This trip challenged me at every level and my limits were often pushed further out than I thought possible. Although at the time, growing pains are just that, painful, but in the long run I know I’m richer, fuller with more knowledge of a land that I never heard of before and a culture I’ve only seen through someone else’s lens.
I told many people before I left I really have no expectations because so much was unsaid. No one knew where we were staying, what we would be doing, or who would be our local contacts. I under packed, which is probably rare, but had I had a better sense of the hygiene situation there I would have tossed in bottles of hand sanitizers, pocket tissues, baby wipes, hydrogen peroxide and far more shirts than the four I brought. And cheaper flip flops. They because disgusting so quickly.
Traveling with that many other people was one of my biggest challenges. I’ve grown to covet my travels alone, giving me so much more freedom. But at the same time, this was healthy for me. Mick was right, I can’t always get what I want. It’s a lesson of patience, sharing and staying calm in some volatile situations.
One of my stated goals was to get as close to the Muslim world and it’s peculiarities as I comfortably felt possible. It has to do with 9-11. I hate to think I’m a bigot but the events of that day ingrained fear of Islam into my psyche and I just couldn’t rationalize it away. I’m wise enough to know I can’t generalize an entire nation/religion based on my two-week exposure to one faction of that religion. But I can make statements based on my experiences.
The Muslims in Aceh are in bondage. I can appreciate the law, and know it’s placed in a religion, a rule book of do’s and don’t’s help keep order in a society. What I saw in Banda was not order, though. It was closer to chaos. Their political system is a theocracy where they’ve come to believe that the government has divine authority. Allah may have a rule book, I’ve not studied the Koran, but when a government takes it upon themselves to interpret that book and FORCE the people of the land to obey with fears of intimidation, torture, and death then it’s become nothing more than another form of Stalinism.
Americans moan and groan about our government and what it is becoming. But we’ll not ever be a country of Stalinism. EVER! And if Aceh continues to have the Western influences that promote capitalism, business growth and political freedoms and the Achenesse get a taste of that freedom, I can’t see how they can turn time backward. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll be watching that region for the rest of my life, curious about its events.
And I’ll think of all the people I met there. I’ll come back to this journal and see their faces, read their names and remember my time in Aceh. I doubt I’ll go back. There are a lot more worlds on this planet I still want to visit.