Hello from the village of Halaban, on the island of Sumatra, in the country of Indonesia. We are scouting out newest program, a summer program for high schoolers in Sumatra & Bali, about 4 hours north of Perth, Australia and about 2 hours east of Thailand. I mention this as many people aren’t aware exactly where Indonesia is located. This island nation is a fascinating blend of cultures with over 50 languages spoken here.
Hola de Cuba, I am already enchanted by this wonderful nation filled with contrast: a spirited, vibrant population, mired in an infrastructure circa 1959, but extremely proud of their people, their country and their traditions, and always looking forward. Driving through the cities and small towns and seeing street after street of crumbling facades of once magnificent colonial buildings, you can’t help but wonder “what might have been?”.
It’s 6:55am and Sophia Weeks and I are in ‘Chair Class’ on a 5-hour train bound for Delhi. Chair Class means for $9 we are in a well-worn car with reserved seats…which were miraculously empty when we boarded in Haridwar. Chair Class is not as nice as luxury class where they serve rose-flavored yoghurt lassis (a taste reminiscent of sipping Glad bathroom spray) but certainly a step up from the standing room only crowd packed in further back. For nourishment we have a bag of fresh warm roti (thick savory pancakes) wrapped in newspaper that we purchased from a beckoning street vendor outside the station gates.