Thursday, August 03, 2006
1st day in Banda Aceh
Banda Aceh, Northern Sumatra, Indonesia
I'm finally here, the far side of the world, on the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean and 4 degrees north of the equator. As the plane descended over Banda Aceh, I could see the turquoise ocean, and was trying hard to see the coastline and if it still showed the effects of the great December 2004 Tsunami.
After getting off the plane I looked up at the bright blue sky and was surprised as I was expecting the heavy gray haze that is typical for Asia in the summer. As I was exiting the terminal building into the crowd that waited outside, I was greeted by a man holding a sign that read my full name, I looked at him and smiled and said, "Forrest?", then Elizabeth popped out of the crowd and greeted me. We threw my bags in the back of the black SUV and drove into town.
The house/office looks like an old Dutch colonial home, but in badly need of a make over, which Elizabeth is in the process of doing in exchange for free rent for a year. Once inside I met her office staff of about five or six, there are more staff members, the construction supervisors, but they work most of the time in the field as one would expect and were not there at the time.
It's funny, my first day in Banda Aceh and I have lunch in a place that's a cross between a Starbucks and a New York Deli. Everybody inside were foreign aid workers, French, Australians, Canadians and us Americans. After lunch and dropping Tim off back at the office, Elizabeth showed me some of the houses just outside of town that were being built by another NGO who wanted us to reevaluate their design and construction. In short, the construction was so bad, we are advising them to demolish the houses and start over, since repairing them would be harder than starting from square one. I'll give more details about it later.
Once back at the office, Tim was finishing giving a meeting with all the construction supervisors and I was introduced to everybody, their ages ranging from 21 to 28, including two females. They all were really interested in asking me questions since I was perceived as "young". They wanted to know if I was married or single, what music I liked and most importantly, if I thought Britney Spears was hot, which I polity and firmly answered "Not anymore".