Monday, May 25, 2009

goodbye banda aceh

after our final day on the aceh project we went to one of the local coffee shops as was promised to me all week - the best coffee! what differentiates a coffee shop from a restaurant (they serve exactly the same thing) is that the coffee shop has loooooww reclining plastic chairs, whereas restaurants have normal upright ones.
we walked through a wonderful wafting smell of coffee, past the guy in the grinding room, to sit out back under a tent near a bunch of young boys fighting over a plug to charge their cell phones that didn't work anyway. the waiter comes out and puts a bunch of food our table, like 10 plates, like our acinese lunches - i thought we had ordered it so i felt compelled to eat it all: fried stuff, sweet stuff, coconut empanadas and black sweet rice with flan, egg and coconut sandwiches, sticky rice inside little banana leaves and weird stuff liked striped chocolate colored jell-o. then i realized they just put it out there - here's the honor system help-yourself again. i like the whole eat what you want thing, what i don't like is that if you don't eat it they take it and put it on someone else's table. so how many people have touched this tofu cube (stuffed with meat)? who sneezed on my flan? how many people have picked at this jell-o like thing? it has fingerprints.ahmad sent his coffee back because it wasn't strong enough. mine was opaque, suger on the bottom and seared through the lining of my stomach, but in a good way. i bought 1KG to bring home (i'm hoping the smell will hide all the crazy illegal fruit i'm smuggling).
mahmud sat kinda silent, looking around. he says his coffee shop is way cooler. fewer old people, and super secret special coffee (i think i understood it was weed or something?). so he asked me if i wanted to go. pak tri really wanted to karaoke at the hermes palace, but i guess no one else wanted to go and you sorta need a lot of people (but i practiced my bon jovi!), so mahmud picked me up at 8pm with his scooter to hang with the kool kids. even brought me a helmet.
we went past the big mosque and stupid me forgot my scarf to cover my head so we couldn't really check it out - people were staring. i also forgot my tripod for the hundredth time so i couldn't take any cool nightime pictures.
we get to the chez yukee hangout on the river and people are smoking, drinking, and here come the fried snacks. i know better this time and stay away. well, except for the tempeh sheet. people are smoking over home made mini-donuts and corn dogs with little green chiles sticking out of them. mahmud keeps asking me if i'm hungry. they make me eat 5 meals a day here, i need a break from the food! no! i've already had my two dinners! also, the coffee from before is leaving quite a trail of fire.
mahmud's friends start joining us and i realize they're all photo geeks, just like me, it's awesome! (mahmud took amazing pictures on our trip that makes me want to upgrade from my rebel xti). so there are the nikonians on one side, the canonians on another. one girl has a fancy tripod, another guy shows off his cool bag. it's great because they all think i live here - where's your cello, want to jam tomorrow? where do you play frisbee in Banda? one guy just got back from yogjakarta with these cool keychains and they give me one with a skinny lady with a long pointy nose and curly hair. i get it, looks like me. but she is Srikandi, the hero woman. ok, i like that.
they announce they want to go 'hunting.' it's their word for finding subjects, places to shoot pictures. so we head to this park and start taking all these posed shots, (why do they always pose so normally and formal)? we're competing to see who can take the nicest pictures with my camera in really low light. mahmud wins by using green auto mode when everyone else tries to mess with the all manual settings but it's too dark or blurry, which is funny if you know about photography. such nerds. finally we do some cool long exposure shots and this is my attempt to graffiti banda aceh with my cell phone. on the way home mahmud asks me a hundred times if i'm hungry, as we pass a million little warungs (streetside food stands), the pizza hut that is an oasis of light in a dark street. mahmud really wants me to taste crab noodles, the local specialty before i leave, but i can't. my stomach is in the winter of its discontent! we get to my hotel and mahmud shakes my hand - okbye!thanksmahmud!cometoDCsometime!yeahbye! and i run into the relative safety of the kuala radja and their total lack of toilet paper. tomorrow morning i leave for a 12 hour trip to Tesso Nilo and the flying squad trained elephants. goodbye banda!

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