Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday in Solo - Universitas Sebelas Maret - 10 Nov

Lousy night's sleep. Bed early (8.30pm), awake at 3am. Tossed, turned, drifted. Breakfast at 7am. Iskandar, my Acehnese contact, called to say he was in Jakarta for some meetings and would be on the same flight with me to Banda Aceh. Industrial instant coffee.

Checked with reception: catch shuttle bus to the airprot at 6.15am. Ismail and Fajar pick me and we head to her campus, Universitas Sebelas Maret, established in 1976. 20.000 students. Before getting in the car, they hand me some gifts. A ring for me, a broach for Leonie, and bracelets for the girls. Amazingly, the ring fits. "I'd never buy a ring for someone, Ismail, because how would I know what size to get?" "I had a feeling," he replied, "that this ring was for you." Very touched by this unexpected gift.

Its grounds, buildings, facilities demonstrate the gulf between state universities and Islamic. Meet with Dean of English, the Vice Rector of the Faculty of Arts, and the International Office. Ismail, in a quiet moment, apologises for yesterday's lack of organisation, saying that STAIN has little experience with Westerners. He said that all of the people I'd met today were good people. Indeed, they wanted me to give some lectures and to return for a conference next year.

Returned to the hotel mid-afternoon, as Ismail had to catch the train to Jakarta at 6pm. Got a family shot, Affan at ease in front of the camera, Aya Sofya going through a phase of not enjoying being photographed. Throuhgout the trip I've felt really at ease with Ismail. Mixing the languages together, we communicate freely, laughing often. I think he enjoys my secular way of thinking.

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