Archive for September, 2011

September 17, 2011

Scoopy: Day 1

by Tabitha Kidwell

The Scoopy was delivered yesterday afternoon as promised. I handed over a significant amount of money (in the equivalent of tens and fives), and the Scoopy was mine!

The moment they handed me the keys was also the moment I realized “I have no idea how to drive this thing.” Ah, yes – that’s why I didn’t think I’d want to get a motorbike. I only have one real experience with a scooter: after a family Memorial Day cookout (AKA after several hours of heavy drinking), my cousins and I went out to Brothers, a bar resembling a warehouse. As we walked in, I saw a sign that said “win this crappy scooter” attached to a very fairly described ‘crappy scooter.’ I thought to myself “I don’t want a crappy scooter, but I do want to embarrass my little sister on her birthday,” so I entered with her name. Imagine my surprise when the DJ announced, “Katie Kidwell, you’re our winner. Please go to the bar.” Katie had no idea what was going on, but luckily (hey, it was her birthday!), she was already at the bar, and she told the bartender she had won. “Let me get the keys” said the bartender. At first, Katie thought she had won a car, but, after an initial disappointment, she was pretty happy with the crappy scooter. We all took turns driving in circles in the parking lot, then my cousins Jimmy and Andy drove it home, one driving, one jogging alongside. Or, they tried to drive it home: they only got halfway there when the handlebars came off and Jimmy face planted in the middle of Goodale Park.

Jimmy on the crappy scooter - coincidentally, he is making the same face I made most of the day today!

You may be surprised to hear that that experience didn’t really prepare me to ride the Scoopy. They gave me a quick tutorial and I tried to take it for a spin, but I only went about 5 feet before lurching to a quick stop, then repeating the process. It was like a baby giraffe learning to walk. It was not pretty. But I kept trying, and it eventually got better. I went up and down the street a couple of times before my counterpart and his wife helped me put the Scoopy in my house so we could go get dinner.

I woke up this morning ready to practice on the Scoopy. But first, of course, I had to sit around for awhile thinking about practicing.

Then I had to revel in the almost-zero odometer reading and the new-scooter-smell (yes, there is such a thing!).

Then, I had to practice just sitting on the Scoopy.

Then, I had to practice wearing the jacket and helmet that I got for free with purchase.

Ok, I’ll admit – I was terrified to actually get on the thing and go anywhere. I finally worked up the courage to take it out, and I rode around my neighborhood until the odometer said 10 kilometers. That’s quite a feat when you consider that my neighborhood consists of exactly two streets, neither of which is longer than a football field. Also, it’s a new development, so there are about 5 houses under construction. I don’t think the constructions workers got any work done, given that every time I circled by, they had to stop what they were doing and watch me creep forward at approximately 10 km/hour.

After a couple of hours of entertaining/terrifying my neighbors, I was ready to take on the open road. Okay, that’s not true – I was totally freaked out to take on the open road, but I was out of toilet paper. So I forced myself to venture outside of the gate of my complex. I made it all the way to the store and back and only got passed by one person on a bicycle! But it was totally terrifying. I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable riding this thing. Anyone in the market for a (very) gently used Scoopy?

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September 16, 2011

Hang on Scoopy

by Tabitha Kidwell

About 18 months into my Peace Corps service in Madagascar, I walked into a random salon, held up a picture of Jessica Simpson, and asked them to dye my hair the same color as hers. I may have been the first white girl to ever walk in their salon (let alone ask for such a drastic color job), but they happily obliged. Two giant bowls of blue peroxide solution later, I walked out with hair roughly the color of plastic baby doll hair. Radioactive baby doll hair. It was bright. To be fair, though, it was much closer to Jessica Simpson’s hair color than my natural color.

Looking back, I’m not sure I even really wanted to be a blonde. I haven’t had any desire to dye my hair since. I just thought it was worth a try once, and why not do something so ludicrous when you are already an object of curiosity to everyone around? I was one of only a handful of white people to ever come to my tiny town, and I was a source of great entertainment. Kids would chase after me on my morning run; ladies would gossip about what I bought at the market; babies would take one look at me and burst into tears. So I thought dyeing my hair would be fun for me and for them. Unfortunately, to Malagasy people, white girl hair, whether brown or blonde, is still white girl hair. The first thing my neighbor said to me afterwards? “Ah, Taby, you are so fat!” Seriously? I gain half a pound and you notice that, but not the neon yellow mess on top of my head?

In any case, I just made a purchase here that I feel is in the same vein as my Malagasy hair-dyeing escapade: I bought a Honda Scoopy Motorbike! A month ago, I was adamant that I would not get a motorcycle here. “Quality motorcycle helmet” was literally the only thing on a long packing list that I didn’t bring. I thought motorcycles were too fast, too dangerous and unnecessary.

But then I got here, realized how difficult it is to get around, and realized that, instead of a big, fast, scary motorcycle, I could get a little, wimpy, pink scooter. One look at the Scoopy in the shop window and it was true love. I really tried to talk myself out of it during the several days that my bank transfer was going through, but every time I saw one zooming down the street, I was seized by a feverish desire I haven’t experienced since Tamaguchis hit the stores in 1996. So I bought it, and it’ll be delivered in a few short hours!

The Scoopy is totally absurd. For one, it is called the Scoopy. It’s also markedly different from 90% of the motorcycles on the road here – they are all designed to look like, well, motorcycles, not something a Japanese schoolgirl would ride. But I can’t help it. I love it. It’s silly looking, but when better to look silly? I’m already the tallest, whitest person around. I might as well take it to extreme. Maybe I’ll dye my hair blonde again.

September 13, 2011

First 4 days in Salatiga

by Tabitha Kidwell

Training in Bandung got pretty busy so I couldn’t find any time to blog. Okay, I’ll be honest… we started going out dancing and hiking and generally having a lot more fun the third week. But it finished up well and we 55 English teachers headed off to every corner of the Archipelago. I’ve been here in Salatiga almost four days now, and it has been a roller coaster. When I arrived on Saturday, my main emotions were hunger, heat, and thirst. The fact that those aren’t even emotions shows how basic my needs were at that moment. I probably should have just sat and rested, but I’m neurotic and can’t put off unpacking, so I powered through setting up my house and collapsed into bed at 9 PM.

Despite going to bed so early on Saturday, I slept over 12 hours! I was pretty tired from the whirlwind last couple of days of training, so I guess I needed it. I slept so much that I felt groggy all day Sunday, though. My counterpart took me on a marathon shopping trip all afternoon and I was just totally overwhelmed. We popped into crowded store after crowded store to buy buckets, basins, mirrors, a mop, a fan, a hammer, nails, a SIM card, food, cleaning supplies, towels, shelves, canisters, wastebaskets, floor mats, and probably a lot of other stuff I’ve forgotten. I got almost everything I needed for my house, but again, I got home hungry, thirsty, and hot, and could barely manage to get myself into bed.

Compared to what went down on Monday, though, Sunday was small beans. Luckily, on Monday, I was well rested enough to actually process and enjoy the many victories! I was in the shower in the morning when my counterpart knocked on my door an hour earlier than expected (this is the third time this has happened despite the fact that I actually have three phones he could have called me on to let me know, but that’s okay). We went to visit the head of the neighborhood and presented yet another person with a copy of my passport. Then we went to the university for the Idul Firti (end of Ramadan) celebration. I sat through two hours of speeches in Bahasa Indonesia that I didn’t really understand, except, of course, for my own charming and witty speech. Okay, charming and witty is probably a stretch since I have the language ability of a 4 year old, but the audience loved my halting language and funny accent. It was a success if only as comic relief.

After the speeches, the rectors and deans of the university stood at the front, and everyone lined up to shake their hands like in a wedding receiving line – except, after people shook the hands of the rectors and deans, people joined on at the end of their line, so everyone ended up shaking every single other person’s hand in the room. My germaphobe self was horrified when everyone then lined up for food, but I inconspicuously used some hand sanitizer and started tucking into some goat satay and rice.

After that, stuff really started to happen: I got my schedule (4 hours a day, 4 days a week – the 16 hour workweek!), I opened a bank account (No more usurious ATM fees!), I located the KFC (food that tastes like home!), I found a scooter I want to buy (The Honda Scoopy! see photo below), I picked up my laundry ($1.20 for 5 kilos of freshly pressed clothes!), I got home and the man was there to install wi-fi (faster than America!), and I cooked dinner for myself for the first time here (my new favorite vegetable, kangkung! see other photo below).

I was flying high, until I walked outside to take out my trash and saw a rat the size of my sister’s cat, Eddie George, slinking into my gutter. Eddie George may be a small cat, but that’s still a sizeable rodent. And it wasn’t cute like Splinter or Templeton. The good news is that it might be TOO big to fit into my plumbing!

Then, to add insult to injury, I spotted this bug crawling on my bed:

It wasn’t too big, and actually bore some resemblance to bugs that used to crawl on my bed at home in the states. Nostalgia aside, this is what happened to him:

So, in the end, some ups, some downs, but overall things are going well. I feel really lucky to have counterparts who are on the ball, a university that seems organized, and (did I mention?) WI-FI IN MY HOUSE! Life is pretty good.