Yesterday, our plans for Tidore constantly changed, so it was with relief that I learned early this morning that we were definitely going to Tidore today. So that I could experience traveling on a local ferry, Intan & I headed off early on the motorbike. I rode side saddle as I was wearing a long skirt and not being used to riding that way, felt very nervous. I worried that my skirt would get caught in the rear wheel so I tried to hold my skirt tightly & modestly while balancing 2 feet on one footrest and watching the road carefully so I could see what was happening. However, I took my eye off the road for a second to tighten my skirt which was blowing in the wind when suddenly Intan braked suddenly. The bike in front of us hit a young girl who was crossing the road. Apparently she just ran across without looking! She was incredibly lucky that she wasn’t seriously hurt. She was knocked to the ground by the bike but she quickly scrambled to her feet and raced off down the road with the motorbike driver yelling furiously after her. Had she been seriously hurt, he could have been arrested and possibly even be held fully responsible for her medical costs! No wonder he was so cross! I was very impressed with how Intan kept her cool and afterwards continued to drive onto the ferry dock. She had seen the entire incident unfold in front of her which would have been doubly nerve wracking considering she had me on the back!
As we reached the ferry queue, we couldn’t believe our luck to see the bikes and passengers moving onto the ferry. The ferry over Lebaran isn’t working to a schedule. Instead of just going to Tidore only twice a day, it is doing the Tidore run repeatedly as there are so many people heading that way for Lebaran. However, just as it was our turn to move on to the ferry, it was full! So we turned off the engine, left the bike in the queue and went and stood in the shade. I took my camera closer to the ferry and got some shots of it as it sailed off.
It takes half an hour for the ferry to sail to Tidore, so thinking that we had to wait an hour for the next ferry, I was surprised to hear the Sofifi (capital of Halmahera) ferry was being co opted to travel via Tidore! So once the Sofifi ferry had been maneuvered, cleverly using huge ropes, into place, we boarded it. I was informed by Intan, that teenagers prefer the upper level and once up there I could see why.
While it was stinking hot and very humid in Ternate, we watched rain hit Tidore and knew we were in for a temperature change with the impending rain! Sure enough, once we had set sail, the sun vanished and the temperature dropped. Just before we arrived in Tidore, the rain began and thankfully it stopped just before I walked off the ferry because I had left my rain coat in Ternate.
A short trip from the ferry dock brought us to where the rest of the family were waiting for us. The family group today included 6 of Bu Esty’s children, 2 other children, Bu Esty & Bapak, me and their 2 staff, Iba & Aja. For most of our journey around Tidore we all, except for Iba & Aja, squeezed into an Avanza! The young boys in the back, the women in the middle section and the driver & Bapak with the baby Vozzer (to pronounce this, try using a very french accent, with a heavy rolling of the ‘r’ & say: ‘forger’) in the front! Twelve people in an 8 seater car! Very Indonesian!
We had heard the previous day, that the main road in Tidore had been washed out in the heavy rain we had several days ago, so consequently there was no point bringing the family car. As it was a short drive to where the bridge was washed away, we all rode in bento’s which are a mechanical becak.
I have seen a variety of bento in Java but nowhere near as flash as the ones on Tidore. Some even have powerful sound systems built into the back of the passenger seat! It was so much fun and reminded me how much I had enjoyed riding becak’s in Jogjakarta. At the bridge, we paid the bento drivers and then walked across the narrow remaining section of bridge.
and headed off to the first family we were planning to visit.
Like every house I have visited over Lebaran, we were seated in the formal siting room and on the coffee table are jars traditional biscuits baked by one of the women in the household. However in Tidore, I was also offered roasted peanuts and cashews. While the adults sat and chatted, the children would begin by sitting with us and then would meander off slowly into other rooms. In the adjoining room there was a large mattress on the floor in front of a flatscreen tv on the wall. On the TV was a Lebaran program. I saw an ‘selebriti’ interview with firstly a young male actor and then with a female singer who currently lives in the USA. The male actor invited the cameras into his home as he went home for Lebaran. He introduced us to his 78 year old grandmother who was caked in pancake makeup and spent most of the interview eating! At the end he handed out money to his nieces and nephews. Whereas Bu Esty handed out RP5000 yesterday, he handed out Rp50,000 & Rp100,000 notes!! The young female singer came across as very western in her interview, both in her manner and dress and then when she spoke, she used a mixture of English and Indonesian. Both interviews took place in very wealthy homes and were so Indonesian!
Most of the young boys ended up on the mattress in front of the TV while Vozzer found a ride on firetruck which he absolutely loved. It kept him happily occupied for ages.
Suddenly, Bu Esty looked at the time and realised that not only was it 12:30 but it was also Friday, the most important day for fathers and sons to go to the mosque for midday prayers. Bapak quickly raced off to the kamar mandi, rolling up his trouser legs ready for the mandatory face, hands and feet washing that is done before praying. He then headed next door to the mosque to join the other men for midday prayers. We sat chatting while waiting their return so that we could all eat lunch together.
Luch was again mostly a collection of beef and chicken and thankfully there was also a snake bean dish which was very tasty. The most memorable part of the meal for me was the sambal. Thinking that it was on a spice level as what I have been served in Bu Esty’s house, I piled a huge spoonful on to my plate and then added a generous dollop to my rice. It hit the back of my throat with a firey whoosh and my eyes and nose immediately started streaming! I was immensely grateful there was a box of tissues on the table! To help my mouth cope with the heat, I quickly ate another mouthful of rice which only made it worse as that too had sambal on it! So, I next chugged on my bottle of cold water and that helped me take a breath so that this time I could take more care choosing the next spoonful of rice! From that point, my mouth was on fire and I was able to finish it all without too many more tears! The watermelon at the end of the meal was just perfect however as I was enjoying it, in the back of my mind I remembered Bu Esty’s stories of watermelon being injected with a chemical dye to make them seem juicer and sweeter and has my fingers crossed this melon was dye free.
After lunch, we headed off to our next destination. As it was a long drive, we all piled in the Avanza and within no time at all as everyone had just eaten, almost everyone was asleep. Ibu Esty dozed off with Vozzer on her lap and all 4 boys in the back too were snoozing in various positions like a litter of cute puppies. One again the drive took us around the coastline of Tidore which was just as hot and humid as I remembered from my visit here last week. All the windows were down which helped keep the air moving as the car air conditioning really struggled with the incredible heat and humidity. We were now on the opposite side of the island to the ferry dock and instead of seeing Ternate on the horizon, we were now looking at Halmahera which is a much larger island than both Ternate & Tidore combined! If you look at a map, it will look something like a strange letter ‘k’ which makes it a very interesting looking island. I am looking forward to exploring Halmahera with Bu Esty in November!
Our next destination was the household of Bu Esty’s Aunty, her mothers sister and the family resemblance was immediately obvious! The same bright cheerful personality together with the same friendly laughing eyes. Here we were served lemonade and coke to drink. The glass jars on the coffee table were all opened and we were then all pressed to try each of the biscuits and nuts they contained. The children were happy to do so and needed no second invitation, however the clear winner of the day was the coke and sprite much to Bu Esty’s horror! Like me, she is not a big fan of soft drinks and consequently her children were delighted to be encouraged to drink so much. In response to their obvious enjoyment of the soft drinks, her Aunty put 2 enormous bottles in a plastic bag for us to take with us. Bu Esty very politely declined them and they were (deliberately?) left behind in our hurried goodbyes. Our car was parked in the lane way and we needed to leave quickly so that another car could get passed, so with the quickest goodbye ever recorded, we piled into the car and headed back to the wharf.
On our journey back, the driver played songs which the boys in the back loudly sang along to! While passing a mosque, the music was turned off to respect the call to prayer currently being broadcast to the nearby residents, and then was turned back on once well passed the mosque. The driver dropped us back at the washed out bridge where a huge crowd had gathered to watch an excavator trying to break up the concrete slabs using a huge rock from the river bed.
While watching and filming the excavator at work, Bapak received a phone call to say that someone from our neighbourhood had died and that he needed to return home immediately to attend the funeral. So instead of catching bento’s to take us to the ferry, we caught a microlet
speedboats lined up at the dock.
As soon as we arrived back in Ternate, Bapak drove his brood home and then Bu Esty & I immediately headed off to the funeral. Bu Esty was feeling very uncomfortable in her red Lebaran outfit which is generally an inappropriate colour for a funeral, but Bapak was adamant that she didn’t have time to change and as it turns out he was right. We parked the car out on the main road and then walked up a tiny alley towards where the funeral was being held. As we got closer to the house, men and women were sitting on plastic chairs lining the alley. Several people shook our hands as we passed, however Bu Esty continued until we were outside the house. Here there was a definite separation of gender with the men sitting in chairs lining the alley on one side of the house and the women sitting on chairs on the front verandah. We barely had time to sit down and speak to a few women there before all the family inside the front room came outside and joined us on the front verandah. Bu Esty apologised repeatedly for wearing red and explained that we had been in Tidore for Lebaran and had come straight to the funeral from the dock, however they all dismissed her concerns and made it clear that her presence was more important than the colour of her clothes. Then all the men stood and following an elderly man wearing white with a cream shawl draped over his shoulders, entered into the front room. We women were then informed that as the men were about to start praying and would be facing the verandah, we needed to move to where the men had been originally sitting to the side of the house. The prayer didn’t last that long but both Bu Esty and I were pleased that Bapak was able to join the prayers. As the ketua or designated neighbourhead leader, it is important that he shows care and empathy for the people he is responsible for. Bapak takes his responsibilities very seriously and is consequently highly respected here.
After the prayers finished, the men exited the room carrying a coffin shaped container which looked like a metal frame closed in with rigid green plastic sheeting. Many men carried the coffin on their shoulders and it would have been very awkward navigating through the narrow alley ways heading towards the main road and then onto the cemetery where he was to be buried immediately. Once the procession of men had left, I expected the women to follow it; however a group turned to Bu Esty and begged to have their photo taken with me!
So instead, I had multiple photos taken with various women and by the time we had finished, the procession of men carrying the coffin was long gone as was Bapak. We headed back home along the back alley with several of the women and didn’t get far before we were invited to drop in and visit one of the houses we passed. The 2 women walking with us also joined us and inside we were served coke and once again all the jars of food on the coffee table were opened and we were repeatedly pressed to try some. While sitting there chatting, Bu Esty explained that one of the women was currently living on Halmahera and knew Pak Amir. She then said that he had actually been in Ternate the previous evening and not only that, we had missed bumping into him by a couple of hours at one of the houses we visited yesterday! After another photo session,
we again headed home and with various quick stops along the way visiting people for Lebaran, we finally reached home where we both enjoyed a much needed shower. The weather here now seems to be getting hotter and hotter and even in the evenings the breezes are nowhere as gusty as they were when I arrived 2 weeks ago.