Flores pt.I - The people of Flores

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="1756,1757,1758,1759"]I was walking around the port of Larantuka, a small port town located on east coast of Flores. The sun shone right above our heads, and glittered through the tiny waves in the ocean. Around the port were boats anchored to its dock, sailors standing or sitting idly aboard, chatting or otherwise. As I walked passed a ship, a man called up to me; he was standing inside the deck with a couple of his friends. “Young man, where are you from?” He asked me. I looked back, making sure that he was conversing with me, before I approached him. “From Makassar,” I said, standing right by the dock. “Ah, welcome to Flores!” He said, before calling me ‘daeng’, an honorific used to address general acquaintance – he seemed to be well versed in foreigners. I thanked him before we started chatting about the reason I went to Flores (to look for stories and photographs as an aspiring photojournalist, I said). He went on to explain places to visit in Flores, including upcoming events in other cities; “there is currently a big preparation for the sail Komodo in Labuhanbajo,” he told me; Labuhanbajo is another port town located on the eastern end of Flores, 1200 kilometers away. A couple of photographs later and we bid goodbye, and I continued my travels. As with the previous story, my encounter with most other people of Flores ended up being very similar – they smiled and asked me where I was from, what I am doing, what I will be doing, and followed by helpful inputs on what to do. There is something about the people of Flores that seemed like they are attracted to newcomers and are eager to converse, though the camera on my side seemed to be a factor. In fact, there is something about the people of Flores that allowed them to smile easily at newcomers, especially when smiled to; something I found to be most refreshing. The same kindness applies not only to pedestrian interaction. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="1752,1760,1753,1754"] The roads of Flores can be quite harsh – rocky, broken, and tight. Some roads, still undergoing construction, are located in the side of a hill with no railings – it’s safe to say to say that the roads of Flores can be quite dangerous at times. It is therefore, perhaps, important that the same kindness and courtesy be extended to the matter of traffic, especially when a truck and an SUV are trapped in a stalemate in the middle of a tight road, kilometers above the sea level with no railings. After resolving the stalemate – which happens quite often – the two drivers would pull down their windows, greet, thanked, and bid goodbye. When no stalemate occurs, however, courtesies are still maintained through the use of car horns. Growing up as a city dweller, I understand horns as signs of frustration, or long hours trapped in traffic jams, or an instrument in an orchestra of anger towards jaywalkers. What I did not really expect it to be; however, was a tool of friendly communication – sort of a much simpler, vaguer Morse code of friendship. When two cars pass by atop a mountain, a honk or two indicates “hello,” or “have a safe trip.” To make it more interesting, some drivers in Flores had developed their own honking patterns – double honks, a short bursts of tiny honks, or anything else that I had yet to come across with. It’s true, that honking out of frustration still exists, but the kind honking does exist, and the drivers can distinguish between the two very well. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="1749,1751,1750"] In the end, I dedicate the first part of my writing about Flores to its people because those people are one thing that makes the journey quite bearable – the journeys of hours upon hours of shaking cars while roasted by the sunlight, and threatened by the kilometer long fall by the side of the road. The people I met along the way flooded me with greetings and stories and curiosities, and that, along with the wonders of Flores, are why one should try to visit the island of Flores