Flores Island, Indonesia

What a delight it has been to enter a new country, with a completely different culture and population from those we have so far visited, and to discover, once again, friendly, happy people. Everywhere we have gone, strangers smile, wave, come up to us to talk. Once again, it is only children between the age of one and two, who are realizing that we look different than anyone they recall ever seeing, that are frightened of us. And every child within hollering distance shouts "Hello, Mister!", which sounds a bit rude but is a simple translation of "Selamat, Bapak", which means "Greetings, Sir".

The children are a delight, though very different than Papua New Guinea kids. They are more competitive (numerous) and often a bit sassy, with a tendency to be boisterous and to show off. Again, some are shy, especially the young Muslim children, who will not speak to us or come close, or participate in the bubble and photo fun.

The women all dress modestly, mostly in slacks and long-sleeved blouses, and the Muslin women wear scarves (jilbabs), covering their hair, neck and shoulders. The younger women and the teenagers wear skin tight jeans, but still do not show their bellies or shoulders. All the students wear school uniforms. The young Muslim female students wear ankle length grey skirts, white long-sleeved blouses and the ubiquitous white scarves.

There are many differences here, comparing Indonesia to Papua New Guinea. We are visiting large cities as well as small villages, and life is more westernized. Still we see people paddling their canoes out to fish, but also we see larger boats with motors, (very loud motors!). The residential areas we passed through show homes made of man-made materials: cement and bricks and blocks and tin. The ground is very dry so the people keep their yards well raked and swept, lighting roadside piles of leaves and debris each morning and evening. The public areas are, unfortunately, a disgrace. There seem to be no significant 'city services'.

Indonesians are short in stature and the public transport bemos (mini-vans) leave us hunched over so our heads don't bounce off the roof, and also scrunching down to look through their windshields, which are blocked out except for a narrow slit, and decorated with all sorts of stick-ons and dangly things. Meanwhile, public transport includes motorbikes for individual passengers, and it is fascinating to see the women sitting side-saddle behind the driver, keeping their hands in their laps to avoid touching him, and remaining serene as the bike weave recklessly through the busy traffic. In Bima, for 20 cents you can get a 'taxi ride' on a cidomo, a horse-drawn cart, complete with jingle bells. In Sumbawa Besar, they also have becaks (bicycle rickshaws).

We saw our first cruising boats on August 14 in Maumere, Flores, six months after leaving Gizo in the Solomon Islands. An organized flotilla of 50 boats had left Australia and they were all en route to Bali. Luckily, we found a pace and several anchorages that were out of step with them.