Bima, Sumbawa Island
September 11, 2007
(Steph) Bima was our first rally stop since Lembata. We hadn't planned to
attend the rally events, but we did want to connect with the rally organizers to
hand over our visas to get an extension. Unfortunately, it took three days to
process all our paperwork, so we weren't going anywhere. But as usual, we made
the best of it, and ended up having a great time.
Our first day we made it into the city with the favored local transportation,
a Ben Hur. A Ben Hur is exactly what it sounds like -- a cart that is pulled by
a horse. They aren't as magnificent as the chariots in the film they're named
for, but they're still a fun way to get around. We were dropped off at the local
fruit and vegetable market and plunged right in. Immediately, the town crazy
lady attached herself to us. She was yelling and singing loudly, and followed us
around. A number of people approached us and tried to communicate to us that she
was nutso by drawing their forefinger across their foreheads. I finally turned
around to her and said sternly, "Pergi-la!" This means "Go away!" We learned
that phrase in case we ever needed to ask anyone to leave the boat, but so far
hadn't needed it. She finally left us alone and we quickly finished up the rest
of our shopping. The Bima market was one of the more hectic markets we'd been
in, and somehow I kept leading us through the fish area, which is never a
pleasing olfactory experience.
The next day, Woj and I split up. I went into town with some friends.
Woj's birthday was the next day, so I wanted to find him a birthday present.
My idea was to buy a new digital camera. I shopped around town and eventually
found one store that had a selection of three cameras. I bought the one that had
the best description of its features -- actually trying out the camera would
have been out of the question. I ended up with an Olympus. While I was shopping,
Woj was approached by a man and his son on a motorcycle. The man introduced
himself as Iksan. He was an English teacher at the local business school, and
asked Woj if he would come talk to his class the next day. He and his son
also invited him home with them, so Woj hopped on the back of the motorcyle
and zoomed off to his home. His wife runs a little convenience store, and they
live in a pretty big apartment over the top of the store. They have a pet monkey
that played with Woj for a bit.
Iksan and his family at their shop
The next day, on Woj's birthday, with new camera in hand, we made our way
to the school. We were early for our session, so Iksan and a colleague gave
Woj and I a ride to his house so I could meet the monkey. We learned quickly
that the monkey does not take to females -- she reached out to take my finger
and then tried to jam it into her mouth and take a big bite. She also tried to
jump at me with a wild scream, but being on a leash, she stopped just short of
scratching out my eyes. After that, I was happy to just observe her from afar
while she ate a piece of bread. A duck waddled over to her and she fed the duck
some of her bread -- Iksan told us that they were friends. We were then taken to
the regent's palace, where he keeps deer in a pen. The guards there were happy
to show us the deer. It was funny and weird to see these guys with machine guns
slung over their shoulders lovingly petting the deer.
fearsome little monkey deep in thought ...
Everyone loves a petting zoo!
We returned to the school for Woj to do his thing. I was under the
impression that I would just watch and take pictures of Woj talking to the
class, but I was immediately recruited to also talk. In the end, we were each
shuttled to about three classes each, to talk and answer questions for about 10
minutes. I talked very high level about our travels on the boat, and about the
work I used to do. The questions I was asked were what my hobbies were, my age,
what kind of music I liked, and whether I had children (which, when the answer
was inevitably no, the person who asked would always apologize -- were they
sorry they asked because it was embarrassing or painful for me that I didn't
have children? Or were they giving me a sympathy apology, like "I'm sorry you
don't have children; what a waste your life must be ..."). Woj got questions
like "How can we make Bima an international cultural destination?" Funnily
enough, the gender ratio at the school was about four girls to every one boy,
yet it didn't occur to any of the students that I might have some ideas about
how to boost tourism.
Having fun with the kids at Iksan's Business
School in Bima
That night we attended the gala dinner with the rest of the rally. We were
transported to the regent's palace via Ben Hurs. Having consumed a few Bintangs
(local beer) before dinner, Woj got the idea that because it was his
birthday, he should be allowed to "drive" the Ben Hur. He climbed up on the
driver's seat where the guy happily handed over the reigns. I'm not sure why,
but I wasn't in his Ben Hur, so he took off running with a bunch of other
cruisers in the back, screaming all the way. It became a one-man race as he got
the horse really galloping through the streets, dodging cars and trucks, and
making wrong turns.
The poor horse was frothing at the mouth by the time they
all arrived at the palace. The dinner was good, and the entertainment was very
professional with some interesting dancing and singing we hadn't seen before. As
we filed out of the palace to head back to the harbor, the Ben Hur driver who
had let Woj drive before came looking for him. He had enjoyed the experience
of the big white guy driving his horse so much that he wanted to do it again!
This time I got in the cart (probably because no one else would dare), as did
our friends Chris and K.T. Woj insisted Chris try driving, so Chris took us
back to the harbor. The poor horse probably died in his stable that night.
(Wojo) A birthday blasting through downtown Bima half in the bag in a chariot
with five screaming seniors in the back - priceless.