A Modern Conflict

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March 6th 2011
Published: March 6th 2011
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Sunday March 6th, 2011

Java Sea

Latitude 5 degrees 15 minutes’ south- Longitude 112 degrees 28 minutes’ south

I am struck by the complete paradox that is the Indonesian Island of Lombok. Much less developed than the neighboring island of Bali, Lombok is still rural and primitive. A lot of the people there live in abject poverty. Some don’t even have or use money; they simply trade the rice they grow for what they need. Simple grass huts with mud floors are grouped together in family compounds surrounded by trash. The ditches are full of all the benefits of modern society like plastic bottles and all sorts of other rubbish. When it rains hard it all flows out to the sea. It is as if they are still living the old way where there was no modern trash and they don’t know what to do with all these leftovers. They work hard all day growing rice, weaving grass roof tiles and making bricks by hand. The soil is good and there is plenty of rain. No one is hungry and the surprising part is that everyone seems very happy. The children are all smiling, friendly and very outgoing. The roads are packed with a crazy combination of thousands of motor scooters, horse drawn wagons, bicycles, then some modern cars and trucks. A village woman will be walking down the street balancing a huge bowl on her head when she is passed by someone else in their brand new Toyota Land Cruiser. A few people obviously have money, but they are definitely not the majority. There are about 3 million people living on this island and most of them are living what we would consider a very basic existence. I saw gangs of men chopping thousands of sticks about 4 feet long that they stack on the side of the road. These sticks seem to have a multitude of uses. They use them to make fishing traps, build their huts and make fencing for livestock. In the afternoon there were tarps on the edge of the asphalt road where they were drying anchovies and rice. All of the drivers simply swerved around these tarps on an already narrow and crowded road. The heat of the sun on the dark road was helping to make their food. Our guide was a graduate of a special “Tourism School” where he learned English and how to be a good host for his country. He told us that the government is really trying to improve education and health services. It takes about three hours to get to the hospital from the southern part of the island where we were. Therefore, nobody really goes to the hospital except for major problems. Babies are born at home and infant mortality is very high by our standards. There were lots of children and the ones we met all seemed healthy and happy. He also said that the people are small in stature because they do not drink or eat milk products. There were lots of cows, but they are not raised for dairy products. The government is trying to educate people about the need for good nutrition, but it is sort of a cultural problem because their particular form of Islam does not believe in the consumption of milk products. Eighty-five percent of the people on Lombok are Muslim, but it is a form of Islam that combines Muslim beliefs with Animalism.
It was all very interesting and we left with a feeling that we should not worry that they are somehow living a terrible existence. The people work hard to survive, but they were not angry or upset and really seemed to enjoy showing us how they live. There is definitely a conflict between our modern society and their simple way of life, but hopefully they will continue to be bright and cheerful as their island moves away from the old ways. The Kingdom of Cambodia is our next stop. I have a request to see what our ship is like so I include a picture of the Pacific Princess when we were in Moorea. It is not one of the large cruise ships. It has about six hundred passengers onboard.

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