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Published: November 27th 2009
Green Peace Guest House
As viewed from the water, my guest house for 12 nights is the one just to the left of the pier. Only six rooms and a common space, guests ate meals at the *other* guesthouse in town, a 5 minute walk into the village. I was alone there most of the nights.
When my brother and I were younger, much younger, still in the care of our parents, we used to play card and board games quite a bit. My brother, though always quite good at said games, had a nasty problem while we played. He cheated. He was always looking at my cards. He had what he liked to refer to as.....creeping eyeball disease. It's a term I thought hilarious then and still find it rather amusing today.
One terribly hot afternoon back in July I was sitting on my reclining plastic chair gazing out onto the calm Banda Sea when the term popped into my head. And rightfully so. You see, Indonesians, especially small town or small island teenagers and young adults (I'm talking males here, primarily) have this same disease. The only difference is they don't need cards to have it. It doesn't matter if I am sitting on my front terrace fully clothed or in a bikini, these men stare and stare and stare as if they are trying to look right through me. I don't like it one bit. You see, I came to the Maluku Islands to relax, to do nothing but sit in the
View from my Front Porch
Someone needs this view, it may as well be me!
sun (in the shade in a hammock works just as well) and to read a book or three or five (I read nine). I felt as if, in the past month, after six Maluku islands, I was more high-strung than I ever was before I started out. I hardly relaxed at all.
I'd love to have sent y'all an email blast explaining how lovely the islands are, how generous and kind and smiling the people have been, how warm the sand feels between my toes. I figured I owed it to myself to relax after four months of go-go-go, exploring, adventuring and seeking out nooks and crannies of Indonesia I never knew existed. But, unfortunately it wasn't like the perfect do-nothing getaway at all.
First off, remember, I am traveling on a very tight budget. This often limits my daily expenditure on the "mainland" to under $15.00 a day, and often, when I am sitting sedentary and not taking transport, this figure is often well below $10.00 a day. I knew the islands were going to cost me a bit more (note that these are quite remote and difficult to get to; they are located in the eastern
View Up The Beach
Looking from my guesthouse veranda, I got a magnificent view of Gunung Api, the volcano on a nearby Banda island as well as the beautiful waters of the Banda Sea as it hit my not-as-purty-as-I-was-hoping-for beach
part of Indonesia, just west of Papua/Irian Jaya) and felt ready to tackle a new price bracket.
I resorted to taking all ground transportation while in Indonesia, flying only into and out of the country. All other modes of transport were overland, over water. Some of the Maluku Islands are serviced by a small prop engine plane only once a week, if you're lucky. If the weather is bad or there is just a bit too much wind or too many clouds, the entire flight is canceled. Sometimes for days. I didn't want to risk that, given I only had a month in the islands (which turned into two), and besides, I was going for the adventure and the "Indonesian style of traveling" anyway, which meant only one way....Pelni ship.
So here I am on a small island, Pulau Ai, in the Bandas (with maybe a population 400 at most), with nothing to do but snorkel and read for 12 days. I'm waiting for the Pelni to makes it's rounds and come back again so I can head up to Ambon, many, many miles away (maybe 10 hours or more by Pelni). Every day I sit on my
Yacht in Bandaneira Harbor
Sail Bunaken attracted hundreds of yachters from all over the world and they happened to be in the Bandas at the same time I was there. I should have worked harder to hitch a ride with one of them!
tiled front terrace a few feet from the shoreline, the calm turquoise waters lapping perilously close to my feet, the long stretch of golden white sands continues unforeseen around the corner in the distance, lazy palms sway in the tropical breezes, and no one, I repeat no one, is around. Oops, my bad. There's a guy on the pier next door right now. Good, he doesn't see me. Let's keep it that way. No, no, don't turn around. Noooo.... He notices me. Damn it. He calls his buddies over to take a look. They are far from inconspicuous. They bend and twist so they can get a glimpse of me sitting on my plastic reclining chair, partially obstructed from their view by two palm trees and another tree with massive leaves. They make loud Indonesian noises trying to get my attention. I ignore them. I hide behind my book. I look up after a few minutes and the group of guys have doubled in size, and now they are all sitting on the pier and facing my direction.
Kids come out of nowhere and want to know my name and where I am from. They don't know any more
English than that so they chitter and chatter amongst themselves and squeal with kid delight, playing in the sand practically at my feet. I don't have the nerve (or the Indonesian word) to tell them to scram, I just want/need/desire a little alone time.
A lone fisherman walks down the beach heading for his boat (more like a canoe). I must be quite appealing, cause he almost runs into a big log half buried in the sand cause he can't take his eyes off me.
A group of teenage boys and one guitar stroll down the beach singing loudly (and badly) and strumming the out of tune stringed instrument. One boy notices me and communicates to his buddies to look my way. They all do and they're not subtle about it either. Because I am sitting there, they decide to make a pit stop directly in front of me to play and sing, all the while keeping their eyes transfixed on me. I can't really be all that interesting, can I?
The majority of the unwanted attention I get is from the men and boys, teenagers to middle 20's I'd say. I wonder what they'd say if
Full Moon Night
A very full moon appeared one night very near Gunung Api
I told them I could be their mother! I think they'd flip. Or wonder why they never stared at their mother. Ha.
In two hours I have read 9 pages. I can't concentrate and go inside the building. It's too hot inside to read, I don't feel like taking a nap, I just hide out until the boys leave again. This isn't how I want to spend my "vacation" on a tropical island.
I venture outside when the guitar tunes finally fade down the beach, and come across three male fishermen, some missing teeth, all with really bad haircuts, sitting on the rock wall just in front of my terrace. They turn and smile and want to exchange words with this foreign woman, but have no idea how to speak in English. All they can muster is "Hello Mister." They don't stop smiling at me. Oh God, get away.
This is getting old. This is what I have to deal with on a constant basis. It makes for exploring, a simple little walk around the island, very difficult. The blatant staring, the over-curiosity is becoming increasingly and infuriatingly irritating.
If anyone out there has had a
Another view from my veranda with -- gasp! -- only one kid on the sand.
stint or done any time in Hollywood or the equivalent or for that matter traveled to Indo alone (and I'm not talking Bali or Java or even Sumatra or Lombok, I'm talking about parts unknown to the masses) -- if you are a single FEMALE western traveler this earns you bonus points -- I'd like to hear your feedback. Do you feel the same? Have you had experiences like this in your life? I feel like how a Hollywood starlet would feel when venturing out on her own without her entourage.
Maybe it gets better?
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