…more on Flores…
after being used to the *huge* food menus in thailand, where there are hundreds of different dishes, the food in indonesia offered much less variety. the two main dishes served everywhere are Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng which is fried rice and fried noodles respectively. often these are served w/ a fried egg on top. although the fried rice is usually not too exciting, the fried noodles are often really really good. other than those two things, people here often eat chicken or beef satay which are skewered meats w/ an incredibly delicious spicy peanut sauce, and Gado Gado which is vegetables w/ peanut sauce. these four things will be on pretty much every menu, no matter what, and other than that there isn’t much else unless you’re in a touristy restaurant that serves western food.
most cultures we’ve seen so far have some kind of spicy sauce to spice up their food. in the middle east it was harissa which had a bit of a bitter spicy taste. in india they use carrot pickle which is bits of carrot mixed w/ bitter mellon and packs a lot of kick. in thailand, people either use chili paste, tiny peppers in fish sauce, or chili flakes. here, they have something called sambal. often you get it in a little condiment container and it’s mildly spicy and tart. but sometimes you get the homemade stuff and it is HOT!! this stuff is so crazy spicy. you put just a tiny dab on your food and stir it in and your mouth is on fire. this must be straight up ground peppers and not much else!
pretty much everyone here, no matter how little english they know, knows how to say “hello mister”. except the way they say it, mister is more like meester. we are constantly having this yelled to us by people from everywhere.. and yes, more often than not caryn is a “meester” as well. little kids constantly run up to us and yell “hello mister” to us. adults do too. often times, since that’s the only english they know, after we say “hi” back, they’ll just stand there not knowing what else to say.
once we left maumere, the first thing we wanted to see was kelimutu. this is a huge volcanic area that has 3 small lakes all near each other, with the spectacular thing being that all the lakes are a different color. one is aqua, one is brown, and the last one is black. people aren’t exactly sure why the lakes are different colors, and apparently these lakes slowly change color over time too. we got to the town by Kelimutu late at night and were told that the best time to see stuff was at sunrise. ouch! we were so sick of getting up early for sunrises by now! i mean, yeah sure, sunrises are nice and all, but honestly they’re a bit overrated i think. although, i guess in general almost nothing is worth getting up at that time of morning!
anyways, we got up way early, got a bemo ride up to the top of the mountain and hiked out to the lakes. i gotta say, i was rather dissapointed. first off, only two of the lakes are next to each other, while the third one is kind of off to the side. second off, the brown lake and black lake… i dunno, they just aren’t that exciting. the aqua colored one was really cool. especially cause you could see vapors rising from inside it making weird little whirlwind patterns on it’s light blue surface. it was cool to watch the lake swirl about as the mists moved. but still, considering that this was supposed to be the “most spectacular sight on flores”, i wasn’t too impressed… or maybe i was just really sleepy.
part of the reason i was so sleepy was the damn roosters again. even *with* ear plugs, they were still so loud that they woke me up over and over during my sleep. so annoying!!! not only that, but around 4 in the morning, all of a sudden the hotel staff started clanging this bell super loud outside our door. this went on for a long long time… i’m startiong to wonder if i’ll get any sleep ever in this country!
Bajawa is a small town with not much to do, but lots of people go there to see the traditional villages that are nearby. one of the main reasons to come to flores was to see how some of the small tribes live, so we booked a tour with a guide to go see them. one of the crazy things about this town were these humongous nasty grasshoppers that were all over the place. these things were HUGE! lots of times you’d be eating in a restaurant and then all of a sudden one would come flyng in and start crashing into random things, almost falling on your table. ew!
anyways, the following day, the guide showed up w/ two scooters and soon we were on our way. the roads on the way to the villages were utter crap. all over the place, the pavement would break down and we would be trying to go over random rocks and other debris. at one point the scooter that caryn was on ended up falling over. totally sketchy. but the shite quality of the roads was made up for by the incredible scenery all around. green rocky volcanic hill formations everywhere. trees w/ nutmeg, coffee, vanilla, and avocado. enormous bamboo that was so large that if i put a hand on either side, my fingertips wouldnt touch. incredible.
finally we got to the first village, Luba. this one was supposed to be the less touristy one. i expected our guide to take us through the village, help us interact w/ locals, show us different homes, etc etc. but no. he sat us down and gave us a 10 minute lecture on the way the people live and then said that if we wanted to walk around, we could. there werent really any villagers in town to be seen since most of them were out working in the fields. so basically, the “tour” was really dissapointing. of course, seeing the small thatch houses that the villagers lived in was cool, and the stuff we learned about them (mostly stuff about their animal sacrifices and how they worshipped) was interesting, but still… we had taken a *10* hour bus ride to get to this area, and honestly we hoped for more.
after this village, we went to another village called Bema. this one was visited often by tourists since it’s in the guidebook. as we walked up to the village, we heard music and saw a bunch of people dancing. it turned out that this village had recently won a soccer match against a neighboring village and they were celebrating. as we got closer, we saw that the music was coming from this huge stack of speakers… not exactly what you’d expect in a traditional village. the villagers asked us to dance with them, and soon everyone was totally excited about caryn’s dancing. no matter how much she told them that she wanted to rest, they kept begging her to dance more. even the old grandmas in the village were asking caryn to keep dancing!
eventually, they put on some western music especially for caryn… “jump” by house of pain and “ice ice baby” by vanilla ice. it was so crazy! so, when vanilla ice comes on, caryn started teaching the villagers how to do the electric slide. they were all totally psyched to try it out! so all this is going on when another bemo pulls up w/ some more tourists. i cant even imagine what was going on in their heads… here they are arriving at this small old traditional village, expecting to see people living life as their ancestors did… and instead they see a bunch of people doing the electric slide to Vanilla Ice being pumped loudly from a wall of speakers!! hilarious!!
before we left, they put on this song that was really famous in indonesia. it was a song about their home town, Bema and said that bema was very famous, so famous that people had heard of it all the way in america. it was pretty cool and heartwarming to see how proud these people must be about their village and their village’s reputation. that was really cool.
soon we left bajawa and took the 10 hour bus ride to labuanbajo. at one point this kid hopped on and started talking to me. he was complaining about how hard it is to find a job in indonesia (something we’ve heard very often). he said that he had thought about it and had decided to go abroad to try to get more money, maybe to america or maybe to europe. he wanted to know if i had some advice for him or if maybe i could help him. the thing is, i actually get this a lot, and i never know what to say. of course i’d love to help these people, but i dont really know what i can do for them. first off, i know nothing about visas and whether there’s anyway i can help someone acquire one. in egypt, a guy wrote down my address saying that he would write me for some visa help when i got home. i told him i wouldnt be home for almost a year, but he said that was fine. he solemly folded up my address and put it in his pocket saying that he hoped i would remember him a year later and help him. he was a school teacher, yet he earned so little that he had to spend all of his evenings driving a taxi. i desperately hoped that maybe wheni do get back, i can actually find a way to help… but who knows….
the second part of the problem, aside from visas, is that i really wonder what kind of jobs these people would find if they did come to america. to them, america is the promised land. it’s heaven. they cant conceive of the fact that there is unemployment and homelessness there. to them, this can not be possible in america. they think that once they make it there, they will instantly have everything work out, but the thing is, it’s so not true. but i dont want to be the one to say anything. what do i tell him “oh america? dont bother… if you go there you’ll either end up not having a job and living on the streets or you’ll get some crap job like working at mcdonalds for minimum wage”? cause realistically, most of these people have little or no education and also little or no english skills. if they had at least one or the other, it might be ok, but with neither… i dont know what america has to offer them. it’s a sad situation. so as usual, i just smiled and nodded saying “ah nice one. that’s a good plan. good luck!” while inside feeling like crap.
finally after days and days of struggle and travel, we made it to Labuanbajo the most western town in Flores. this was a really nice relaxed town that is famous for it’s great seafood and scuba diving. after the long days on buses, it was a relief to have finally made it to the end of the island. we were looking forward to not having to drive anywhere for a few days and just enjoy ourselves. we got a small bungalow room with a beautiful view into the harbor and overlooking the small islands that were scattered on the horizon. as advertised, the food here was absolutely delicious. ahhh, we were glad to be here.
looking back on the thigs we had seen in our weeklong drive across flores, i gotta say, a lot of the things we came to see were not really all that great. kelimutu was a let down. seeing the traditional villages was a letdown as well. but the overall experience made it all worth it anyways. i guess flores isnt really about the sights that you see.. it’s more about seeing how people live in these small towns, taking scooter taxis over bumpy roads, bus rides w/ chickens, eating at tiny little restaurants that serve only 5 dishes, and chatting w/ locals. all these things made it all worthwhile!
these three photos should have been in yesterday’s post, but i couldnt upload them yesterday, so here they are now.
balinese statue wearing a skirt
our little prop plane
beans sold in a small outdoor market