After taking a four hour plane ride (1st to Medan, the third largest city in Indonesia, where I got out, mistakenly thinking I could buy some lunch in the medeval airport), I landed in Banda Aceh, land of the tsunami.
First of all, let me say that I love exiting a plane right on to the tarmac. I've met quite a few lovely countries this way, with mountain views and the country smells hitting you RIGHT AWAY - instead of being directed through a sterile maze of flourscent lights and lost baggage. So I knew, when I got off in Banda Aceh, that I was gonna love this place.
It's gorgeous. Again, I was completely taken aback - first with Jakarta and now with Banda Aceh. I didn't expect it to be so lush! I'd landed just after a heavy rainstorm, and the clouds still hung like puffy wet curtains above us, threatening to drain down. The sky was all shades of beautiful grey and dark purple. Contrasted to the greenish blue mountains in the distance (mountains! who knew?) and the humid hot-breath air - I was in love.
I thought I had been the only westerner off the plane, but at the tiny baggage claim (literally, one convator belt of about 10 feet long) I saw several more. I was even treated with a highlighter made sign at the exit with my name : USAID-Merdith.
I don't think I'll ever get used to getting into a car with a strange man who speaks no english, just by virtue of the fact that he had my name on a sheet of paper. I thought little of my precarious situation though, as there was really nothing I could do about it! (I have a mobile, but who would I call? What would I say?)
Ahem, anyway. The drive from the airport to the office, I discovered, was located just where the water ended - so no real tsunami signs remain after two years. I'm told that further down, closer to the water, there are more telling signals, but as I'm not here for the "death and destruction" tour, I doubt I will see any of it. From what I can tell, Banda Aceh is a town recovering - much poorer than Jakarta surely - but definitely survived.
That's all I have for today, as my battery is dying and I left the converter at the office. On tonight's agenda: cut my bangs, eat some seafood and correct some field reports. My hotel is brand spanking new (July 07) which seems so weird, in a tropical place where things are more likely in a state of disrepair rather than sparkling. Again, I find this development racket very ....conflicting...