“Take me somewhere,” The Sniffler said, “where the food is diverse.”
“Pshaw,” Spectacles replied, “that’s easy. That could be anywhere–besides school cafeterias, that is.”
“There has to be a very prominent culture.” Spectacles stroked his imaginary beard. And then, “Eurake!”
“‘Eurake’? Don’t you mean eureka?”The Sniffler said, unimpressed.
“No, I definitely mean eurake. Now, does this place have to be stunning, or can it be average?”
“I don’t particularly care.” The Sniffler sniffed.
“Then I have the place for you. Cradled beneath the Asian continent, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. They call it Palembang.”
Well, I’m not sure who Spectacles or The Sniffler are, but we have something in common: we both went to Palembang.
My host mom and family are all from Palembang. Indonesians are quite proud of their ancestry, and orang Palembang, or people from Palembang, are no exception. I had heard about Palembang for months before going. I had tried the infamous pempek, a “savory fishcake delicacy made of fish and tapioca” (thanks Wiki), had heard the Palembang accent. I had listened to my host mom, aunts, and uncle reminisce about the place.
So I suppose that you could say that there was quite a bit of anticipation for when I finally went.
The first item of business was eating. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast (and it was 5 PM). Food is incredibly important to Indonesians (and eating is a common hobby), so this was most distressing to my host aunt (Love you, Mama K!).
The rest of day one was pretty chill. We picked my host cousin up from soccer (or football) practice, but that was about it.
The next day, we went to my host cousin’s soccer/football game. To my immense surprise, I saw that a pair of twin bule (white foreigner) boys were playing. I didn’t see any bule parents, however. My host aunt apparently overheard this conversation:
Teammates: Is that your mother?
Bule Twins: (frantic) No! It’s not!
*Teammates are not convinced*
Dear Random Teammates,
Do I look old enough to be a mother?
Random Bule That Is Not A Mother
After the game (which I am not sure if we won or lost), we went to a special Chinese mosque.
If you’re wondering why I’m not wearing a jilbab/hijab, it’s because I forgot it. My host aunt had also forgot to bring one. She assured me that it was ok. The mosque was empty.
Still felt bad, though.
(Is it too late now to say sorry?)
We drove back home over the famous Ampera bridge. This is the view:
And just for kicks, here’s a cool sculpture I saw as we drove around:
Once we were home, this conversation happened:
Ruth: I’ve been thinking about getting my hair cut again.
Host Aunt: Let’s go!
I normally like to plan my haircuts out, and although the idea had been formulating in my head for quite some time, it was quite spontaneous.
But it happened. We went to a random mall. I got my hair cut and my host aunt got a manicure.
It was a little shorter than I wanted, but what can you do?
(henceforth all photos with me will be me with shorter hair)
The next day, we started the morning off by going to a traditional Indonesian house, Rumah Limas.
It was my first real example of both Palembang architecture and the gilded gold + dark wood that I saw everywhere in Palembang.
The interior of the house was stunning.
The people outside the entrance of the inner house (kind of confusing, huh?) are wearing the traditional wedding clothes for Palembang.
There were two rooms: the child’s room, and the wedding room. I don’t know for what reason the child’s room was so decked out, but the title ‘wedding room’ was self-explanatory.
Kind of a small bed, though.
Later that night, we went to the friend’s house of my host aunt and celebrated the Chinese New Year (Imlek).
I’ve never celebrated this holiday before since I know very little about China and am not well acquainted with any Chinese people. The Chinese people in Indonesia are descended from the Chinese, but they are born and raised in Indonesia.
(so they’re actually Indonesians not Chinese people)
We ate a bunch of Palembang foods, had special oranges, took pictures, and that was about it. The hosts gave my host aunt a box full of swallows’ nests.
Swallows’ nests are very expensive in Asia. They are supposedly very good for your health. I see them most commonly in the form of drinks.
Later on in the trip, I ate the swallows’ nest in the form of a corn soup. ’twas quite delicious, I assure you. I don’t know who, but someone picked out all the pieces of down (Probably The Sniffler and Spectacles).
My third day in Palembang, we went to Al Qur’an Al Akbar. Essentially (forgive me if I get this wrong) a man decided to spend a lot of money and commission hand carved panels of each page of the Al-Qur’an.
These are really large (see picture below) and as of right now, the project is a work in progress.
It was very beautiful. I liked that, although the text was Arabic, it had the traditional Palembang gold-on-wood touch.
For the midday prayer, we went to Masjid Agung, the oldest mosque in Palembang. I got to watch the women pray.
Since it was call to prayer, however, that meant that the mosque was occupied and consequently, I couldn’t go over to the boys’ side to take artistic shots.
(Oh, so artsy, are we?)
AND THAT, dear teman-teman (friends), is the end of Part 1.
Stay tuned for Part 2.