Tag Archives: Conflict

A quick update

1. My spots got a lot worse, and now they seem to be getting better but I still look ridiculous. Lara suggested scabies, but the doctor ruled it out because it didn’t have one crucial scabies symptom or something. The current hypothesis is the mother of all heat rashes.

2. There was an earthquake (mag. 6.2) on Saturday night (early Sunday morning actually) but I didn’t feel it.

3. An Indonesian soldier was shot dead in Banda Aceh. The news reports haven’t specified a date, but my friends saw police road blocks on Friday night, so it was probably then. No one seems too troubled yet, so neither am I.

4. Radio Australia seems to be the first media outlet in the world to report anything on Aceh lately. Good on Radio Australia. Paying as much attention to Indonesia (and not just Shapelle) as the Australian media should.

5. I bought a new desk and book shelf on the weekend and last night I assembled the desk using the most inadequate instructions I’ve ever seen. I am proud to say that the desk looks almost exactly like the picture in the instructions and seems to have no fatal flaws. It doesn’t even wobble that much.

Because I know you’re all dying for more info, I’ll update about the scabies again tomorrow.


Another week in Aceh

All is quiet on the Aceh front this week.Although there was the most violent conflict-related act since the signing of the peace agreement over the weekend.

And of course there were all those earthquakes last week and at least one more this week.

And just to keep those things in perspective, this morning I was charged by a bull and stepped in dog poo (no news reports on these events yet, but when they make headlines I’ll link them here).

I didn’t intend for this post to be a list of things going wrong in Aceh, but when I wrote “all is quiet on the Aceh front” and realised how ridiculous that statement was, the only natural thing to do was post about all the dramas and….

…complain that still no one emails me! I linked reports from AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPERS, to make the point that you have access to information about Aceh dramas and yet the concern is BARELY audible. One concerned SMS from Australia is all I got when a mag. 7.3 earthquake struck in Aceh. ONE SMS! 7.3!

Yes, I am fine but clearly that is SO NOT THE POINT.

While on the topic of how hard my life is, next week I’m going to Bali with Beck and Meaghan. you know what that means….CARE PACKAGES! That’s right, some bonds undies and salt and vinegar chips is all it takes for Sarah to forget months of neglect. And if your love for me isn’t enough to motivate, remember that Bali is full of cool stuff to send back to my loving family and friends.

New year’s and my new house

I absolutely love my new house. I am writing this post from the back yard which is large and airy but also enclosed by a fence all the way around so no one can see in. It provides the perfect blend of space to move outdoors and privacy from neighbours. In contrast I think people can see into my bedroom from the street but you can’t win them all.

I started the new year with a bowl of muesli with soy milk and an earl grey tea in a real mug! It has taken three months to collect all of these things so it feels pretty luxurious.

I noticed that there was something strangely familiar about this backyard but couldn’t pinpoint anything particular. Then it finally dawned on me, across the road there are about five tall gumtrees making that noise that gumtrees do when the wind swishes around in the leaves (actually, I’ve possible only ever seen a similar combination of gumtrees and palms in the front yard at Rushworth!).

My bed here is enormous. I think it absolutely must be King size, so if anyone has any sheets (fitted or flat) that are king size, or you see any on sale (who on earth really owns a king size bed?) can you send them over with one of the people coming to visit me over the next three months? It’s not urgent or necessary but the sheets here are pretty scratchy (and in some twist of fate my bed in this house has the same hideous bright lime-green sheet set my last bed had).

Hopefully I can keep this house beyond this month because it’s perfect for having people stay. If I do keep it I will extend the invitation to come and hang out as long as you please (the invitation has already been extended but previously it was tagged with a “you do know there is nothing to do right?” warning).

It would be a nice place to catch up on reading and generally just potter around. As I write this Kak Ani who lives in the house with us (she was the previous tenant’s maid and even though we don’t need a maid we also don’t want to kick her out) is chopping up the coconuts that have fallen from the tree.

I can’t decide if this is the best thing about my new house yet but it’s definitely in the top three: I can walk places! This is a huge development because our last place was far too far from anything to walk. Now I can walk to work, at least three of my friends’ houses, the foreigner supermarket and the regular supermarket.

Last night I celebrated New Year’s Eve with some friends and American food. The Acehnese guests were not all that impressed by the hamburgers or, well, any of the food at all. One boy decided there must be something wrong with his taste buds, but I assured him that I do not like the Acehnese speciality goat curry all that much (he was shocked that it wasn’t everyone’s favourite food) and we put it down to what we’re used to. Because there were Acehnese guests we didn’t drink any alcohol, and now I am thoroughly enjoying New Years Day without a hangover.

Highlight of the night was going down to Blang Padang, a huge public space that looks like 10 football ovals lined up next to each other, and watching people set off fireworks. We’d been watching them for hours from Jesse’s rooftop (there was literally a constant stream of fireworks for about five hours and they were still going when I fell asleep), but when we went down to the street close to midnight it went nuts. This wasn’t some orderly local council display, it was people bringing their own fireworks and setting them off randomly. Most of them were pretty standard fireworks, but some of them were seriously huge. All of them were being let off with people crowded around them, maybe taking a step back for a really big one. You might get a fancy display in Melbourne at Southbank, but in Aceh you can get up close and personal.

I should also mention that religious leaders disapprove of celebrating NYE in Aceh, so it’s actually a toned down celebration. I can’t wait to see what happens at the beginning of the Muslim New Year.

Another interesting thing to consider about this NYE in Aceh. It wasn’t all that long ago (before the peace agreement that effectively ended the conflict was signed in 2005) that people were afraid to leave the house after dark, and certainly wouldn’t have been out past 11pm. The thought of setting off fireworks was unimaginable. A firework would immediately be mistaken for a bomb or gunfire. So seeing the streets full of people having a blast (poor taste Sarah…), within three short years since the signing of the peace agreement is pretty amazing. Even though there is still a lot of trauma in Aceh relating to both the conflict and the tsunami, it’s inspiring that the community at large has embraced some of the new freedoms afforded to them, like staying out late on NYE.

Cute animals and babies: the serious business of going on mission

I still get a kick out of calling taking a trip to another town “going on mission”. Whoever came up with that term knew how to make regular life sound really important.

Day 1: From Banda Aceh to Bireuen

I saw an elephant. Yep, don’t need to tell you much else because it doesn’t get cooler than that.

Actually, on day 1 I did other stuff that even rivaled seeing an elephant (whose name is Binkie).

We also visited a local women’s NGO, LINA. With a very small budget LINA is doing many things including teaching women how to use computers and speak basic English. An impressively high percentage of the women who go through the training go on to work in government offices and local development projects which is great for two reasons:
1) They have gained meaningful employment
2) There is a greater representation of women and hence they will be able to represent the views and needs of women in the local area.

One of the women took us home to her village which had been off limits up until just a couple of years ago. It was a centre of activity for GAM (Free Aceh Movement) during the conflict. This woman (who could have actually been a girl, she looked very young) had even fought in the conflict herself. At the village we were met by the head of the local Pesantran (Islamic Boarding School) and other village leaders. Not the kind of opportunity you get every day!

To top off a great day we had a seafood dinner that was tastier (and cheaper!) than anything I’ve eaten in Banda Aceh.

Back in the hotel, I found this great sign:

1. One room chamber is only agreed to 2 (two) people
2. Payment in the face of/at the time of check in
3. Small goods and money, securities kept and taken care of by person
4. Clock expiry 14.00 WB pass from the clock counted/calculated by 1 (one) full of day
5. [Is] not agreed to bring the alcoholic drink, cold steel, dangerous objects, penginap can be released from hotel of if generating atmosphere is not balmy
6. All loss do not become the unrightious responsibility of hotel

Day 2: Bireuen and Lhoksumawe
In addition to helping women get jobs, LINA also has a kindergarten! I was glad we visited first thing in the morning. 50 kids counting to 10 in the loudest voices they can muster will wake anyone up. Look at their cute uniforms!

After another busy day of visiting, this time to a great NGO is Lhoksumawe, I called my friend Dedek and we went out for dinner. The photo below is blurry but it’s the best I had of all three of Dedek’s kids. Her baby loved me! She thought I was hilarious. The oldest girl loved me too…until I showed her (in the middle of a restaurant) how Binkie the elephant danced for me. She was SOOO embarrassed.

Day 3: The Widow’s Kampong and back to Banda
Our last business before we returned to Banda Aceh was to visit a village known as the “widow’s village”. We had been told it was called that because many of the village’s men had been killed in the conflict. Turns out that’s not really true at all. Apparently the Indonesian soldiers in the area gave the village that name as a kind of threat. Well, the name stuck, so I guess it worked. Here is a photo of some women from the village working in a field.

I knew I was going to have fun in the village when a man started yelling “orang putih, orang putih!” (white person, white person!) when he saw me in the car. Just like the kids in the kindergarten, the kids in village were great posers for photos because nothing could distract them from staring at me.

After meeting and talking to the women in the village for a while it was time to head back to Banda Aceh.

Now, I love the UNIFEM driver, Pak Halim, but in all fairness he nearly killed us. And he was driving more carefully than usual because my boss and I were in the car. To remind me just how risky driving on the roads of Aceh is, we saw two guys come off a motorbike when a car rammed the back of them. I’ve travelled at some breakneck speeds in my time (thank you Malaysian taxi drivers), but nothing I’ve seen compares to Aceh drivers. For that reason I was glad to make it home.

As they say in the classics, penginap can be released from hotel of if generating atmosphere is not balmy.