Do NOT Show this Entry to my Mother

Trip Start Jan 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hiked 10 km at Maribaya falls--really nice falls, met some nice young Javanese/Sundnese couple who went to the University of Texas and studied petroleum engineering.  It was the first English conversation I have had with anyone since I left Yogyakarta.  I am suffering from Bahasa Backpacker fatigue lingua, so that was a joy.

About 1 km from the bemo stop to get a bemo from Maribaya- Lembang and catch another Lembang-Ciater back to my hotel, it started to pour.  If you've never been in a jungle downpour you cannot fathom exactly how much water comes out of the sky at once.  It's like there's no air, only water.

I ducked into an abandoned food stall and waited for the rain to stop. Some kid tells me last bemo from Lembang -Ciater leaves at 5 PM -it's 4 now- so I need to get to Lembang before then.  Trouble is I was 1 km from the Maribaya bemo stop, soaked, and staring to get chilled.

Anyway, the rain let up and I ran the 1 KM to the bemo stop.  Guy said he was going to Lembang.  Tried to start the bemo--starter clicked half dead.  He kept trying. Finally, as it started to turn over, blue smoke poured into the van from underneath is seat.  We all moved away, and it stopped smoking

Got to Lembang--driver pointed the way I had to walk- down a wide alley of market stalls -- to find the bemo to Ciater.  This is where it gets hairy.  And yes, I admit, for the first time in this trip, I was scared.

Shopkeeper faces were unsmiling. They turned their backs on me as I walked by.  Once again, I am the only bule, but this long ago ceased to concern me, as wherever I travel in Indonesia it is often the case and yields great rewards and hospitality.

Not here.

I notice the shops are all changing their music to play the same thing.  It is a very popular song/music video in Indonesia--in English, unlike the shop music they normally play- titled "We Will  Not Go Down" about Gaza.  The music video has little Palestinian kids giving the victory sign and smiling as the following lyrics are played:

       We will not go down, in the night, without a fight
       You can bomb our mosques and our homes and our schools but our spirit will never die
       We will not go down in Gaza tonight

(this song is also the most popular ringtone on cellphones in Indo-- as I type this entry it is playing on the Internet cafe radio)

There is a banner hanging across the road about Israel that I cannot interpret.  I am pretty certain it was not flattering to the Israelis.  I read the paper that morning about Israeli soliders reporting being ordered to shoot old women and children--it was on Yahoo too, so maybe some of you who do not get Al Jazeera read it too.  I'm pretty sure the folks in the alley had read it.

Two guys in their early twenties come up to me, and both smile widely.  I am relieved to see a friendly face, especially people that will talk to me.  They did talk to me.  They both said "Go home, Mister".

I am thinking of Murpysboro Gary's advice at this point, in an alley, surrounded on all sides by hostiles.  How on earth did I get comfortable enought to ignore all the signs around me and walk right into this?????

I am beating feet to get out of this alley, and I am yelling "Ciater! Ciater!" to all the bemo drivers.  One answers back and I thankfully jump in. Or so I thought.

I notice he is yelling some other town to everyone else. I turn to a fellow passenger and ask if this bemo goes to Ciater.  She is silent, looks to the driver, and the driver answers for her."Ciater."

Now for this story to make sense, you have to understand that in Bahasa Indonesian c is pronounced like ch.  So Ciater is pronounced "Chee-ah-tur".

Well, about 1 mile later, well away from the bemo station, everyone gets out and he shuts off the motor.  I ask Ciater? He gives long explanation and I think I hear the word Ciater, so I say "Yes, Ciater".  He says it again, and I realize he is saying "Charter", not Ciater.  He wants 60,000 for me to charter him instead of the 5000 bemo fare.

I get out as he yells he will take 50,000.   I would not ride with this guy if he took me for free at this point, still worried about whether or not he is hooked up with the Gaza twins. I stand in the shelter--it has started raining again, and in about 2 minutes a Colt (oversized bemo) picks me up to Ciater.

This relief was short lived.  It was dusk and raining.  His defrost did not work. Neither did the driver's side windshield wiper.  Neither did his headlights.  So we are barreling around mountain curves in a downpour at dusk with Stevie Wonder at the wheel.

They made me sit up front.  Some bules prefer this.  I do not share their affinity for seeing --or in this case, NOT seeing-- what's coming.  I just figured we get there if Allah wants us to and hold my head in my hands.  The driver is clearly readier to meet his maker than I am.

Somehow, we got to Ciater.  True to form, they tried to overcharge me. I handed them  5000 and walked to the hotel in the rain. They drove away.

Warm shower, terrific dinner  at the place in the pic, and I was good as new.

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