I disembarked at the Soekarna-Hatta International Airport and began the long walk down glass walled corridors to Immigration and Customs booths. The clearing officers took a cursory look at my belongings, checked my passport and made sure I had plenty of money to spend during the time I’d be visiting. I was waved through to the luggage carousel making a careful study of the crowd outside barriers most eager to take this foreigner for a ride, for a price. To my relief I saw a familiar person desperately trying to catch my attention among that sea of faces. I sighed with relief. On this trip I’d not have to bargain for a reasonable fare.
This was to be my first trip to Bandung and I was looking forward to the experience. Previously I’d visited mostly East Indonesia and Jakarta, but Bandung had been a place I’d determined to someday visit because of its interesting history. So when invited to teach business summer school for a University Extension Program, I eagerly took time off administrative duties in Singapore and began preparations for the course. With me were suitcases loaded with textbooks for students and reference books to leave with the local College library. These had been waved through customs once it was understood what the purpose of my visit was and a hasty consultation with those in overall charge.
We were soon speeding down the highway toward Jakarta where a college bus awaited my arrival. I always enjoyed the trip from Soekarna-Hatta airport to Jakarta, and this trip was even more enjoyable knowing I’d not need to fight with a taxi driver at the other end of the journey over an exorbitant fare. We made our connection on time and were soon wending our way through back streets of Jakarta to eventually join the trunk road to Bandung. Rail was the other option, but college administration were obviously anxious to get those textbooks in the hands of students and reference books into their library before classes began.
Archaeologists are convinced the area around the banks of Cikapundung River and the old lake of Bandung was inhabited in pre-history. Earliest reference to the city dates back to 1488, but modern history dates from penetration of the area by the Dutch East Indies Company. Plantations were established during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and to facilitate trade a road was established between Batavia (modern Jakarta) and Bandung 1786, a distance of approximately 180 kilometres. But only in the 1920’s it was decided to move the capital of Dutch Indonesia from Batavia to Bandung. The plan was interrupted by World War II after which the Dutch were not able to re-establish rule. Independence had been declared in 1945, and after a few years of struggle between nationalists and the Dutch those former colonial masters gave up their struggle.
But while this history was of some interest, my main objective was to see a Bandung made famous by the first Asian-African Conference, better known as the Bandung Conference. For it was here heads of states representing twenty-nine countries and colonies from Asia and Africa met at Gedung Merdeka, the former Concordia Society Building, and announced ten points of declaration on world peace promotion and opposition to colonialism. This was followed by a wave of nationalistic movements around the globe that remapped world politics. It was also the first time in history there’d been an exclusive conference of non-Caucasians.
Travelling the winding road up kilometre after kilometre into the mountains was a breathtaking experience. We passed in and out of cloud formations hugging the mountains on the way up, a sight that reminded me of trips to hill leave stations in India during monsoon months. Breaking journey at one of the large settlements on the way up we were assailed by street hawkers looking for tourists to sell their wares. For the equivalent of two US dollars each I purchased oil paintings of rural scenes in Indonesia which were prized possessions until our frequent moves between countries finally took their toll on paintwork.
On arrival and once established in College guestrooms I made contact with Professors who’d flown in before me to teach courses in other disciplines for the University. At 768 metres (2,520 feet) above sea level the climate was pleasant and a welcome change from the humidity of coastal regions.
Our responsibilities didn’t commence until next day so College Administration decided it would be good for us to make a tour of the area before concentrated teaching work began. We did a circuit of Bandung checking out sites of historical interest, and then headed out of town toward the Tangkuban Perahu volcano.
The volcano lies within high volcanic terrain rising to 2,400 meters (7,874 feet). During the short time we’d been on campus I’d noted a rather unpleasant smell similar to that found around coal burning gas plants. As we approached the volcano summit the smell I discovered to be sulphur became almost overpowering, and peering over the side we could see wispy smoke like emissions from various places within the crater. I was glad to end our tour and head back to the relative safety of our rooms. Frequent changes in wind direction reminded us of our close proximity to Tangkuban Perahu during the course of our stay. None of the locals were bothered by the smell or proximity to this crater, but it was on our mind for the duration of our visit.
One event stands out clearly from that visit, and I’ve not been permitted to forget that event by Professors who enjoyed the teaching assignment with me. Our guest rooms were in a building with a communal dining room and kitchen. The College provided amply for our meals but for breakfasts we were provided the makings and invited to prepare our own. It was believed as expatriates we’d probably want different food for breakfast than food Indonesians enjoyed. College administration was wrong in that assumption as each of us enjoyed Indonesian food and didn’t mind it for breakfast either. However we viewed this as an attempt by them to accommodate to our tastes and appreciated their kind consideration.
So there was much movement between dining room and kitchen as breakfast was prepared and on that first morning I decided to be helpful and wait on the rest of our visiting teachers. Unfortunately the kitchen light chose that day to take time off and as it was dark in the kitchen one had to feel ones way around and with the aid of an open refrigerator door provide enough light for preparations.
I was almost at the refrigerator door when my right foot locked onto something so heavy when I tried to take a step the object attached to my shoe rose with my step and clanked back on the floor with a bang. I was terrified! What was that attached to my shoe? I dragged my leg across to the dining room as fast as I could slide it to take a look. I was attached to a plank! Would my teenage experience on a single water ski help me out of this predicament I wondered?
My Professor friends were by this time rolling on the floor laughing. They’d been warned, but somehow the guest room attendant had forgotten to orientate me. Apparently there had been trouble in the guest rooms with a rat, and the attendant had placed rat glue on a plank and left it by the refrigerator to catch this unwanted visitor. Rat glue is a diabolical product designed to stick to anything and not let go. The plank was to make sure a stuck rat could not drag itself away before the attendant could discover and dispose.
“They got their rat!” gasped Professor Nancy trying to get her breath back after an uncontrolled burst of laughter. The rest of my fellow breakfast takers resumed laughing and wiping their eyes as I dragged the plank outside and after several attempts removed it from under my shoe. However as soon as I put my shoe down on the path I was stuck firmly to a long ribbon of concrete until superhuman effort broke me loose. An assortment of grass and dirt provided a coat over the rat glue which allowed locomotion except on rare occasions when this coating broke loose. Over the next few days I became attached to various objects around the campus. I refused to enter the kitchen until they fixed the light after that experience.
The rest of our teaching assignment passed without incident. But whenever I visited the University Campus in the Philippines I was teaching for as a distance learning guest lecturer after that unhappy event in Bandung, Professor Nancy delighted to tell one and all how rat glue caught the biggest rat she had ever seen on a visit to Indonesia.
In spite of that, Nancy and I are still firm friends.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014 All rights reserved”
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