Living in Surabaya Indonesia

Living in Surabaya Indonesia

When my flight from the U.S. arrived in Hong Kong there were men stationed outside the gate to with names posted on a wall…and mine was up there, labeled Surabaya!! The men spoke fairly good English and lead me to where I needed to go, carrying by bags the whole time!! WHEW! I waited for just a little over an hour for my next flight and was soon underway!

I arrived in Surabaya at 7:30pm and this time I had to go through immigration, which was a breeze, and thankfully there were no issued with my limited stay VISA! So now all I have to do is pray all of my bags made all their connections and safely, and figure out how I’m going to get 4 bags totaling more than 250lbs plus carry ons. I got a cart that looked super small for all the bags, but that’s all they had, and the waiting began. It was probably a good 15 min wait but all my bags came through at once, which on 1 hand is good that I know they are all here, but on the other hand it was so hard for me to life them quick enough and get them on the cart before the next one came out! Here I was quickly introduced to my second dose of kindness from the East, when two men helped me lift the bags off the belt and on to the cart. again WHEW! And I’m on through customs with a breeze, and go in search of my welcoming party; I’m supposed to look for a driver with a nameplate. I spot him right away, but am surprised to see 2 other people waving at me to. These will be the first 2 friends I have made here, Ms. Chacha and Mr. Ade, and I do mean friends, because I have never felt more instantly welcome in any place, or with anyone, than I feel in Surabaya, and at ButaHati….the school I am teaching at.

After I exchange some money, which will be a topic for another day…we head out for some dinner. Chacha and Ade are very excited to learn that I am willing to try traditional Indonesian food as the 1 other Westerner at the school, Jenna, doesn’t like it and only eats American food. In their experience they say liking the food is key to keeping us here, any foreigners who have previously came and didn’t take to the food have left…so needless to say their anxiety was palpable! As I’ve said many times to all of you, I can’t guarantee I will always like it, but I will try anything once! This seemed to ease their minds a little. We went to a nice restaurant called Bon Ami, which I found funny…and I began looking at the massive menu! Pretty much all of the paper here is larger legal document size so the menus are long, with pictures thankfully, and super thick, mostly because of the enormous drink menu! There is any kind of drink concoction you could possibly think of, often made artfully with colored syrups, fresh fruits and jellies, and the drink section of the menu is often longer than the food!

I ended up ordering NasiPecel for my meal, which was white rice, cabbage covered in peanut sauce, a chicken leg, and these peanut chips, Nasi=Rice and EsTeler to drink, which was basically a snow cone, shaved ice mixed with sweet coconut milk, but instead of flavored syrup…its actual fruit on top. There was pineapple, Lychee jellies, Avocado balls, Coconut shavings, jackfruit and even Durian. Everything was delicious!!

Interesting fact though, I don’t know why, my ignorance I suppose, but I just assumed they used chopsticks over here…well not so. They use utensils, however never knives! So with anything that we would normally cut with a knife, they use their spoon, just upside down. The fork is used as almost a shovel to put the desired food on the spoon to eat. They mix up everything they eat here, so for my meal I would use my spoon first to cut a little piece of chicken and set it aside, then get what else I wanted to eat, a little of the cabbage, peanut sauce, and rice and pile it all together, then I would use my fork to shovel the pile onto the spoon and eat! This is going to take some practice as it feels awkward and completely backwards, but I’m sure I will get it if I stick to it. I am determined to always do the small cultural things like this, not only out of respect, but particularly since I can’t speak the language, I won’t look like a complete “Bule” wherever I go! Bule [boola], is their word for westerners. I guess it can best be equated to “Gringo” in Spanish, however the negative connotation that is usually associated with gringo is not there.

After our wonderful dinner, a very happy Ms. Chacha and Mr. Ade … because I liked the food…showed me my new home. I have my very own apartment in a rather wealthy complex. They say that the Citraland area of Surabaya, which I feel equates to Midlothian, is a little Singapore. As I haven’t been there yet, I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I will keep you posted.

I am in a gated community and live with all the new foreign teachers in close proximity. All of the houses connect to each other, similar to townhouses, but only one story. I have a fence out front, and inside the fence I will store my motor scooter once I’m ready to start driving myself around over here. They drive on the left over here, and basically you just go! If the person in front is going too slow…you honk and go around. If you are passing someone walking, you honk and go around. If you are turning, you just honk and go! Basically…honk and go!!

Back to the house … Funny thing about the locks, they actually turn 3 times in order to lock and unlock! I struggled with this the first 2 days and needed my neighbor to help me twice, and my driver three times.  When you walk it is the kitchen…small frig, microwave, sink, table and drinking water dispenser. Yes it is true you cannot drink the water here, so everywhere there are those giant water cooler things you see in offices for you to fill up your personal water bottles and what not. That hasn’t been that hard to get used to except when brushing my teeth, where I have to keep a cup by the sink to dip in.

There is a patio in the back that is closed in and with an awning. Any place where you might be outside there is a covering to protect you during the rainy season so no jackets are necessary! Also there is a den with a bamboo loveseat and chair and TV, I will eventually get a DVD player so I can watch movies, since the school provides either internet or cable at home. I need to go to the Super Mall…(and I mean SUPER…probably the size of Chesterfield, Cloverleaf, Regency, VCC, and Southpark all combined together, with 3 churches and two schools inside and any and every type of store you could think of in between…) to get the DVD player with a native, so they can ask about a universal regional code player. Apparently DVD have a code imbedded in them based on their developed region. As in if I buy a DVD here it has a regional code for Asia, where as ones from US, have a North American regional code. Most DVD players here will only play Asian codes….but they do make them…just cost a little more.

Guess What?!?! I have air conditioning!! The unit is in my bedroom and it gets as low as 16°C= 61°F, but it doesn’t really reach the rest of the house so I just keep it o and leave the door closed. I asked the school for a fan so at least the kitchen has some circulating air.

Lastly, the bathroom! Mom and I went back and forth about what things they would and would not have in Indonesia, and toilet paper was one of those things that came up. I stupidly said, of course they use toilet paper Mom, I’m in the big city, and they wouldn’t use leaves, as she thought. Well we were both wrong…they use a sprayer. Basically it is the same principal as a bidet in France, where you spray off to clean yourself after using the toilet, but it is located attached to the wall, and looks like the sprayer we usually have attached to our kitchen sinks. Just so you know they do have toilet paper here, mostly for us Bules…I just have to keep a roll with me at all times!! 🙂

The shower is the funniest part of all!! When you walk into the bathroom that is about 5×5, you see the toilet straight ahead of you. To the left of the toilet is a 1X1X2 box attached to the wall. There is a showerhead positioned the box…yes this is the shower. When I first saw this my heart dropped!! I thought dang I have to lose a lot of weight and like yesterday for me to be able to bathe!! 😉 That first night was very interesting, let me tell you, but I got in it! All I could think of was most of the people here are on the shorter side, so I couldn’t figure how they were able to climb in…a stool maybe?

Once I was in there though I noticed that there is a hole in the corner of the box that leads to a drain in the floor. Upon further inspection I notice that it is essentially a wet room, and I can stand outside the small box and wash freely in there!!  I felt so silly and laughed out loud at my foolishness let me tell you! I asked about it the next day, and traditionally they would plug the hole in the box and let it fill, just like we would our tubs. Then they would use a scoop to ladle the water on themselves. The separate showerhead is again one of those things that shows the wealth of the area, and is not commonplace.