On Saturday I was actually able to make it to school before the sun was up and go running and do gymnastics with the students (always motivational!) Following getting cleaned up from the workout I had the opportunity to explore town with the history teacher (he acted as our tour guide for the day), the counselor, and my cooperating teacher from school. The four of us headed out via Ankat (public taxi) to the Ampera Bridge area and decided that our first stop should be the town museum.
At the museum we were able to see a complete history of Palembang going back to when the first people came here many thousand years ago. It is clear from all the artifacts that this was and still is an economic center for South Sumatera. We not only saw stones in two scripts proclaiming Palembang as a city and capital kingdom, but also clothes from the Sultan that took over following the Indian and Chinese occupation. There were also details describing the Dutch occupation of the 17th century, the Japanese control prior to and during WWII, and the current city government and make up. There was also a nice section giving a brief history of Ampera Bridge and the process by which it was built. The tour guide at the Museum was very nice and was extremely knowledgable; it helped that he spoke both English and Indonesian
After the museum, the history teacher wanted to take us to one of the other historical places in town where a Chinese family controlled the city for a brief time. We walked there from the museum which meant walking across the bridge and weavingour way through the salted fish market. The walk was eye opening because going across the bridge offers you a view of the city and the river from pretty high up. You can see all the boats and people at work, washing, and playing in the river, and the huge number of makeshift houses that are crammed into every corner up and down the river and throughout every street. You can really see how different life is for people here just by looking at the conditions that they live in. At the house I was taken back because people live in small rooms built by using sheet metal and what ever supplies they can find underneath and all around it. The main level is boarded up and dust covered, but pretty much left in the same way the family had it when they left. It was shocking because given the fact that this is such a historical place for the town it is not treated as such, it is left to crumble and stand the test of time in some back winding road, going unnoticed except by a few interested or curious parties every now and then.
Walking back to the other side of the river we stopped at a Chinese Temple for people who practice Taoism, Buddhism, or follow Confucius. We were allowed to enter and observe as people came in to pray and light incense. It was kind of cool to see how all religions here are viewed as equal and that everyone are very tolerant of each other. The diversity and mutual respect adds to the uniqueness of the people and culture of this area.
Following our brief rest at the temple we wondered into Pasar 16 (the traditional market). I was very thankful that I was the only foreigner (Bule) there because the complex is very large and always full of people. Trying to navigate anywhere was like wandering through a maze and going against the current. Everywhere we walked people kept calling out in what little English they knew; I think they were just curious to see who I was and were I was from. This was soo strange to me because in the U.S. no one bats an eye at someone like me, but here I am almost like a celebrity and I don’t know why. The Dutch were here for quite a while so you would think that they would be used to it, but now there really aren’t too many white people here and I think that is part of it. If feels awkward for me because I have become somewhat of a novelty for people and I am not used to that kind of attention.
By the time we made it out of the market it was getting pretty late so we stopped and got some food before splitting up to go home for the day. overall I had a pretty enjoyable time and was able to learn a lot. It was also pretty neat to just hang out with the teachers and get to know them more on a personal level rather than just a professional one.