March 6, 2012 – Lombok Island, Indonesia
I don’t know about all of you, but I need to confess my ignorance of the country of Indonesia up to this point. I have always thought of it, if I thought of it at all, as some vague place in the far eastern Pacific….
Well I was right on its approximate location but there is so much more to this fascinating country. Our port today is Lembar on the Island of Lombok, Indonesia. This is actually our second port in this country, having been in Komodo yesterday, but it was difficult to get a sense of the country, from the dragons. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, behind China, India and the U.S. It is largely an island nation – some 17,000 in all, with some of the larger ones being fairly well known – Sumatra, Bali, Borneo, half of New Guinea, and Timor.
The ship had been buzzing about this stop since over half of the crew is Indonesian and they were looking forward to a taste of home or a visit with relatives. While few of them lived on Lombok, many relatives traveled from Bali and other islands to spend a little time with their relatives. Since many of the crew is on board for 10 months or longer, even a brief visit is nice. Holland America operates schools in Indonesia to train personnel in cruise ship operations and employs in excess of 10,000 Indonesians on their ships, so there is an ongoing important relationship between Indonesia and Holland America. I am sure the relationship is even more significant considering the parent company Carnival and its other subsidiaries. The ship scheduled on board activities, including a buffet for the crew and their families. Good employee relations!
We hired a driver and van for the day along with our shipboard fiends from Idaho, Terry & Marcia and took off to see this little corner of Indonesia. The first thing that struck me was the motorbike traffic – as they buzzed around us I thought Sally was going to suck all the oxygen out of the car at each near collision, but amazingly they avoided running into each other or us. There was little observance of lane markers or other traffic control – but nobody hit anybody, and despite constant horn honking, nobody seemed to get upset or take it personally. Never happen in Texas!
I am sure that gasoline at $12 per gallon was primary factor in the choice of transport – from motorbikes to horse carts, with single occupant automobiles in the definite minority. The motorbikes were, by far, most popular and we saw them hauling chickens, rice, and as many as five people – amazing! Rice is grown everywhere, under a sort of “sharecropper” system, and it was being harvested and dried beside the roads everywhere. There were a few larger operations, but most were small one family plots.
Our first stop was at a “weaving village” where several women were weaving ornate fabrics which were sold in the village store. Absolutely – Sally could not resist and I can’t blame her, she got a beautiful wrap. The MasterCard still works.
Indonesia is 87% Muslim, the largest Muslim country in the world, and there were Mosques everywhere, and many women with shawls but no covered faces. When I think of a place that is 87% Muslim, I guess I conjure up, based on my own prejudices a place that is more strict, sober, and somewhat antagonistic toward Americans, and a people of similar demeanor. These people are open, friendly to a fault, and appear to be a fun loving bunch, that seem to be absent of any national political bias, except pride in Indonesia.
We stopped at a pearl shop – no sale, and then drove out of town to see a beach area. After a stop at a post office for Indonesian stamps and postcards we headed back and re-boarded the ship.