A Short Introduction and a Hectic First Day

So first thing’s first… Let me acquaint everyone with my situation here. I am spending my first three weeks in Padang, which is on the island of Sumatra, where I will be studying the basics of Indonesian Law at Andalas University, and participating in the National Conference on Constitutional Law, and the International Conference on Eradicating Corruption. Then, I will travel to Jakarta, which is on the island of Java, where I will stay for five weeks. During this time, I will work as the Secretary General’s intern at Mahkamah Konstitusi (the Constitutional Court) for three weeks, and I will spend one week each at two different NGO's— Perludem and Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW). For my final three weeks in Indonesia, I will return to Padang to continue my studies at Andalas University, and to celebrate the end of Ramadan with my host family.

When I was preparing for my trip, I realized that many Americans don’t know much about Indonesia, so here are a few cool facts that you may or may not know:

  • Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, consisting of 18,108 islands, but only 6,000 of these are inhabited.
  • To give you an idea of its size, Indonesia’s reach exceeds the distance from California to Florida.
  • Indonesia has the world’s fourth largest population overall, and the world’s largest Muslim population.
  • There are well over 300 languages spoken here, but almost everyone (with the exception of isolated communities) speaks Bahasa Indonesia, which literally translates as “Indonesian Language”.

The person in Indonesia who is coordinating my internship, Dr. Prof. Saldi Isra, is the director of PUSaKO, which stands for Pusat Studi Konstitusi (the Center for Constitutional Studies),  and he is a constitutional law professor at Andalas University. In addition to sponsoring me academically, Prof. Saldi is also allowing me to live with his family during my stay in Padang. The house has 5 bedrooms and 12 residents: Prof. Saldi and his wife, Leslie; their children Wardah, Aisyah, and Haifan; Leslie’s parents (I have been instructed to call them Mamá and Papá), Leslie’s cousin, Ayu; and Prof. Saldi’s nephews (sort of), Agun, Stephen, and Fiki.

I learned a lot of things on my first day: nose rings are a no-go, shirts that reveal anything lower than the collarbone are probably inappropriate, skinny jeans are only okay if a knee-length dress is worn over them, wearing shoes into a person’s home is very disrespectful, Western toilets do not exist here (neither does toilet paper), AC can usually only be found in cars and ATMs, make-up can and will melt off of a person’s face, Indonesians eat fish whole (face, eyes, tail, etc.) in addition to fried buffalo skin. Needless to say, my first day was a little overwhelming, but I’m so excited to be here and I’m confident that tomorrow will be somewhat easier.