Three Bule On a Bike

Bule (pronounced ‘boo-lay’) means ‘foreigner’ in Bahasa Indonesian.

I’m a bule from Jamaica and my 2 colleagues/housemates are bule from America and Bulgaria.  Let’s call them A and B (for America and Bulgaria), respectively.

When I say bike, I really mean more of a scooter.  I mentioned a few posts ago that these are plentiful in Aceh and that everyone rides them, even children.


The bike

My 2 housemates jointly own a bike.  If they need to go somewhere that’s more than 5 minutes’ walk away, they hop on the bike and go.  I’ve been a passenger myself just about every day since I’ve been here.  I’m not so sure yet if I’m going to learn how to ride it though.  Thoughts?

Anyway, in that same previous post, I also mentioned that it’s not uncommon to see a family of 4 on a bike.  Well, the evening of our adventures in bureaucracy, all 3 of us went for dinner.  We took the bike.  All 3 of us.  On the 1 bike.  At one time.

We were 3 bule on a bike.


Three bule on a bike…yes, that picture was taken as all 3 of us rode down the street on the 1 bike

It was hilarious and fun and I seriously felt like we were the start of a joke.  “A Jamaican, an American and a Bulgarian rode up to a restaurant on a scooter…”

Things really turned into a balancing act when, on the way back from dinner, we stopped at a pet store to buy a large bag of cat litter.  Then we became 3 bule and a big bag of cat litter on a bike.  Everyone stared at us as we wobbled off down the street laughing uproariously.  They were probably thinking, “Look, 3 idiot bule on a bike!”

I’m eyeing up a bicycle that we have at the centre with serious thoughts of getting the tyres sorted out and using that as my transportation for the year that I’m here.  B thinks I should just learn to ride the bike because he believes it’s easier than a bicycle to manoeuvre in traffic around other bikes and pedestrians.  I’m still undecided.  I may learn to ride the bike just for spite – the only Black person in Banda Aceh, tooling around town on a bike – really give the townsfolk something to stare at.  (More on the townsfolk in a later post.)

A and I ran errands on the bike the other day.  We picked up laundry (a package the size of about 6 laptops stacked on top of each other), a 10 kg bag of rice (that’s a BIG bag of rice), 1 bag of groceries…and 2 brooms.  On a bike.  I was feeling kind of cute toting all this stuff around on a bike (especially the brooms) but on the way back through our neighbourhood, we passed 2 women also on a bike carrying 2 large, bushy tree branches.  I stopped feeling cute and accepted that this is just life here.

On another note, I’ve learned to ride on the back of the bike without feeling the need to hang onto anything.  For the first week and a half, I’d hold onto a bar at the back of the seat.  Now, I’m casually resting my hands on my legs like the townsfolk do.  It became easy once I learned that it was all about balance and using my feet (not legs) to keep myself stable.

Meanwhile, B leaves in 2 weeks and it will be just A and me for a couple of months.  Then we’ll be 2 bule on a bike.

Seriously, that doesn’t sound like the start of a joke to you?  I challenge you to come up with one.

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