I must say, so far, I’m not a big fan of this part of Indonesia. In fact, I’m not even a little fan of it. I’m not a fan at all. It’s given me no reason to be.
Just so you know, I’m about to get a little snarky. I’m not going to try and find a lesson in all of this right now; I’m just straight up laying it out. I’ll look for a lesson later. Here we go…real talk time.
At this writing, I’ve been in Banda Aceh for less than 3 weeks. In that time, I’ve kept you up to date on the significant things that I have experienced during that time. Here’s a brief re-cap, with 1 new, hot-off-the-press development thrown in:
- The village chief (a.k.a., the neighbourhood watch captain) came by on my 4th day of work, told my 2 colleagues and me that the place was a dump (he was right; it was absolutely a dump before my massive clean-up effort), demanded that we produce a boat-load of documents proving that the organisation has a right to be here (it’s been here since 1984) and detailing what we do (dude…it’s been here since 1984!). That was on a Thursday and he wanted all of that by Friday.
- The immigration po-po and the secret service guy (still rolling my eyes over that one) stopped by the next morning demanding the same things that the village chief had asked for the day before. Apparently, the chief had hotfooted it over here the previous afternoon because the po-po had turned up the heat on him. By Saturday, we provided the chief with all the documents he asked for, save 1 that will take some time to acquire.
- A week and a half later (at the time of this writing), the immigration po-po resurfaced claiming that they need more documents and that my male colleague, B, cannot continue living at the centre. This is because a neighbour is supposedly affronted by the mixed gender living going on over here – remember that Sharia law is in force. B has now moved to a hotel for the remaining 4 days that he is scheduled to be in the country. Double eye roll!
- The townsfolk have been staring at me like I’m a White Walker from north of The Wall (Game of Thrones reference…nerds, unite!). My dark skin is more of an attention-getter than I expected and not in a nice, exotic way. One shopkeeper actually shouted at me in Indonesian as I walked past his shop, “Ah! She and I must be from the same village! See how dark I am!” Oh, that I had a rock stone close at hand!
Needless to say, my mental side eye is getting quite a workout.
There are other things about this area that leave me severely underwhelmed – the food and the lack of global awareness – or even regional awareness – of the townsfolk screech directly to the forefront of my mind. But it’s the corrupt officials that have me feeling so annoyed right now. I just cannot see sense in this ridiculousness. They know that we’re volunteers and that we are here to help their children. Why would a sensible, thinking person purposefully persecute the people who are trying to help their children? Their children, for goodness sake! Are they so shortsighted that all they can see are the bule who must have lots of money?
The hypocrisy is absolutely unbelievable to me. These people who demonstrate their morality so obviously and in so many ways (the loudspeaker calls to worship, the head scarves, the Sharia law) are so blatantly corrupt. I can deal with a lot of things but this particular brand of crazy is far beyond me. Apparently, anything even hinting at male/female interaction deserves severe punishment but extortion…that’s A-OK! I’m left shaking my head in bemusement and not a little annoyance.
Sitting here writing this at the end of this crazy day, I’m not saying that I hate this region because I don’t. But I am saying that if it were a person, I would cut it out of my life quick and fast. Too much work and stress to maintain this one-sided relationship.