16 March 2005 - Eric

A couple nights ago after things quieted down, I heard a man pounding nails. One
after another, hour after hour he pounded. A couple starter taps, a few hard and
true shots that changed tone as the nail sunk in, then a couple blows for good
measure. It was a loud but peaceful noise that pierced the still night and I was not
surprised the neighborhood made not the smallest protest.

Out front the next morning, Abdul smoked nearly an entire Sam Soe while grunting
and girning to ask me if America was different than Aceh. As I contemplated the
best way to answer his question, a bus rolled passed with eight goats on the roof
sitting with the luggage. “Abdul,” I said.

I looked around. There were the usual horns and brakes, people yelling and
laughing. Diesel motors from FUSO tankers and Mercedes flatbeds hauling aid
workers pinged up and down Leung Bata. A thousand motorcycles roared
together except for a few on their last leg. Indonesian military vehicles, all victims
of glue under the gas pedal trick, raced by giving off that scraping, blood curdling
sound, which only I seem to hear. Some crazy lady was all bitching about
something. Well, I guess you hear that wherever you live.

In Aceh, the cars are mostly Asian with few European or American brands. There
are many strange vans and pickups that can line up three wide on a singe lane.
Suzuki makes a popular little van that is so cute I may just bring one home in my
bag wrapped in a sorang. I see an occasional VW Bus, sometimes nice
sometimes old and haggard, same as in the states, but I have learned of none
destroyed. As far as I can tell they are tsunami proof.

Motorcycles are the way. Everybody rides one. Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, some
Chinese Zealsuns and Italian Vespas. A becak is any cycle, usually driven by a
crazy person, with a sidecar that tends to lose its brakes and flip on a hill. Buses
are the size of a Honda Civic but hold the same number of people as a
Greyhound. They are equipped with a rear-latching door to keep the people inside
but I have yet to see one that wasn’t swinging wildly.

Why, I haven’t figured out, but there is a relentless swarm of people trying to get
somewhere fast. Whenever I get somewhere I find the same motorcycle people I
just dodged in the street sitting around smoking and sipping coffee with their
shoes off. I’m like, what’s the rush?

I’ve got their traffic figured out. The key is going with the flow and keeping your eye
out for mergers of different types. In-a-hurry guy gets the road because well, he’s
in a hurry. Crazy guy also gets the road because he’s just plain oblivious. Pay no
attention to wrong-way guy as you are allowed to hop off your motorcycle and
pound him in the head if he hits you.

Cars will usually honk when they get close or you’ll hear their motors screaming
over your right shoulder, and left. Move over for god sakes one way or the other
and let them through. Big trucks demand utmost concentration from the moment
you first sense their over-weighted axles bearing down on you from behind. This
is not a time to be daydreaming. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do but
hold your breath, hold her steady and hope it misses you. This is what makes that
guy up front in a hurry.

If someone looks to be pulling out in front of you, don’t panic. The guy probably
sees a line through traffic and is going for it. Better to close your eyes, pretend to
be crazy and keep on going than touch the brake. They’ll figure you out.

I contemplated some strange things I had witnessed in the last week. Boats in
houses and houses under water. I saw two monkeys riding a goat that was eating
burning garbage. That was strange. Earthquakes of 5.3 and 5.7. At 05:00 I vividly
dreamed I heard Jon Bon Jovi singing over a megaphone at the mall. 06:00
Incoming text message: “Dear Sir! i’m josip, telma friends! i’m interesting to be
your guide, and as your interpreter.” (Names changed to protect me.) I saw a sign
posted at the Office of Immigraci: “Due to Ongoing Implementation of Military
Emergency Operation Foreigner are not allowed to visit Aceh Province.” I ate goat
brains, goat nipples, sheep brains and bulbous plants not yet categorized as
either fruit or vegetable. I got my neck cracked just like from a chiropractor in the
states, just by paying for a haircut. I saw a big python that crawled out of a ditch
and into a parked car.

Through it all, midst the cacophony, I plainly heard the same man from last night
pounding nails. Couple starters, a few hard and true, then a couple blows for
good measure. “Abdul”, I said, “in America folks would be upset to hear that
pounding at night.”

Eric Lyman
Banda Aceh, Sumatra
Journal Entries - Click to
Read:

16 April 2006 - Eddie

22 January 2006 - Eric

27 September 2005 - Eric

6 September 2005 - Eddie

1 August 2005 - Eddie

28 July 2005 - Eddie

4 July 2005 - Aaron

16 June 2005 - Aaron

19 May 2005 – Eric

18 May 2005 - Aaron

24 April 2005 – Aaron

14 April 2005 – Eric

29 March 2005 – Eric

28 March 2005 - IM-Aaron/Eric

26 March 2005 – Eric

25 March 2005 – Eric

15 March 2005 – Aaron

16 March 2005 – Eric

11 March 2005 – Eric

3 March 2005 – Eric

27 February 2005 – Eric

23 February 2005 – Aaron

23 February 2005 – Eric

20-22 February 2005 – Eric

18 February 2005 – Eddie

18 February 2005 – Eric

16 February 2005 – Eddie

10-12 February 2005 – Eric

12 February 2005 – Eddie

11 February 2005 – Aaron

10 February 2005 – Eddie

9 February 2005 – Eddie

7 February 2005 – Eddie

5 February 2005 – Eddie

5 February 2005 – Part 2 –
Eddie

4 February 2005 – Eddie

2 February 2005 – Aaron

1 February 2005 – Eddie

30 January 2005 – Eric
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