I arrived in Banjarmasin, Borneo around 6 pm Thursday evening. We were met by Puji, a new teacher here who was the counterpart of another ELF last year in Malang, Java. While we were landing, it was amazing to see the amount of green and the huge river called the Sungai Barito. The sun was already very low in the sky at this point. It will take some time for me to remember that it gets dark earlier so close to the equator.
My first day here, Nida, my counterpart took me around to meet the staff of the English department and then shopping for my cell phone. Sadly, T-mobile wasn't able to send me the proper unlock code for my old phone… the one with all those phone numbers and pictures. I hadn't slept well at all Thursday night so I was much more vulnerable to the heat. By the end of the afternoon of shopping for groceries and other things I'll need for the first week, I was severely hit with heat stroke. I won't complain about no warm running water for showers because all I really want are cold showers here anyway.
My house is basic. Although there are glass windows, there is an open air section above the window that is screened in. It means hearing all the sounds of the campus. I hear the children of some of the students playing kick ball right now as I type this. Early in the morning, I hear the prayers at the mosques. It is eerily beautiful.
While out yesterday with Puji, I was able to take lots of photos of Banjarmasin. I was the celebrity in town. Every where we went I heard "bule! Bule!" Which means "westerner" or
"foreigner" Little kids stared at me in awe. All the Banjarese wanted to be in my photos, with me, even if they may never get a copy. People asked Puji where I was from. I was at least able to say 'Saya dari Amerika.' By mid afternoon Puji asked me if I minded coming with her to a Mosque so she could pray. "Of course" First off they wanted me to wear a Hijab, the head wrap for women before entering. I put it on and the men and women around were watching intently. A couple said "oh, beautiful!" I just smiled and said "terima kasih" thank you. We had to take off our shoes. Puji had already done the ritual wash, a splashing of water, before entering and we went in. I was told not to take photos inside. Puji believed it was just not to disturb others who were praying so she insisted on taking my picture while inside. As my usual careful self, I tried to discreetly hand her my camera inside of my hat. Silly in retrospect because nobody seemed to be looking or seemed to mind. The mosque was very beautiful as is the custom of many spiritual places of worship.