Kupang, West Timor & Kendari, Sulawesi

Following beautiful Flores, we headed to Kupang, West Timor.  We flew from Labuan Bajo to Kupang, landing in Maumere along the way.  The small planes out East are like buses, making stops and dropping people off and picking people up along the way!

Kupang is a city at the bottom of the island of West Timor

Kupang is a city at the bottom of the island of West Timor

In Kupang, we had another Access Camp to do, and we hurried right to it after landing.  This time, our camp wasn’t at a beautiful beachside resort, but at a convent!  (Kupang being another predominantly Christian area).  I believe this was my first time in a convent, and when I’d settled into my room, I felt like Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, with the Virgin Mary staring at me from my wall.  There were several special things about this convent; first, all of God’s creatures had decided it was a nice place to live.  Never in my life have I experienced so many mosquitoes in one place.  BUT, they were very strange mosquitoes—even though the pure amount and noise of them was enough to drive any person insane, they weren’t particularly bite-y.  Our beds were draped in mosquito netting, so while sleeping we were ‘safe’, although boiling from the lack of AC or fans.  Another especially horrible creature that found us was the LARGEST spider I have ever seen in my life, which (thank God) decided to take up residence in Jon’s room.  We gathered around, trying to see it, Jon pondering the ethics of killing anything in a convent….finally, he decided to give the room up to the spider and move into another room.  He might have had nightmares.

My convent room

My convent room

Mosquito protection

Mosquito protection

Anyway, the camp itself went well, and the kids were sweet. We had new Fellows helping though—we had Tabitha and her visiting friend, Erica (a balloon artist!), and Jess.  We did similar activities, but we also got to learn how to make balloon animals/cellphones.

Happy campers

Happy campers

Just call me on my car phone

Just call me on my car phone

Smores! (Made with saltines and pink marshmallows)

Smores! (Made with saltines and pink marshmallows)

On Sunday, after the camp was over, we (me, Holly, Jon, Tabitha & Erica) headed into the city of Kupang, and stayed at a dungeon-like hotel.  It was right on the beach, but without windows or really any place to enjoy the beach.  That night, we headed down the main street to find a bar/restaurant we’d heard of that was right on the beach and that also housed two hedgehogs.  We arrived there after a looong walk of yells and shouts.  We found the hedgehogs, some Bintang, and ordered food.  It was really pretty to look out on the beach.  After a few hours we left. We had karaoke on the brain, and wanted to go exploring to find a karaoke spot, so we set off, not really knowing where or if we’d find a place.  Along a side street of the main street, there were a lot of people out at food stalls, eating dinner and socializing.  On the main street right around the corner (perpendicular) there was a guy who had a TV set up and some DVDs out for sale.  So we wandered over to his stall, and browsed the DVDs, looking for some karaoke DVDs…aaand JACKPOT!  Well, not exactly jackpot, because he had a pretty crappy selection, but we decided what better place for a karaoke dance party than the main street of Kupang?!  The guy running the spot was all for it, and when we discovered his microphones weren’t working, he ran off home to get some batteries!  We did some slow rock ballads, and we were having fun;  a few Indonesian guys were watching, probably wondering why we were so weird.  But the mood wasn’t quite right—too slow, it didn’t represent our excitement at singing street karaoke.  So, we found it.  The key to happiness in Asia.  Gangnam Style.

Now, if you don’t know this song—you’re probably of my parents’ generation and I forgive you.  If you are of MY generation and you don’t know it, (ahem, Christen!) then you need to go get on youtube IMMEDIATELY.  This song went viral across the world, and here everyone knows it.  At our national Access Camp, the kids (close to 200 of them?)  went out onto the field and did the dance and sang along to it.  People go nuts.

So do you see where I’m going with this?  We put this song on, the bass starting thumping, we started dancing, and the kids flocked to us.  It was like the pied piper.  We were jumpin around, singing, and we turned around and there were like twenty kids staring at us, questioningly.  It took a few more intrepid kiddos to join the dancing, and then we decided to put it on again (one more time!) and the rest followed.  It turned into a massive dance party of foreign adults and Indonesian kids dancing and singing to Gangnam Style in the middle of the street, with their parents watching and laughing.

Having a karaoke dance party in the street!

Having a karaoke dance party in the street!

Gangnam Style!

Gangnam Style! (I can’t upload the video with all the kiddos! 😦   )

This song turned out to be my and Holly’s theme song—it came back to us in Gili T.  Thank god.

So after that epic adventure, we called it a night.

The following day, Tabitha & Erica headed to Yogya, so Erica could enjoy the rest of her vacation.  Jon, Holly, and I had a few days of blah-ing about.  We didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves, and were exhausted from traveling and working.  Jon had hurt his arm, and we were generally a bit lame.  We all were reading a lot and we found a DVD store and watched Lincoln on Jon’s computer.  Holly and I lost ourselves in  a Fabric store—like two kids in a candy shop, and came out with some awesome fabric (to make clothes out of).  For the rest of our month together, she and I would show anyone willing to look our fabric.  “Do you want to see our fabric?!” became a popular question with us.  We might have asked some people twice.  We had a “Magnum Day”, and then felt a little sick afterwards.

We also met a drunken, old Australian man who liked to talk to (bother) us while we tried to relax at the beach-side restaurant/bar.  Apparently he was wanted by immigration for overstaying his visa.  He talked a lot of rubbish, including asking me my name ten times (not comprehending ‘Deirdre’) and then settled on calling me “D”. Fine.  He got a bit angry at times–claimed to know many famous people and be famous himself.  (Maybe he was?) At one point he looked at Jon and said, “I’m gonna tell you about the time I was locked up in an immigration prison in Bali.  I met these two twins.”  Jon nods, saying “ooooooh” (We know where this is going). But do we?   Old man goes on to say, “They were four year old girls, and guess what their names were?! Guess!”  Jon guessed some regular Indonesian names.  And Old man says, “No, they’re named after a great soft drink”.  Jon catches on, “Coca and Cola?”  “BINGO!”  Ooooh another brilliant story from sad drunken old man.  He is a much funnier character looking back–at the time we just wanted to be left alone.  After a little while of ignoring him, he nodded off.

Our Australian 'friend' asleep at the table

Our Australian ‘friend’ asleep at the table

One day we decided to be adventurous and get a ferry out to this island off the coast—but we’d need the fast ferry because we had to be back in 2 days for our flight to Kendari, and the slow ferry plus a bus ride on the island wouldn’t be worth it time wise.  So we arrive to the harbor and there are no fast ferries.  Alas, plan B.  Ask our driver from the hotel about a nearby beach and if there is anywhere to stay on said beach.  According to Lonely Planet, no, there is nowhere to stay and nothing to eat, so bring your own supplies.  According to driver, yes there is somewhere to stay.   SO, we go to this random spot about an hour away down the coast and come upon these bungalows in a field overlooking the sea.  “Sweet” we think, yet, where do you sleep?  Jon heads down to the bungalow with the guy working there, and we see the guy hitting something over and over with a large stick, while Jon walks up this ladder leading…??? Watching from the car, Holly and I create all kinds of scenarios in our heads.  We had no idea what was going on down there.  Did he expect us to sleep on the roof? But the roofs were slanted?

Waiting for Jon to come back from his adventure looking at the bungalow

Waiting for Jon to come back from his adventure looking at the bungalow

Jon came back and said, “it’s so cool!”  “Oh, and the guy had to kill  a snake at the bottom of our bungalow”.  Oh. Ok. No big deal.  But we still didn’t understand where we were sleeping.  We walked over and found a ladder going up under the roof, kind of like a loft/attic.  It was pretty cool—they had some mats up there, and although it smelled a bit like pee (Holly insisted dudes were up there peeing out the hole to get in, while Jon insisted it was the smell of wet straw).  We may never know.  BUT, we spent most of our time below, in the open part looking out to sea.  Now, they weren’t expecting us, so the lady who ran the place had to come back from Kupang with food.  And this is when we realized we should have listened to Lonely Planet and brought our own food.  Holly and I hadn’t eaten breakfast—not being able to face another morning of fried rice or fried noodles.  (I just want some cereal, damnit!) And so we had a day of hunger.  We kind of made ourselves a bit sick I think, from not eating all day.

Below the bungalow

Below the bungalow

Relaxin all cool

Relaxin all cool

We planned our matching outfits clearly

We planned our matching outfits clearly

Basically we were a miserable bunch, with Jon’s arm still swelling, and Holly and I starving.  Holly and I wandered down to the beach with chairs and books, only to come upon another trash-strewn beach (very common in Indonesia).  Then the rains came.

Trashy beaches in the rain

Trashy beaches in the rain

IMG_3419

It was a cool place looking back, and I got a lot of reading done, and it was really peaceful.

The night was fine—only got a little bit rained on.  The rain came through the straw roof in a couple spots, so I used my rain jacket as a blanket.  We came out a bit soggy, and headed back to Kupang later the following afternoon.

Havin some drinks

Havin some drinks

We flew from Kupang to Kendari, on the island of Sulawesi.  Looking at a map, you should be able to just go straight up, but of course, we had to fly over to Surabaya to get there.  However, redeeming factor: Starbucks in the Surabaya airport! Score!

Kendari

Kendari is the red dot!

Kendari was great because we got to meet up with a bunch of other fellows that we love! Autumn, Kate, Bu Liz, and Jackie.  Neither Holly nor I were doing the Access Camp in Kendari, but we were just along for the ride.  Jackie and I did a teacher training workshop at the local university the Friday morning, and I finally experienced seeing my face on a banner.   It was pretty epic (and yes, I still regret not taking that banner with me).  That evening Jackie, Holly, and I had a glorious night in our dark (but clean) hotel hole—watching movies on TV and eating pizza and being completely lazy.  It was great.

Faces on a poster. We've made it. AND been promoted to "professors"

Faces on a poster. We’ve made it. AND been promoted to “professors”

Teacher workshop

Teacher workshop

Saturday we joined the others at their camp—which was definitely so far the roughest living camp-wise.  One room, no electricity, not much water, kids who run around all night, along with a possibly mentally disturbed kitchen-woman who paced and talked through the night.  Our fellow Fellows were looking a bit tired, but happy. The kids were great there as well, and there were three Fulbright ETAs to help.  We ended up having about a one-to-one ratio of camper to ‘counselor’.  Their location WAS right on the beach though, and it was beautiful.

They had a sand-castle making workshop, led by Bu Liz, and Holly and others searched for beach ‘treasures’.  Holly is an excellent treasure hunter, I realized after spending more than a month with her.

Fellow fun!

Fellow fun!

Treasure hunting

Treasure hunting (Holly’s got the Indo squat down)

We weren’t the best tourists in Kendari, but at this point, I was (maybe meanly) thinking you’ve seen one Indonesian city, you’ve seen ‘em all.  It was nice to be with the others, and nice to be a bit lazy in our hotel for two nights.

After Kendari, we were off to Tana Toraja, and I had no more work-obligations, just pure vacation. I know what you’re thinking, “what? This wasn’t vacation?”  Well, yes, it was. But TECHNICALLY I was working some too!  😉

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About Deirdre Hand

"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." Bill Bryson
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