So we got to the middle of town where the bus let us off. I remember looking at the map and reading about Rantepao months before, planning the trip. I visualized this primitive existence, tribes, I duunno. Maybe grass skirts.
So I was walking down the street with my friends and I said to Greg, "You know my image of Rantepao didn't include motorbikes." The town had a road through the middle of asphalt, with a median on the few streets that went right through the middle. It wasn't realy thick with traffic, but you could see that the motorbike was as important here as anywhere else in the country.
We had gotten on the bus with a good number of people who we knew from the Legend hostel in Ujung Pandang. Besides me and Greg, and Dave and Julie, there were some scandinavian women we didn't know very well and this woman who had spent time in Iryan Jaya.
Iryan Jaya is sortof the other half of New Guinea, the left half that was part of Indonesia. This is probably the most primitive part of Indonesia. You learn a lot from fellow travelers, and we learned a lot from her. In particular, we probably didn't have time to go there.
When you go to Iryan Jaya, you pretty much depend upon the flakey transportation system. Planes fly in to only a few cities. This woman was somehow hooked in with some Christian missionaries. She had stories of going places and sleeping on the floor in the church in places. Ain't no hotels. Indonesian currency and/or language may or may not work where you go, it's that backward. It was tribes there, and they had only recently been ripped away and folded into the Indonesian nation, and some of the violence could still be remembered apparently.
This is Greg (left) and Julie and Dave all having lunch. Maybe it was dinner. I'm there too, I just got up to hold the camera.
This one evening, we were all going to a place for dinner. I was straggling behind as usual. As I came into the restaurant, I saw some locals and I said "Selamat Malam!", good evening.
They replied "Vongy Mello". I said "Huh?" They told me that that was the Torajan phrase for "Good Evening". Indonesian I was learning, but Torajan, hey, I didn't have time to learn that. But it seemed fun so I tried to learn. Vongy Mello. Bongy Mello? Not sure. I asked them, "you say, 'vongy mello'?"
"No, no, say Bongy Mello".
"OK, like this: Bongy Mello" I said.
"No, it's more like this: Vongy Mello."
Not wanting to look stupid. "Yeah, ah... Thanks! Bvongy Mello!" and I escaped to the table my friends had picked out.
So I announced this new phrase prowdly to my friends. "You say, 'Bongy Mello' or 'Vongy Mello' or something like that." Not sure which, so we asked the waiter. The waiter didn't know what we were talking about.
This isn't like a waiter with a monkey suit on or anything, this is just a local who comes to the table and knows more english than the rest of the family in the kitchen. You figure a local, they ought to know.
"It's probably some swear word. They're probably having a good laugh in the back somewhere right now."
I tried the phrase a few more times on different people. It worked about half the time. Finally we got back to the hotel and I asked the guy behind the desk. He said, "I don't know, I'm not Torajan. I come from central sulawesi. I go ask my wife, she's Torajan."
He came back later and said, "It means, 'Beautiful Evening'."
This was a sunset I caught off of the balcony of our hotel.
One evening when we were staying in Rantepao I couldn't sleep so I got up and hung out on the deck. The "hallway" for the hotel was open air, the side of the building. It was cooler and more comfortable there.
After I'd been there for about a half hour, I looked over and on the floor was a large insect, like a roach. Way bigger than your thumb. But there was something wrong with it... I looked closely, there was a blur around it. Actually there was a swarm of ants around it, a really thick swarm. The insect itself was dead. But, it was moving. The whole thing was slowly spinning in a circle, the ants were moving it around in circles. I looked closely and indeed they were all pushing in different directions, not unlike Maple corporation.
I kept on reading, and every five minutes or so I looked back. The ants slowly got a clue and started pushing in the same direction, so that some progress could be made. The roach slowly moved over the course of an hour or so, several feet. After a while it and the ants were gone. It was a pretty amazing spectacle.
I did find a computer store in Rantepao. Here it is. I didn't ask them if they had ISDN modems. Didn't have my laptop so it was really an irrelevant point.
So anyway the next morning I remember I got up a lot earler than Greg, as usual.
Greg was there with his pillow wrapped around his head, saying
"You know when I visualized rantepao, the image didn't include car alarms".
Indeed the alarm on a car (probably a jimny) was blaring off down below;
probably belonged to the owner or someone.
It's a third world country.
That means they're poor.
Not that they're backwards or anything.
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