Man bites dog

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February 25th 2009
Published: February 25th 2009
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Kupang - food stallsKupang - food stallsKupang - food stalls

looking in to the night market area where all the food stalls were.
The first paragraph is for computer people only. Non-nerds can safely skip to the next paragraph. OK. There seems to be only one public Internet connection in this whole city, and that’s at what passes for the tourist hang-out place. The only way to get on is to use their one computer, or unplug their one Ethernet cable and hardcode your IP address to his 10. address and set your DNS servers. He doesn’t seem to have a switch or a router or anything, just an Ethernet cable which as far as he knows magically comes from his ISP. It gives very intermittent connectivity to the Internet, slowing right down often, so that lots of webpages don’t even load for me.

So I haven’t been doing much in Kupang, but I thought I should write a bit of a blog entry now since by all accounts there aren’t any Internet connections in the places I’ll be in Flores, so it could be a week or two before I get to post a blog again. I’ve basically been here nearly three days and done very little, trying to move my leg as little as possible to try to get it to
Kupang - election postersKupang - election postersKupang - election posters

in case you haven't heard, Indonesia has an election coming up in a few weeks/months
heal. I talked about the first day in the last blog. That night I went off looking for dog meat, since you all wanted me to. I walked down the street until I felt blood running down my leg, which was probably only a kilometre, but there wasn’t much in the way of food that way at all. So I headed back.

There was a little warung near the hotel, so I ate there. I recognised some of the dishes of course, like “nasi goreng”, and I know that “nasi” is cooked rice, so any meal with that in its name will have rice in it. But that’s not as helpful as it sounds, since pretty much every meal has rice in it anyway. Nasi Campur was at the top of their menu, and I remembered that this is “rice with whatever’s available”, so I asked for that. I got a big plate of rice with some spicy soy, some vegetable thing with the consistency half-way between spinach and tea-leaves, a bit of something like onion, and some beef. It tasted good. The lady tried to teach me some Bahasa Indonesian, but since she doesn’t know a word of
Kupang - motorbikeKupang - motorbikeKupang - motorbike

Indonesia is part of Asia after all!
English it doesn’t get very far. Her two teenage children are watching TV, something that looks like an Indonesian equivalent of “American Idol” or “So You Think You Can Dance”. The meal plus a small can of coke, costs Rp 15000. I’m still confused about the large money, and have trouble with all the zeros. I felt like I was being ripped off until I remembered that Rp 15000 is $AUS 2. I almost offered her Rp 150000 instead of Rp 15000 by mistake.

The next day I tried bandaging my leg again. Luckily I unbanadaged it in the afternoon, because it had all stuck on again. I bandaged it again in the afternoon and when I went to bed again it had stuck on a little but at least wasn’t painful to pull off this time. I thought i had non-stick dressings but I guess not. Again I sit around not doing too much. I found out that there’s a bookshop in town which sells English-language books about how to learn Bahasa Indonesian, so I took a motorbike in there. This gave me a chance to see the rest of Kupang.

Kupang is supposed to have a
Kupang - He ManKupang - He ManKupang - He Man

The Winnie The Pooh makes him look real tough but I'm sure he's a softy inside.
population of over 200,000, and it’s fairly spread out, it would have taken me ages to walk to the book store. The city looks quite nice. It costs Rp 10,000 (about $AUS 1.50) for the motorbike guy to drive me in, wait for me, and drive me back. I buy two books, one is a dictionary, and one called “How to Master the Indonesian Language”. The dictionary cost Rp 13600 and the other one cost Rp 31200. So that’s like $7 for two books and a motorbike ride across town and back. It started pissing down rain just as I was about to leave, so while I was sheltering in the bookstore, the proprietor start chatting to me. When she found out that my next stop was Flores, she got out an Indonesian atlas and started telling me all sorts of misinformation about Flores. She told me that my ferry would go to Ende, not Larantuka, which would be nice if it were true, but isn’t true in this case. She told me that Ende is the place to see the Komodo dragons, which I’m sure is not true, and that it has three beautiful volcanic lakes (I think that’s what she meant) which I later found out to be true.

After another lazy afternoon, I decided to go and explore the other part of town, which, according to Lonely Planet has a lot of warung that serve dog meat, and according to my little map also has supermarkets. After waiting for the next torrential downpour to pass, I set off and found it to be much more like you’d expect of SE Asia. A cornucopia of food carts set up over a large stretch of the road and the flood of minibus and motorcycle traffic divert around it. As well there are masses of permanent stores selling necessities or typical Asian kitsch. Minibuses with all their windows and most of their windscreens painted over with random English words (“FEDERAL DICTATOR” or “IMMANUEL”...) or stylised drawings of long-haired women with bright blue eyes, or of groups of androgynous figures with blond hair. Ah - Asia! There’s even a church service going on at 18:00 on a Tuesday night. I can’t imagine an Australian city of this size having such a communal, carnival, type attitude towards their evening meal every weekday, as most of SE Asia seems to
Kupang - islandKupang - islandKupang - island

an island off the coast of where I'm staying in Kupang. I don't know anything about it
do. None of the places seem to serve dog meat though.

I walked back, deciding to eat at the same warung as the previous day, given they’d been so friendly. Suddenly there was a wild-haired, topless, man in front of me, appearing from nowhere out of the dusk, lurching across the road to bump into me. He passed me on my right hand side, and his right arm reached out, limp, and to drag across the front of my chest, almost touching my left shoulder. I put my elbow out to deflect him. He made no sound and I didn’t think there was much point saying anything. By the time I turned around, he was gone, we were both walking at fair speeds. He was clearly not normal for this place, and I assume he was crazy. Weird.

Indonesians are a bit sensitive about their dog meat. They never mark it on the menu as “dog” or the Bahasa Indonesian equivalent. If it’s show on the “menu”, it’s always “RW” (pronounced, I think, “err-way”), which is I think an acronym for “soft fur”. It’s rumoured to be big in Sulawesi, where “they eat anything that moves
Kupang - bayKupang - bayKupang - bay

at dusk lots of boats seem to come home to the bay and their lights are visible at night
and much that doesn’t”, but I think here in Kupang is the only part of my Indonesian journey where I’ll have a chance at getting it. But it’s hard to find. On the bus on the way in I saw one warung advertising RW, but I can’t find the place, I think it was a fair way away from where I am. The Internet isn’t much use, in the little bit of time I can use it, googling for “eating dog in Kupang” comes up with my previous blog as its first hit! I’m a bit unsure about ordering “RW”, it makes me think too much of Unix file permissions - I’m worried I might go into a warung and order a plate of 0600 (that was another one for the nerds, don’t worry about it).

I’m a little confused about using Indonesian-style toilets. I googled for it and found this blog site which is fine for squat toilets but not so great when you have a western-style toilet without a seat or anything. I guess this is why they occasionally have “no squatting on top of the toilet” signs in universities and such-like in Melbourne.
a totally different doga totally different doga totally different dog

This dog has nothing to do with the story, as far as I know.

This hotel brings breakfast every morning ... thick black coffee, two slices of white bread, offensively yellow margarine, and something approximating jam which I think is 99% sugar. I don’t drink much coffee at all normally, and if I do, never black, so the only way I can make this even vaguely palatable is to empty about half a cupful of sugar into it. Late in the afternoons they bring tea and a sickly-sweet muffin that tastes more like fairy floss than a good muffin (I imagine, come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever had fairy floss).

I asked where I could do my laundry, and the only option seemed to be for someone to take it off to some hotel where it would be washed in a washing machine, and returned to me the next day. This turned out to cost Rp 70000, for a large bag, almost $AUS 10, the first expensive thing I’ve found in Kupang. But they came back neatly folded, wrapped in plastic, and with a detailed receipt. I wish the sink had been better so I could do the hardcore backpacker thing of washing them in the sink and drying them in front of the fan, but in this humid wet season they’d probably just go mouldy anyway.

OK here’s the bit of the blog I wrote, frantically, shortly before having to go off to catch the ferry. I had something like five comments, three messages, and one or two emails (I’m offline as I write this, so can’t check) telling me to try RW, and only one telling me not to. So after an afternoon exploring Kupang by my normal mode of walking around till I’m lost and then finding my way home, I realised that tonight was my last chance to try this dish. Since I couldn’t find a warung advertising it, my only hope was to ask a local, but I wasn’t sure how happy they’d be about the idea.

So in the manner of someone trying to organise a small drug deal I approached the little man at the counter of the hotel, the same one who let me in at 01:00 three days ago. I said something like “Umm, I’ve heard that sometimes people around here sometimes eat dog, is there a way I could try it?” The reaction wasn’t like I expected, he jumped to his feet saying “RW”, and I said “Yes, RW” and he shook both my hands happily and called for a motorbike rider to go and get some for us. This was partly because by doing so he was able to get me to pay for his dinner, but for a total of about $AUS 6, including the motorbike driver, I’m not too fussed.

So my new best friend, whose name apparently is Robert, offered me a seat and talked happily. He told me about the devastating effect that the Asian economic crisis and East Timorese Independence had had on Kupang in the late 1990s, when he’d ran a losmen which had had to shut, because suddenly no tourists came to Kupang. He lamented how the Rupiah had gone up suddenly from a rate of $AUS 1 = Rp 700 to what it is now, ten years later, almost $AUS 1 = Rp 8000. He told me how after graduating from University in Bali, he worked for an Indonesian NGO in East Timor 1996 - 1998. He told me how he liked Suharto, but doesn’t say anything about SBY or the current election.

So the RW arrived. It was packed in two packages, one for him and one for me, in oiled paper, with another two packages of white rice. It was hacked up indiscriminately so it was hard to get a full bite without bits of bone or skin. When they do this with chicken it’s not so bad because the bones aren’t that strong, but these bones have the potential to break teeth so you have to be a bit careful. It was quite oily, and was cooked with a fair bit of spices, but tasted reasonably good, a fair bit like beef I guess. Robert thanked me repeatedly for the dinner and the opportunity to eat RW. He seemed genuinely pleased.

My ferry apparently leaves at 02:00 tonight. Well the ticket says 04:00, but I think I have to be there at 02:00, which means I have to leave here at about 01:30. I may not have Internet connectivity for the next week or so, during which time I’ll mainly be on Flores.

A completely non-travel-related rant

Rather than everyone telling me different things about what to do with my leg, perhaps someone can help with some useful information. I only did year 12 Maths, but perhaps someone who studied fractal geometry or something... It’s been bothering me for years ...

For example, Lonely Planet says “The Indonesia coastline is 54,716 km long.”

Now I don’t understand how this statement can have any meaning. I don’t think you can measure the circumferences of land masses because they’re basically fractals. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t think that this is a pedantic or purely theoretical point. I actually think that Lonely Planet’s claim doesn’t mean anything, since I could claim that Phillip Island also has a coastline of 54716 km. By the way, in this case it seems like a very small number, since they also tell us that Indonesia is comprised of 17508 islands.

I’m just tired of reading this all over the place, in the media and suchlike. “Wilsons Promontory has over X km of coastline” ... “Northern Australia has over X km of coastline to patrol” ... If I’m right, no self-respecting geographer or cartographer would publish figures for these things, so people must just be making them up themselves with a ruler and an atlas. Certainly in doing so it should dawn on them that they can get any figure they want? Maybe they’re just pulling the numbers out of their arses to pad out their stories or books? I wish they’d stop it.

Or am I missing something?


2nd March 2009

Fractal coastlines
Hi Daniel, You're right in that coastlines can't be accurately measured as they contain fractal like properties. Each method used to measure a coastline should give different measurements....Can you magine trying to measure in centimetres or less? The smaller the measurement method, the greater the length of the coastline, go figure! I believe that any given coastline is typically measured in miles (or more recently for metric countries - kilometres). But theoretically this is not 100% accurate. I'm sure someone who has a better understanding of mathematics would explain it better, but I have had this discussion before and the Lonely Planet guide is just stating measurements probably in miles to give you an idea of how long it would take to travel around the country, assuming you are circumnavigating the country.
3rd March 2009

Fractal Coastlines
Thanks Dirk, If I may respectfully disagree with you ... I don't think that it's just "not 100% accurate". I think it can literally give you any figure you want (above a ridiculously low minimum). It doesn't matter whether you measure it in miles, kilometres, millimetres or stadia, I think that's missing the point. The measurement changes depending on the accuracy with which you measure it, not the units you use. I also think that it doesn't at all give me an idea ... I still don't know if Indonesia has a coastline greater than Tasmania's for example? Also, it's not about circumnavigating the country, which is comprised of thousands of islands, so it would be about circumnavigating each island, but many don't have roads. If you "circunavigate" the actual coastline, then you get back to the core of the problem. If you get a world map and try to measure the circumference of Wilsons Prom, then get an Australia map and try again, then get a survey map of Wilsons Prom and try again, you'll see what I mean. Each one will give you progressively greater measurements, and the more care you take, the higher your measurement will be again. Thanks for the feedback though, it's good to know people are reading. Cheers, Daniel
6th March 2009

Check with Wiki
Hi Daniel, Apparently, the measurement of a coastline is dependant upon the method used for measuring. so "not 100% accurate" is an understatement. However, as per Wiki: "....More concretely, the length of the coastline depends on the method used to measure it. Since a landmass has features at all scales, from hundreds of kilometers in size to tiny fractions of a millimeter and below, there is no obvious limit to the size of the smallest feature that should not be measured around, and hence no single well-defined perimeter to the country. Various approximations exist when specific assumptions are made about minimum feature size. For practical considerations, an appropriate choice of minimum feature size is on the order of the units being used to measure. If a coastline is measured in miles, then small variations much smaller than one mile are easily ignored......" I'd suggest that when you are looking at trying to figure out how far you're are travelling around a country/island (or many islands making up a country) you stick to miles or kilometres. Don't let this paradox send you crazy! Hope your leg is getting better? Your blog is great! Your writing is superb! Keep up the good work and have safe travels!

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