Saturday, December 3, 2011

Re: Indonesia & the rest

Let's see if I can squeeze out one last blog entry from this trip. I feel like I couldn't process anything after the MC Fiasco because it really seemed to put me out of my element, and I didn't feel like I could either ponder or fully enjoy the rest of the trip. Granted, there wasn't much to do, either. I really had little time for anything other than working every day. Still, we did have some free time in Surabaya to do a little bit of sightseeing. After our one school visit that day, we did a free city tour, which included visits to a couple of important places like the city hall and the cultural centre, but it also included a tour of the House of Sampoerna. If you've never heard of this place or the name Sampoerna, it's Indonesia's most famous tobacco company. Phillips Morris, an American cigarette company, recently bought the Sampoerna company, so it is no longer Indonesian-owned. While I don't smoke nor condone smoking, it was interesting to learn about how the company started, through a Chinese immigrant to Indonesia, coming as a child and then practically being orphaned to building one of the most famous and highest grossing companies in Indonesia. You will see some photos taken in the museum, which is located next to the Sampoernas' actual house. Descendants of his family still live there. The factory was so fascinating to watch. We weren't allow to take photos there, unfortunately, to protect the privacy of the employees, who have historically all been women and continue to all be women to this day. Otherwise, I would have taken a video to show the speed at which these ladies roll cigarettes, all still done by hand, as is the packaging. Cigarette rollers must be able to roll 350 cigarettes per hour, if I remember right. What I do remember is calculating that the women must roll 1 cigarette every 6 seconds. Can you imagine! They go through a bootcamp of sorts, and all the women who can't roll fast enough don't get hired. It was so amazing to watch them that it actually looked like machines working, not real human beings. Kind of frightening, too, in a way.

Outside of that, the rest of the trip was fairly dull, sightseeing-wise. I did manage to get back to a place to get the fish spa treatment, which I had tried for the first time last year. Those little garra rufa fish are great to cleaning up your feet! I took a fellow recruiter with me this time, and he really enjoyed it too. We both laughed ourselves silly at first because it really does tickle, but once you get used to it and try to think of other things, you can calm down and even watch them gnawing away at your dead skin cells. I'm still not sure why dead skin is good for them, though.

The only other really eventful day was another bad day, but to make a long story short, some poor advice from a hotel staff member and lack of following my instincts led me to arrive too late to check in for my flight to Penang two days before I was leaving for home. I was scheduled to visit 2 schools there, making a day trip from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to prevent myself from having to bring all my luggage with me and save time going through the airport, and I ended up having to change everything around because the next possible flight that had space for me to get on was departing 45 minutes after my first school visit was supposed to start. I'm happy to say that I was able to go to these schools later and still meet with counsellors, but the bad part is that there weren't as many students to meet with because they couldn't wait after school that long. The other downside is that I had no time to do anything there, including not eating. Penang is known for its street food, and there just wasn't time to stop for food! I had a driver for the day who was going to take me touring around a little in the couple of hours I should have had available before my flight back to KL, but I didn't have any time at all. I finished my meetings and went right back to the airport! That was another stressful day, but I made it through.

As a result of schools not replying to me about my final day in KL, I ended up having the whole day free, which was great because it turned out one of my cousins was home for a holiday, so not only was I able to see my aunt, but also my cousin, so that was a treat as I hadn't seen him in 5 years. We didn't do anything but chat, visit, and then go out for supper with his in-laws, but it was still good, and just good to be with family and feel safe and relaxed after all the fiascos I experienced. I do wish I'd known in time that my cousin was going to be there because I would have taken a few days off to stay in KL and then he would have taken me all over to eat yummy food! Such is life, I guess.

I returned home to a blizzard, but I was happy to be home, where I knew I could be safe, warm in my apartment, and get everything sorted out that I needed to. I've also begun to realise that I am indeed travelling too much: I actually had the same flight attendant on my flight from Shanghai to Vancouver as I've had on one of my previous return flights from Asia. It's on Air Canada, and I just remember him because he's a really tall, older guy. You know it's bad when you start recognising the airline staff, and yet, I love it just the same :o)

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