My Morning Journey To School With Bu Arfa

Every school day, I ride pillion on Bu Arfa’s motorbike to school. She wears a blue helmet that she has yet to do up, whereas my helmet is black and I always do up the clip. I still am not totally relaxed and at ease on the back of a motorbike, so I don’t want to take any risks.
We are always running late and have yet to make it to school before 7am, when the first lesson of the day starts. The later we are, the more hectic the ride as she rushes the short 10 minute trip. While I feel slightly nervous at first as we shoot out of the side street onto the main road, once we get going I can relax and just enjoy the ride. Even though we pass the same streets each morning, I never tire of it and as each stretch becomes more familiar, I notice different aspects that I missed on previous days. I also love the coolness of the early morning. The air is so fresh and clean before the day heats up.
Compared with the streets of Jakarta and other large Indonesian towns, the streets of Pangkalan Bun are very quiet.

20130921-091728.jpgIt is lovely not having to worry too much about other traffic on the road. At times I can relax enough to hold my camera in one hand while the other hand grips the handle behind me. I see the most amazing things while on the motorbike and know that by the time I get my camera out of my bag and turn it on, it is too late, so twice now I have had my camera ready trying to take a snapshot of my morning ride.

One interesting thing we go through every morning are these traffic lights. I love the way you can watch the count down till the light turns green and then when it is green, you know if you will have enough time to get through the intersection before it changes again!


Here is a great example of the types of amazing sights that I often pass while on the back of a motorbike wishing I had my camera out for and not only did I this day but the photo isn’t too blurry!

20130921-092850.jpgWhat a interesting way to transport your wheelbarrow!

A not so interesting sight are the piles of rubbish along the road. Many households bag up their rubbish and dump it ready for the rubbish truck to collect.

20130921-093327.jpgUnfortunately not all the rubbish is bagged and that which was bagged is often opened by the time the poor rubbish collectors arrive. Going through the rubbish are not only stray dogs and cats but also families searching for recyclables. They usually carry it in an open wooden cart which is pulled along by hand. They search for plastic bottles, cardboard, metal and anything else that maya still be good enough to be used or sold. Here is the rubbish truck to collect the remainder.

Can you see in the above photo a woman pushing a sort of barrow? She is selling vegetables and spices and walks huge distances searching for customers. Because the main market is quite a distance from where we are, it is often more convenient for families to buy their vegetables from these sellers rather than head to market, especially if they are like Bu Arfa and a morning trip to market means getting up even earlier. Can you see the krupuks tied to the front of her barrow? Unfortunately the photo is slightly blurry.

Another common sight along the street is this:

20130921-094713.jpgThis is a road side stall selling petrol. Each of the bottles is a different measure of petrol. The smaller bottles would be 1 litre. They charge slightly more than the petrol sold at the official state owned petrol stations. Technically it is illegal to resell petrol however it is a very common sight throughout Indonesia. Can you also see the women behind the petrol booth? One is a customer and the other is another vegetable seller. Instead of traveling around with a barrow, she drives around on her motorbike.

As a result of the illegal petrol trade, petrol stations here in Pangkalan Bun always have queues of vehicles lined up along the side of the street. Trucks and buses and large vehicles can queue up to 9 hours for diesel.



20130921-095925.jpgI have heard that some of the cars queuing have modified their petrol tanks so that they can buy large quantities of diesel at the subsidised rates which they can then sell onto businesses who are not eligible for the subidised rate at a rate which benefits both the seller and the buyer. Together with the large number of vehicles lining up for diesel together with the huge tanks, petrol stations can not keep up with the demand and often run out of fuel.

Something I saw this morning and was able to get a close up photo of was this:

20130921-100523.jpgPeople sit by the side of the road holding these fishing nets. Attached to the chair is an umbrella which helps to keep the person sitting there holding the net protected from the sun. The net is to collect money from all passing motorists and is usually for a nearby local project for example sealing a road or building a mosque. However what I found funny was that the chair and net are set up right next to a poster pinned to a tree which says, “Do you need money now?”

There you are, a taste of my morning rides to school with Bu Arfa! Hope you enjoyed it!


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