Sulawesi 6 – Gorontalo

We sailed from Wakai for Gorontalo on the SV Agape 2, with no knowledge of what might have happened to Agape 1. Once again we paid the captain for use of a cabin, but this one had an open window through which heads would stick and spout the same stupid question.

Mau kemana, mister?
I’d respond by asking where the boat was going …

The port arrival was notable for the unsuccessful grabbing of our bags by porters and the grasping for bule fares by bemo drivers. The hotels too were notable for the expensive accommodation, charging per person and not per room. The dirty, noisy losmen where we stayed, Penginapan Teluk Kau, charged us Rp.5,000 each.

We wanted to fly to Manado, and Bouraq seemed to be the only choice. When we got to the local airline office, I asked for one adult fare and one student fare: after all, Sam was 14 and still at school. They couldn’t do that, they said, without the say-so of the manager.

“Ok, can I speak to him, please. Where is he?”
He’s in his office,” pointing at a room behind.
“Good, could you get him, please?”
No, he’s asleep, come back later.”

Sam and I wandered into town which is/was distinguished for its fine Dutch buildings, some of which were scheduled to make way for flashy bank branches. We found a ‘coffee house’, went in and sat down. There were three other customers: they turned out to be the police chief, the head of the military garrison and Dr. Que who invited us back to his house to have breakfast with him.

His house was in the complex of the hospital which he’d once been head of. He told us that 35 years previously, because he’d had a western education (two years in an Australian medical school), he was forced by the army to leave his native Java and come to north Sulawesi.

Possibly because of that, or that he was now retired, he was a man of independent views.

I’m partly Buddhist“, he told us, and was against organised religion. He decried capitalism for the way that the rich have everything, high school graduates are forced to drive a bendi (horse drawn buggy), and that poor patients have to provide their own mattresses or else they would steal them from their sick beds.

He pointed out that my grouse about not getting a student discount on the Bouraq fare was not so important, because he and his wife were living on his retirement pension and had to endure the long and uncomfortable bus ride to Manado.

He also expressed a wish to read Salmon Rusdie’s Satanic Verses, which was banned in Indonesia and other countries, because he wanted the freedom to decide for himself if it was blasphemous.

It was an intellectual breakfast, although I wondered, but didn’t ask, if he was similarly open with his views when taking coffee with the police and military chiefs.

The police kept our particulars at the port, in the losmen (photocopies required), and on departure at the airport.

And then came the miserly hospitality of Bouraq …


About Jakartass

A Brit Abroad
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