Settling down in Kupang

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 05, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Saturday, November 6, 2010

I've been in Kupang for two weeks now – two wonderful weeks of sleeping in the same bed every night, getting to know my godfather Ted and his family, volunteering at the kids’ school and exploring the city.

One of the nicest things about having a fixed address again is being able to go to church more regularly. My family here is Catholic so I’ve been learning when to kneel and when to stand and when to cross myself… with the added challenge of everything being in Indonesian.  I knew I’d be fine the moment I heard the choir, though.  Every Sunday, a different choir sings at Mass – my first Sunday there was a junior high school choir of about 40 kids and I was blown away by their strong voices and 3-part harmony.  Three-part harmony!!! 

A few days ago, when I mentioned to Ted that I was missing singing in a choir, he organized for me to attend a local choir practice.  What we didn’t know was that this choir was not only semi-professional, but that they’re one week away from a major choral competition for the province of East Nusa Tenggara.  In spite of this, I was welcomed warmly into the soprano section for the practice.  How these short, slender people produce so much beautiful sound is beyond me.  Standing with two tiny, black-haired women on either side of me, I almost dropped the sheet music when they opened their mouths to sing.  Beautiful, round tone; gorgeous vowels; an apparently instinctive sense of harmony and rhythm.  Their vocal projection was such that I could feel the vibrations in the sheet music I held.  Everyone laughed when, at the end of the beautiful acapella song, I motioned that they had given me goosebumps.

80% of the people here in Kupang are Catholic and the church figures largely in day-to-day life.  Large convents and seminaries are scattered throughout the city and it’s common to find yourself sitting beside a serenely smiling nun when you get into a bemo for a ride downtown.  Last week I was shown around a convent by Sister Melin, who took me by the arm to introduce me to the other Sisters and to show me all the nooks and crannies of their quiet little convent. 

At the house in Kupang are myself, Ted, his wife Nona and their four kids: Nala (11), Edward (9), Justin (7) and Teddy (6).  It’s been great getting to know everyone.  Nala and I read together and play simple duets on the piano – she has a natural ear for music.  The boys are as energetic as I remember my brothers and I being as kids, certainly just as adverse to brushing their teeth and doing their homework.  Some things don’t change, no matter where in the world you are.

There’s a beach only 25 minutes away by car and twice already since I’ve been here the family has piled into the car with towels and little wave boards for a few hours of splashing in the warm water.  Young coconuts are sold by women in bamboo huts on the beach; they expertly hack away at the green shell with a machete-like knife, carefully puncturing a hole in the top so the coconut juice can be drunk with a straw.  Afterwards, you can ask them to split the nut in two in order to scoop out the soft, jello-like flesh that would otherwise have become coconut.

I’ve been volunteering a bit at the kids’ school, a combination preschool and home-schooling organization originally set up for the children of Australian and Canadian ex-pats.  It’s nice to be in a school setting again, if only for a short time – the kids are in class from 9am to 12:30pm and then they go home.

Tonight, we’re going to watch Harry Potter 7 on DVD.  Not two days after the international release of the film, Ted was able to buy it at the mall for 10,000Rp (just over 1$ Canadian).  Pirated movies are as ubiquitous as bananas over here.  You’re more likely to get better value for your money if you buy the bananas, though…
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