Sunday, September 20, 2009

Under and Over

The driver of the car turns around and asks something. The student next to me translates for us. "He wants to know if you'd like to stop for lunch", she explains. "Yes, if we can?" we look at her doubtfully. It's still Ramadan and she is wearing a headscarf. The passenger in front has also been observing the fast. So too has the man in the back, but then he's been vomiting for the last two hours, so we don't expect he'd feel like eating much. The driver looks pleased by our response. He obviously could do with a bite to eat and a break from the long drive to Manado. But the student seems a little worried. "I'm afraid there won't be any fast food for you, just chicken or fish and rice". Sounds great, but blimey, do most Indonesians think all we eat is KFC and McDonalds?
Manado is our final destination in Indonesia, so it seems fitting that it's such a dreary and ugly place - we really haven't found a single nice town here. Fortunately, just off the coast, there are the Bunaken islands, offering respite form the urban sprawl and traffic chaos. Here Gayle can do a spot of scuba-diving and I can tackle our mobile library. The boat trip from the docks is only 40 minutes but it seems to drag for me - probably worrying too much about the awful sound the wooden hull makes when it scrapes over the rocks on the way out at low-tide. I catch the crew giving each other looks when we crunch our way over the hidden obstacle.
At our very comfy guesthouse we meet another lovely Italian couple, Sylvana and Fabio. It's quiet - already it feels like the high season is over here. We only have a few days left before our flight to Bangkok. We are thinking about China and the next leg of our trip but we also have time to reflect on our time in Indonesia. Travelling across Sulawesi has been one of the highlights, which is a good thing really - it's much better to leave on a high. But now China beckons. Have we got enough energy for it? Will it be as good as we hope it to be? Will we be able to tell our Ni Hao's from our Mei You's?

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