Thursday, March 16, 2006

be

We wake up at 2 a.m. on our first full day here. We try reading ourselves back to sleep, but it doesn't work. Then we watch a little TV. News in English, news in Indonesian, Islamic versions of the 700 club, music videos. We've just found an episode of the Simpsons when we manage to blow the fuse trying to plug in a power strip for the computers. By then it's almost light so we head out for breakfast.

I've prepared myself mentally for the smog and traffic, so they really don't seem that bad. The air appears cleaner than in Moscow, where my throat started burning and tears began running down my face the moment I stepped off the plane. Here my eyes and throat just itch a little.

What I forgot to brace myself for is the poverty: the shacks built out of scraps of wood, and the thin, tired faces you see on the street. People seem to sleep everywhere. A large, covered wheelbarrow hides one dreamer. When we stop into a French bakery for coffee, four people are sleeping on couches at the back of the room.

I feel overfed and conspicuously healthy. I don't know whether to look people in the eye or not, whether to smile. Besides the language barrier, there's a body language barrier. So much of yourself exists in relation to your surroundings. I feel like part of my hard drive has been wiped out, and the information will have to be replaced slowly and painstakingly over the next several months. Just observe, I think. Don't decide anything yet. Gather data. Try out small interactions. Be. The rest comes later.

3 comments:

crawdaddy said...

It sucks having you two so far away, but if I was going to send someone to be my eyes/ears/nose (and throat?-- that doesn't sound quite right) I'm glad it's you two. In just a couple of simple posts, you've made that world seem a bit more real.
Take care,
j

walsh said...

you are by far the best writer i know. i read your entries aloud to genevieve.

michele said...

yea!!! you're there!!!!! it is so great to read your updates, yours and chad's both. i am suspicious however that there was no mention of the coffee, aka kopisusu. you left us in the cafe with the sleeping couch people. i am hoping for your sake that the coffee is yummy. and strong enough to combat heinous jetlag.
looking forward to reading more soon! love to you both.
-m