(c) 2014 Kathryn Pharr

It’s hard to believe I started this blog four years ago on my first trip to Indonesia.  I was so excited to be able to return for another work event April 4-6. I met wonderful people including Sara who recommended Cocotinous in Manado for diving in Bunaken National Marine Park, just a twenty minute boat ride from the resort. I was able to find a direct flight from Jakarta (there are only about 2 a day with Batik Air), which made the trip doable in my three day timeline. One of the biggest surprises for me was Manado is mostly Christian. I have never seen more crosses (mostly with a hanging purple ribbon) anywhere; many were lined up five feet apart along the roadside for 100 feet at a time. Locals explained that most of the crosses are only displayed in front of homes and buildings during Lent, and that Easter is celebrated by everyone parading through the streets following a cross and throwing a big party afterwards.

I have to laugh to myself that it is only after taking time from work trips that I have been to the ocean in the past twelve months. It was so relaxing to hear the waves crashing over the locals singing traditional songs with guitars and bongos for us after a great cookout that involved lighting a large pile of empty coconut shells on fire.

DSCN4441Diving on Tuesday was spectacular. Most of you know I’m a bit of a cautious person and was nervous having not been diving in 18 months. Signing those liability forms forced me to mutter to myself that I wasn’t going to lose my hearing or die. In fact, I actually never sign a liability waiver to go up 35,000 feet into the air (it’s in the terms and conditions of purchasing an airline ticket), and flying doesn’t bother me at all.

Every single time I go diving, I find that “Bobbing Along” from Bedknobs and Broomsticks plays non-stop in my head. This time, I saw an eel hiding under some coral.  The coral was a mix of so many different varieties and colors: orange, purple, yellow, and white. I saw schools of turquoise fish and angel fish and a tuna. I saw several sea turtles swimming above and beside me. One, resting on the coral, was close enough to touch: amazing. (Yes, I thought of Finding Nemo and thankfully the current was not that strong!) I don’t have a scuba diving camera, but you can check out amazing picture from James Mamoto who works with Odessa Divers at Cocotinous. His photos will take your breath away.

My watermelon carving

(c) 2014 Kathryn Pharr

In addition to diving, I received an absolutely out of this world massage at the resort, and a lesson in watermelon carving. I can now make a flower out of watermelon thanks to Vinson as evidenced by the photo here.

Wednesday was the legislative elections, and most of the country had the day off to go vote. Vinson took a few of us with him when he drove to his village to vote. Along the way we passed many voting stations. People were crowded around waiting for others to vote and just hanging out with friends and family. There were box booths to privately vote, aluminum boxes with narrow slots to cast ballots, and many people with purple ink on their pinky to show they have voted hanging around and socializing. Of course, election day meant that the market in Manado was completely empty except for a few vendors selling fish and vegetables. The dried fish had the most potent odor, and I couldn’t help but wonder on another day if there would be strong spices in the air like in the Middle East.

At the mall in Manado, I tried to get cash with my ATM card only to find it missing. Going through all my luggage proved that it was the only thing missing. As weary globe trotters can tell you, always always save enough cash to get you back out of the country (Indonesia has an exit tax). I had ensured I had such an ER stash, and so resigned myself that worst case, I’d be eating only airline food for the next 36 hours and hanging out in airports. I’d already paid for the taxi to take me to the Manado airport that afternoon, and my flight from Jakarta was in the early morning. In a surprising way, it was a real blessing. It’s been a few years since I’ve traveled with such a very tight budget, where the luxury of a taxi or a snack was outside of my abilities. I struck up a conversation with a local as we waited for the bus to Terminal 2 in Jakarta. My extra change, the equivalent of a $1.60, was not enough for a Dunken Donut, but the young woman I was talking to shared a snack with me about 11 PM as we started to fall asleep near the entrance to the terminal. At least we were out of the humid outdoor air. There were dozens of others like us, sleeping on the floor or on one of the few benches while waiting to be allowed into the area to check our bags.  I woke up around 4, in time to change clothes, brush my teeth, and check-in. Oddly enough, it felt lucky to be reminded that life isn’t that bad when you don’t have all that much.

I’ll close with a new phrase of Bahasa I learned, “Selamat Paskah” or Happy Easter.