Tag Archives: fireworks

Darwin + fireworks

This is post 26 out of 30 to meet my own slightly altered NaBloPoMo challenge. Only four more to go before the end of the month.

So, I was in Darwin with the girls and we went to Mindel markets and it was the last market before the wet season so they had fireworks. I was all, ‘fireworks are endlessly entertaining, but seriously, why bother taking photos? Just enjoy the moooooment man…’ and then I noticed this fireworks setting on  my phone and realised, photos of fireworks are actually the best thing ever.

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.

Fireworks, "ground zero" and rugby.

This weekend I didn’t take a single photo. So beware of the photo-less post.

On Saturday I discovered the bule (foreigner) supermarket. It has Vegemite AND macaroni cheese. I didn’t buy them but knowing that they are there gave me real sense of calm. I also picked up my friend’s DVD collection. I’ve only watched one movie so far (Harold and Maude) but beware, this blog could become a film review site before you know it. I will say though, Harold and Maude was delightful!

On Saturday night I went to the WFP bar (a bar hidden in the depths of the compound away from the police) to watch the rugby. Yep, I watched a world cup. Oh lordy it was boring. But I met another person interning with the UN which was nice. There were a lot of people there, some of whom seemed a bit too keen on themselves. Gee, some people think they’re so cool for living and working in a really crappy place (i.e. disaster zone).

After the rugby my boss and some others picked me up for a late night adventure (9.30pm!) to the beach to set off fireworks. But on the way to the beach it started raining so we chickened out and went back to the office to set them off. It was great fun! Fireworks should definitely not be illegal. Yes, they are dangerous and badly made, but they are also cheap! A recipe for a good time! Some of the fireworks were decorated with pictures of Sponge Bob Square Pants.

On Sunday, while waiting to be picked up by my boss for another beach outing some little kids were playing in the yard next door. The littlest one, who was the size of a six month old, but was walking around and playing like an 18 month old walked over to the fence and just stared at me. For a long time. I waved and smiled but held back, not wanting to frighten her, and she just kept staring. Then, out of the blue she burst into tears. She was hysterical! Her sister tried to calm her down, but her dad had to come out and take her inside away from the thing that was frightening her…me!

After that devastating turn of events we drove to the beach which was beautiful but very nasty looking. Apparently drowning in this beach is the biggest (and only) killer of international workers in Banda Aceh. I don’t think I will be going in.

On the way to dinner after the trip to the beach we detoured into one of the neighbourhoods that was worst hit by the tsunami. Around here people call it “zero point” or “ground zero”.

I learned that one woman in my office had just come back to Banda Aceh from Jakarta to have a baby before the tsunami hit. Her parents’ house was in that neighbourhood and both of her parents, her two older children and the new baby were killed. Then she spent months and months in hospital recovering from her injuries. She was very ill because she had swallowed so much water. Another man in my office also lost his entire family.

That an entire community has suffered trauma on this scale is something I’m slowly grappling with.