevitable that this would make the floor so wet.
I did not find the need to use this feature.

We arrive in downtown Bandung.
The streets are flooded with people, cars, motorcycles,
vendors, shops, and cafes.
Motorcycles and scooters make up over half
of the vehicle of choice.
They weave through traffic like a group of ants
rushing and gathering.

Americans stick out like sore thumbs here.
The natives glared at us with curiosity.
Every stare had one question written on their face:
“Why are you here?”
I didn’t see any other tourists around.
The bombings in Jakarta that happened a week before
I’m sure put a damper on tourism.
Even with that slight fear in my mind
I never once felt unsafe or unwelcome,
only the normal uncertainties one would feel
in a foreign land.

The next day we were taken around the city.
It was an adventure.
Watching the chaos
and how the city moves,
it baffles me what keeps this culture and people surviving.
The attitude here is one of pride.
The island keeps them exclusive
like a hidden jewel that the whole world knows about
but never discovers.
Small. Compact. Efficient. The Spirit of Asia.
The Spirit of the East.
I accept.