I love this photo! I'm not certain what the plight of the chicken is; but this young boy was all smiles.
We saw countless truckloads of young men during our week in Flores. They were packed into every sort of vehicle, often with plastic cans of gasoline tied to the undercarriage of the vehicle.
Maumere City -Monday June 30th
Our plane back to Bali isn't until late afternoon so we hire a taxi to take us into Mamere. Our destination is the only internet cafe in town and we are dropped off in front of a small and shabby grocery store with an adjoining room housing about a dozen computer stations. Once connected, Art is content in the dimly lit room lost in cyberspace, and John and I leave to explore Maumere. The sun is blinding, the day hot, dry and dusty, the town bustling and noisy. We walk across to the water front and stumble upon an open air fish market, putrid with rotten fish and garbage. A dozen wooden tables stand on the slimy cement floor of the covered fish market, each one offering just a few whole fish and butchered fillets. I see no ice, but the fishermen lazily scoop handfuls of water from buckets to deter the flies and keep the fish fresh. There is not an abundance of fish to be bought or sold and I ponder over the minimal catch. A vegetable market stretches off to one side of the fish market, crowded with women and children, seated on the dusty street, wilted vegetables displayed for sale. The women all look tired and worn. The older ones chew beetle nut, their mouths stained with the red juice, their teeth rotten. The younger women talk among themselves, keeping a watchful eye on their children playing in the trash filled street and watching John and me with curiosity. I want to take their photos, but I hesitate to ask. It has been easy to take photos of the children in the countryside, their innocence and pleasure so obvious when they see their images captured inside my camera, but here, I see abject poverty and the harshness of these peoples lives.
Vendor selling Betel Nut
The streets of Maumere City
Women at the Maumere City vegetable market.
When Art is finished with the internet, we all wander Maumere together. We poke into dark stores crammed with cheaply made household goods, machinery, clothing and bolts of fabric. The shops are relatively cool inside, most without electricity and insulated by thick walls of cement. The sidewalks are uneven and cracked and the drainage ditches along both sides of the road are overflowing with trash and garbage. We are hungry, but afraid to eat at any of the food stands or restaurants, so we eat ice cream bars, drink Fanta and bottled water. The traffic is a sea of motor scooters, small cars and buses. Art points to one of the buses, crammed to capacity with passengers, goods tied to the roof and young men hanging off the back. There are a dozen, 5 gallon plastic jugs of gasoline tied all around the sides of the bus, a disaster waiting to happen. We see that many other buses also carry surplus gasoline tied to their sides to carry them on long trips across Flores.
Our taxi returns for us at the appointed hour, driving us back to our hotel for our luggage and then to the airport. Airport security and check in is simple, but we have an hour and a half to wait and our blood sugar levels are low, and our tempers short. There is very little food to be had so John and I settle for packaged cups of spicy noodle soup, a safe bet when made with boiling water. Art refuses this simple fare, but an hour later, I glance up from my writing and see him on the far side of the waiting room, eating a cup of noodle soup and I know that he will be only too happy to leave Flores behind forever. The plane departs on time, making a short stop on another island before landing in Denpasar Bali. We are met at the airport by a guide and driven through rush hour traffic an hour and a half back to Ubud. We arrive at Tabra's at 7:00 P.M. happy to be back in the luxury of Bali and among friends. We enjoy a lovely dinner together at an ambient restaurant and Tabra patiently listens to the tales of our adventures told from two different view points.