10th May, 2009
Sunday: Date of departure.
No matter what people say about Indonesia…no matter how reassuring my lecturers’ words are – even on the night of my departure; I still couldn’t fully accept the fact that I’ll be spending 5 whole weeks in Gontor for my practical teaching. Just the thought of it send my brain and heart straight into distress. Frankly speaking, I’ve never been on a plane before – hell, I’ve never even been to KLIA before either (please forgive me for using such crude words). So just imagine how I feel as I step onto that grey shiny pavement of the airport entrance for the first time in my life – I was out of my element.
My sister and brother-in-law taught me through everything. We got on smoothly to the check-in counter. Well, I bid my family goodbyes then off I went with Teah to continue our long journey. We got into a holdup at custom by which were resolved in a matter of seconds because before we realized what the problem was, they’ve already chucked our mineral bottles into the bin. I felt sad…well, at least let us have a gulp before ceremoniously throwing them.
We waited for about 10 minutes at the delegation area before boarding the plane. It was pretty intimidating because for once, we are the minority and not the majority. I still can’t quite shake the feeling of insecurity and anxiety every time I hear Indonesian language being spoken around me. To me they have always represented one image only and that is.... Hope my journey will prove that it is not so. And I also hope that I too, will change and gain something from it.
I kind of enjoy the light-floating feeling when you are on a plane. The take-off was simply exhilarating! I enjoy it tremendously! The view from above is indeed different – it was God-sent. After two hours of dozing off – at approximately 9.40 am Indonesian time – we arrived in Solo city.
9.40 am (from this point forward, the time is referring to Indonesia time):
We got off fine…filled in a couple of forms for swine flu and all. But a few minutes later, the situation took a sudden up-turn for the worst with five of us being hailed into the immigration office due to some problems with our visa. We were allowed only to stay for 30 days in Gontor if not we have to pay a fine for over-stay worth 200000 rp per day. At that point, we thought that it was still okay even if we have to pay a million for the extra 5 days we trespassed on their land but the threat of putting us into prison was really over the belt. We called Dr. Jamil and then, changed the flight home for 8th June instead of 14th June.
After everything was settled, they were already waiting for us at the main lobby equipped with a banner with all of our names on it. For some reason, the ‘wan’ in my name aroused curiosity in some of them… it took about 2 hours to reach Mantingan Putri 1. The scenery that we passed by – although a lot of it are not that different from Malaysia – but there still a distinct difference between the two country. For one thing, the drivers here – I must say – are really ‘expert’ drivers. Obviously, there is no system or regulations when it comes to road safety. The drivers just honked at each other when they want to move; no signal whatsoever. I nearly got a heart-attack when our van drove straight through a bus and a car on a two lane road. They just kept on honking…
Along the way, we stopped for a while at a ‘Rumah Makan’ for lunch. I got my first experience with Indonesian food there. Honestly, it is not that different from Malaysian food; there was rendang, ikan bakar, ayam goreng and ikan goreng. Of course there were other dishes, but it looked too suspicious to be consumed…so...... I braced my self to try ‘soda gembira’. Thankfully, it tasted similar with our sirap bandung but instead of using water, they used soda.
We came to Gontor prepared for the worse since Pn. Hamidah has warned us of its condition. Needless to say, the size and weight of our luggage exceed the range of typical traveler. If we were to stay there for a year, from my point of view, it wouldn’t be a big problem. Our accommodation is actually very comfortable – it is called Wisma – guest houses equip with 2 beds, a cupboard, fan, and an indoor toilet (thank, God). We spent the next couple of hours sleeping since we were too tired from the journey and also for the fact that we didn’t sleep a wink the night before coming to Gontor. I guess, some of our heads must have lolled occasionally inside the van on our way to Wisma since they asked us cordially to have a long good rest.
After dinner, we went for 'keliling' which actually means taking a stroll around the compounds. All the while, we were pretty much astounded to see all of the students there studying diligently…literally everywhere! You can find them memorizing Arabic lines under the lamp post, by the side of the road, by the corridor, under some tree, by the field…everywhere there would be students reciting their lessons. 'Ustazah' (teacher) will 'ronda' (walk around) checking up on the students to make sure that they maintain their focus in the study and of course to answer any questions that the students might have. Ustazah Rosma and Ustazah Arina kindly pointed to us the names of the buildings there and also explained the daily routines or traditions in Gontor.
Still not recovered from the journey, we went straight to bed. And oh…the school starts at 6 in the morning………zzzzzzzzzzzz