James Blunt and Monkey Sex
Bukittinggi Travel Blog› entry 52 of 115 › view all entries
In the cauldron of the college classroom, questions just keep on coming:
"What do you think of terrorism? Are you not afraid of it in Sumatra?"
"Can you tell me about your experience of tourism in this Bukittinggi?"
"There is corruption in government of Indonesia. How should you handle corruption?"
"What is education system like in England?"
We had been approached the previous night on the street by a group of college students learning English. As a requirement of their course, they needed to net some English speaking foreigners to come into their class, answer questions and discuss issues with the students. After spending some time with them in a bar, being recorded on tape and just getting to know them, we agreed.
So the following morning, after a short but disconcerting journey to the college campus as pillion passengers on the back of motorbikes, we are both seated at the front of the class, presented with a cup of sweet tea each, and then catechised to within an inch of our lives. We answer as well and as diplomatically as we can, meet the director of the college and then after about an hour and a half, we are finally released into the yard outside to mingle and have photos taken with everyone.
It's at this point that the gaggle of college girls clustered around Alex claim that he looks like James Blunt.
Later, a couple of the college lads take us on a tour of a few of the local spots of interest. We see the highly-regarded clocktower which is, well, nice. If you're a fan of clocktowers I'm sure you'd appreciate this one. I nod, smile, take a dutiful photo and then we press on to the panorama park where we admire the view of the local mountains, encounter some monkeys having a spot of al fresco sex and then grab some chicken and rice from a local cafe.
The strangest thing about it all though is the reaction of a group of about ten local teenagers who spot us in the park. They immediately squeal like starstruck fans then swarm towards us to be photographed at our sides. Although we both feel like celebrities as the snaps are taken, I'm only really of secondary interest. They clearly think Alex is cool. His lofty height, concessions to fashion, addiction to nicotine and rock star lookalike (ha!) features, mean that he's the centre of attention.
I don't mind, I have other concerns. As the teens pose with us for photos, I automatically clamp my hands over my pockets to prevent them stealing my camera and wallet.
My possessions weren't the only things taken from me in Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. As we continue, I'm hoping that Sumatra will prove to be the kind of place to restore some of my lost trust in people. The warm welcome we received in Bukittinggi makes for a damn good start.