The daunting 8 hour drive was underway today as we were finally leaving the safety and security of the large group. Now traveling with Doug for the next 9 days, away from my newfound friends in Jakarta, I hoped for the best. Having the last meal of comfort I presumed at the Le Meridien, I loaded up the SUV and got comfortable for the long ride to Purwokerto. Excited for the new experiences that lie ahead as well as meeting Rudhi and the school, I donned my headphones for a serene ride through the hectic traffic of Jakarta. Taking three hours to leave the city’s boundaries completely, we crawled through the city traffic. It is amazing that despite the claustrophobic roads and the continual disregard for what I would presume as basic driving etiquette, driver’s never showed any frustration or road rage towards other drivers. Once we made it to the countryside, we drove down one lane roads, past several rice paddies, palm trees, and mountains which littered the landscape. Doug having a hankering for fast food, had us stop at a KFC, which was nearly identical to the menu provided back home. I stopped by a local Aldomart convenience store to pick up some Pringles to satiate and potential hunger. About halfway through the drive, Doug decided to continually have the car pull over for various reasons. First he wanted a picture with a sugarcane field, but we stopped instead at a farm without sugarcane for Doug to take pictures. Traveling with our guide across a rickety bridge into a field, we snapped some pictures. Heading back, we saw our driver sitting on the floor of a dilapidated shack drinking a rice drink. Making small talk with him and amazed at the drink he was drinking, Doug was offered a drink. My stomach flipped as I thought back to the previous day where I told Doug I was worried about his safety. This is where I was correct in my worry as he accepted the offer for a drink. I gave him a clear look that said, “What are you doing?!”. The place was the exact location that we were told DAILY not to drink or eat from. Knowing that Doug also had forgone getting any vaccines, I wondered what he was thinking as the place was covered, absolutely COVERED with flies. The sanitation at the location was definitely suspect as he was drinking out of a glass that I presume wasn’t washed with filtered water. Downing the drink and elated by the thirst quenching experience, I hoped for his safety that this was it for the day with these experiences. Sadly I was mistaken, as in almost 10 minutes, Doug and the driver got out of the car so that Doug could eat from a street vendor a duck egg. While Doug was on cloud 9 from eating this treat, I was extremely worried about not only Doug’s choices from today, but how I was going to survive with him for the next 9 days. To say I was worried about his well-being is an understatement. Once again, to my chagrin, he stopped at another stop to break the third rule we were told not to do, he ate from a random field, raw sugarcane. Worrying that some farms still use human feces as fertilizer, the US Indonesia Embassy clearly laid out their health and safety guidelines as well did IREX/TGC throughout the trip. The drive at this point couldn’t end any sooner as I wanted to avoid any future safety concerning situations. I must admit, I’m not one who is often concerned about bacteria or germs, but since the idea of how sick we could get was beat over our head continuously, I was very cautious throughout my stay in Indonesia. Doug wanted to stop again, but I had to tell the driver from this point on that I’d like to limit the stops in the car due to not feeling good. Also, it was only adding to the amount of time it was taking to get to our destination, which was still another 4 hours away. At one point our ride came to a screeching halt as there was a standstill where there was construction ahead. Our driver spoke for a while with a teenager, who told him for a small price he could follow him on his motorcycle through the backroads to a shortcut. This off the road path was interesting and effective, saving us time to get to our location. When we ended up making it to Purwokerto, while there was traffic, it was nothing like Jakarta. The levels of poverty were much more apparent, as the city was void of any skyscrapers or opulent buildings, except for really the hotel we were staying at. Making the booking at the Aston Imperium was a Godsend as it was a relaxing place to spend the night at. Inside the large lobby which was blasting Indonesian music through an amplifier, I headed to my room to lay my head for some much needed rest. The view from the 8th floor overlooked much of Purwokerto’s red roofed buildings. Peaking out amidst the buildings was a mosque with a green dome. Settling in to my new home for the next 9 days, I was pleased with my new surroundings and happy to have paid a little more for a nice hotel room. After contacting home and checking in with Kelly and Aiden, it was time to get caught up with pictures, blogging, and life itself.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.