If you live in a beautiful place like Aceh you would be hard pressed to miss anything. The place thrives with friendly folks, beautiful beaches, scenic panoramas from equally spectacular mountains, rivers, creeks, jungle, wild life—you name it. You sure don’t go to sleep at night thinking can’t wait til I’m outta here, kind of thing. Especially if you are a home-free, nomad, with the least length of roots like me, despite the nationality line on my passport dictating that if I misbehave and get turfed out of here, I get sent packing in another beautiful place, full of nice people and nice things-Australia, that is.

So, don’t ask me what I’m missing because I’m going to tell you anyway.

I miss the ‘mate-rates’ weekend jobs, where for a carton or two just about any job gets done. What are you doing this week end? I’m painting the house, wanna help? No worries, you know the deal? Yes, of course. I’ll have a couple of cartons on ice and a bottle of white just in case, for when you folks get here. What about the barbie?  What, you want a bbq too? Ok, I think I can manage that.

And so the great DIY weekend begins—sometime producing the most mind-blowing make-over of just about anything, and sometime turning out into a cataclysmic invasion of one’s earthing space by a whole company of experts—engineers, builders, master gardeners, painters and the list grows like a fisher-folk tale. Nonetheless, the space gets filled with laughter and non-sense conversation fuelled by too much amber liquid.

Here, in Banda Aceh, the story unfolds somewhat differently. What are you doing this week end? Painting the house. Selamat sukses! The equivalent of all the best, but unequivocally you’re on your own, bapak, which is a lot more than I received in the sub-sub-continent, when I tried my hand at painting a house and my reference to my week end activity fell on deaf ears. Here, the only help I could muster was paid, and deservedly so, as the poor bugger had to lower himself down the well to patch it up ready for use.

I’m wondering if the explanation lies in the fact that here inducement can’t come by way of diluting the spirit with …  spirit. Ah, the slight disadvantages of living with Sharia Law. But there must be some advantages to these arrangements—I can’t think of one at the minute, but I’m sure that there is, so stay tuned.

PS: If you are wondering why I paint houses everywhere I go… well, so am I. 

Fotos: Aceh; ’11