A Long Day In Bogor
I no longer fear hell; I have been to Indonesia.
That sentence is not entirely fair. Indonesia is definitely a "failed state." The purpose of the government is to loot the country and concentrate its wealth in a handful of politically connected families. The trains do not run; there is open sewerage on the streets; the air is foul, sooty, and tastes metallic; from the air you can see whole sections of Java that have been completely stripped of all vegetation; and the cities are crushing masses of people.
To put things in perspective, there is effectively no train service. There are trains that run from Jakarta to the countryside but there is no rhyme, reason, or rationale to the system. You show up at the station, buy a ticket for a destination, and wait for a train to leave. When a train pulls into a station, crowds of people rush up to it and shout cities "Surabaya" "Solo" "Balang" - the two or three conductors shout out the destinations. Suffice to say there is no posted schedule. [indonesian train]
It took me two days to get here from Jakarta - most of it spent on train stations.
There was one advantage, while waiting for a train to Yogokarta, I was invited to spend a day at an English-language school for Indonesian teenagers. I had boarded the wrong train and found myself one-hour from Jakarta in the city of Bogor. While waiting for a train back to Jakarta, seeing that I was British, Canadian or Australian (Americans never come to Indonesia!), an English teacher wanted to practice English with me. This turned into an invitation to spend the day at the school. So, rather than spend the day in the Bogor train station avoiding the rats and pickpockets, I went to school.
I wound up spending the entire day there. [Students] I was the first American that these students had ever met. The teachers spoke English with thick accents and were, obviously, instilling these accents on their students. "Awh awm gawhing taw thew stawr" - "I am going to the store." I was reminded of the Chinese Ambassador trying to pronounce "Khawarawl" in the famous Monty Python skit.
The most interesting part was their impression of America. In the conversational part of the classes we discussed life in America. When I asked one of the kids about his impressions of life in America, his response was, "Free Sex...People have many sex girlfriends." The class laughed. During the remainder of the class he would make several jokes in English - several at my expense.
What was most impressive was that at the end of the day, as the students congregated on the courtyard, the students divided themselves into like-minded cliques. The conservative Muslim women sat quietly in one corner; the "free sex" boy held court surrounded by several women and beta-males; the more-affluent, well-dressed Chinese students were on another side of the courtyard; a group of surly young-men went behind a small outbuilding to smoke cigarettes and spit. Several students with thick glasses, dark, neatly pressed slacks, and white shirts - universally recognized as geeks - came up to me and wanted to continue to practice English.
I had other plans. I had to get to the train station. Bogor's train station is located in an alley off the main street. Main is too generous a word. In America, we would call that street an alley. So, the train station was on an alley off an alley - a road no wider than a standard-gauge train track. I had to walk through stagnant, ankle-deep water full of god knows what, past small stands selling stale food and other household items. Grizzled, elderly people sat hunched over open fires boiling water for tea or roasting satay.
Something small and prickly touched my toes. I jumped up fearing a rat or other vermin. It was only a food wrapper from a Wallis ice cream pop.