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The people of Paottere

_MG_9864 It was nearly dusk when we arrived at Paottere, Makassar's traditional port. The call for prayers were sound, and yet some men had chosen to continue working. Lit by a measly gas lamp from on of the many traditional ships, several men carried sacks of goods from a nearby truck towards their ship, piling them up on their backs and shoulders. When approached with a camera, one of them warmly smiled and asked for several photos right away, then followed by laughters and teases from the rest of the crew. As I watched one of the men dropping sacks upon sacks of goods unto his friend, the night fell, and yet the crew kept working deep into the night.

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Paottere is the life of many man and women who calls the ships their home; they themselves sailors who crossed the eastern seas. Lies just beyond the walls of Paottere are floating houses indigenous to the area. The water condition of the port itself, however, was less than satisfactory - a trait found all throughout the city. Seen just off the port was a decaying piece of a ship, surrounded by shoes, plastics, wrappers and various garbage floating on the water.

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A workplace, a home, a diamond in the rough hidden in the outskirts of Makassar, Paottere is a host of many faces. The heart of the port, on the other hand, lies with the hardworking people, providing transport and shipping to and from the island outside of Makassar.

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Plates, Art, Friendship, and Everything in Between

One year ago, I introduced to my good friend whose name is a mouthful, Heidy Dianakurniawan a porcelain specific marker used to draw on everything porcelain - from plates, to cups, to mugs, to the creepy dolls that your great great grandma might have. Heidy Dianakurniawan herself (whom, from now on will be regarded as HeidyDK) is a wonderfully talented artist specializing in graphic design; her flat oriented approach towards the projects she works on amuses me to no end - her works could be seen in her website here. On her first introduction with it, HeidyDK used the marker that I bought on several plates that I had to draw to her delight, and the result was wonderful. I had never used the plates for meals ever since (which certainly defeats the purpose of using a porcelain specific marker, but I digress. A year later, HeidyDK asked me to photograph her plates. I - who had been practicing my commercial oriented photography as of late - was more than happy to do so. I ended up working with another friend, Eric who also is a photographer, out of certain, unmentionable interest (you can find his instagram here). We (somewhat unintentionally) worked up a two sided concept of 'outdoorsy' and 'indoorsy' plate presentation. For the outdoorsy shoot, we juxtapose the plates with a Nikon FE and a Billingham camera bag.

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For the Indoor plate, a more sleek approach was taken with a black background, a glossy mouse, and a tablet stylus. The sleek-er approach was used to represent an... artist's workspace, I suppose? In the end HeidyDK loved the result (or so she said), and so were we. _MG_9491-3

Not every Fridays are filled with parties and booze - unless you have this app!!... maybe...

In an unusual, friend related post, I was held at a gunpoint to promote this startup funding for a wonderful new app to be built from scratch (yes, from scratch - pen, paper, and bananas and stuff; might include computers at some point, I don't know) by my good pals in Columbus, OH. Seriously though, the app seemed to be pretty cool; it tracks weekend events around you - with magic. Foo fighters concert? COOL! DGM is suddenly playing in your neighborhood music hall? hells yeah! JB concert? time to catch up on some work. With HiFriday, your Fridays will be filled with joy, happiness, and excitement (disclaimer: some friends may be required). They're putting a lot of work into this project, and would love to see your thoughts, questions, and support for the startup fund for the project! You can check the startup project below:

http://startupbattle.agorize.com/en/juries/10/votables/213

or you can go straight to the Dev's blog, here!

How to VOTE

If you liked the idea of having fun on a friday night; vote for it! or at least ask them how it works!

Cheers!

A guitarist named Eric; no, not johnson.

_MG_9520-2 "A guitarist has to be in love with their guitar," Eric said to me as I commented on his highly NSFW unpublishable "guitar kiss" photo we took during a photoshoot earlier today. A close friend of mine, Eric is not only a wonderful guitarist with lightning fingers (a very slow lighting, but lightning nonetheless), but also one with a tremendous knowledge in guitars - the wood, the frets, design, sound, pickups, bridge, and everything a guitarist needs to know to love their guitar. It is therefore, only true to form to make a portrait of him with his guitar, and I was given the honor to take my best friend's picture.

We took a number of pictures, and despite the day being hot and humid, not to mention the location being less than comfortable, Eric marched through with every single request from myself and another friend of mine. "Strafe right please," "relax and just play the damn guitar," "try raising the guitar more," and the most painful request being "can you kneel for a while?" which ended up with him kneeling on concrete ground for close to half an hour. The result, however, was quite good.

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We made quite a number of shots; some which are better than others. That said, I consider many of them to be rather good. Following are one or two shots which I liked. In reality, we had no uses for any of this pic - merely some fun and studies to be done regarding "studio" lighting (in this case, studio lighting equals EX430 flash and a diffuser). Lessons were learned, pictures were made, and fun was had. Good day.

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FIsherman of Infinity

_MG_8908 A man was sitting on a giant boulder - one among many that made up the shoreline - while checking his fishing bow. The sea was calm, he thought, though not calmer than usual; tiny waves splashed into the boulders as he prepared a bait and cast his line. The man hummed some notes from the old country while his floater sway along with the tiny waves; his footing was calm, steady - rock solid. The calm seas gave way to cumulonimbus distances away in the horizon, piling upon itself following the waters stretching beyond infinity.

Following the first frame I took before the shot above, an image rose up in my head - a very old one that I had kept dear for a while; it was an image of a man fishing in the edge of the universe. There was a couple of guys - all of which were really nice - when I came over to snap some pictures. Prompted by the image in my head, however I knew I had to isolate the subject, presenting him and the "universe," represented by the sea and the cumulonimbus clouds. I truly enjoyed this picture in the making (it involves me climbing over a couple of boulders and squatting in an uncomfortably risky positions), and the fact that the idea got carried on through and through was something rather new to me.

Following the 'infinity' theme, I made another shot at a bay nearby, and came up with the 'infinite pier' shot below. I did like the shot, and the colors were quite nice with its silky blue look.

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The City of Heroes, Surabaya

I had a day in Surabaya, and I found out that it's such a gem for storytelling. Not having much time, I found Pasar Atom, or atomic market very interesting. The name, implying a post apocalyptic market, fits well with how it looked - old, run down, and crumbling market, still used heavily since its inception long ago. _DSF3707

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Also, I finally put watermark on my photos, though thankfully not due to any unlicensed usage. My watermark is mediocre, however, and seemed to hinder my image a lot - I need to work more on it.

The Beastmaster of Titiles - Several unused images

Along my works, there often are photos I did not use for one reason or another. I would find myself going through them, re-editing with a fresh new outlook, and spent a couple of hours hunting for more. I present you The beastmaster of Titiles and other unused photos that I thoroughly like.

http://instagram.com/p/f5qxE_S09r/ http://instagram.com/p/f5q9r4S09-/ http://instagram.com/p/f7QWPVy02u/ http://instagram.com/p/f5rErvy0-K/ http://instagram.com/p/f5rKB5S0-T/

I have been enjoying the idea of using instagram on my blog; feel free to follow if you like.

Restaurant at the intersection of memory

we sat down at a half full wooden table, long enough to fit thirty. "Three bowls of soup?" A man wearing the shop's uniform asked us - I asked for one with lungs and pieces of heart, a friend of mine asked for one with just pieces of heart, while the other asked for pieces of meat. As we waited for our dinner I looked around the shop; a brightly lit large room with two long wooden tables that fit all of the customers, sitting next to each other, acquaintances or otherwise. The entrance to the shop was but a giant hole in the structure, offering no semblance to doors, cept for some wooden frames. The wooden tables, covered with patterned plastic, looked older than one would care to remember. A glance away from the entrance was a television with brown tinted monochrome pictures, looking as if it was airing shows from many years back, complete with noise and scratches. http://instagram.com/p/f2yVHDy04T/

As we ate, I noticed some singing, a familiar tune. I was trying to recall the tune when it came to me.

Pulang ke kotamu Ada setangkup haru dalam rindu Masih seperti dulu Tiap sudut menyapaku bersahabat

Translated roughly; Heading back to your town, there lies a handful of melancholy in your longing. Still as they were, every corner greets me with affection. It was a song I remembered, an alluring song that brought me a certain elation. Slowly I could hear some people sitting closer to the wandering musicians playing the song started to sing along, and so did I. It was a song about another town, not one of my birthplace,nor is it one that I have much of a connection with - cept for some memories that I treasure.

http://instagram.com/p/f2nGxIS03E/

It did not take much for the place to quickly be etched in my mind; a small shop offering their fares of meal, accompanied with musics that brings back memories. Then I remembered another lyric in the song:

Terhanyut aku akan nostalgia, Saat kita sering luangkan waktu - Drifted away in the streams of nostalgia, as we spend some time together.

Love the Unexpected

A little while ago, I received a message from an old friend; at that time I was finishing up my "land of the kings" series. It has been years since the last I heard from her, and It was quite a delightful surprise.For someone walking off the surest path into the forests of uncertainty, the message served as a nudge, a thumbs up, perhaps. We don't get a lot of those, living in these times- that made each one of those nudges precious. That would be the reason for this post; a thank you note for said friend. Thank you for your message - It was heartfelt, and I couldn't express how much it was appreciated in my side. Merci beaucoup, Flower girl, and I hope to visit you in Switzerland someday, if not soon.

The land of the Kings – Tana Toraja – Pt.III

Life takes you to places, that will always be true; by car, by train, by plane or on foot, we will be somewhere, sometime. Life took me to Tana Toraja, and showed me that sometimes being somewhere you don't care about going means more than being somewhere you actually do. I visited the land of the kings years ago, on a school field trip and it did not amount to much memories in my head - I wasn't eager to come back. But I did - and I am glad I did. I came back with a new set of eyes, and see the King's earth differently; I saw it from the people, instead of from the locations. I loved doing portraits, and I had found wonderful people in Tana Toraja, which drove my fingers and my heart to where it's supposed to lead. It was a wonderful experience.

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Tana Toraja is a land of craftsmen; of wood, of clothes, of dances and music, and they are eager to show it. Walking past some rice fields, we encountered a lone hut, standing in the middle of the daylight. Shielded from the heat, was a man deeply engrossed in his woodcraft. Surrounded only by hundreds of his creations - from small statues to those as tall as a grown man - he did not notice our appearance as he continued carving the wood he held with his foot. Moments after, as he noticed us a little way from him, he looked up and smiled, "feel free to look around," he said. I asked if I could take a couple of pictures, to which he again smiled and agreed.

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We did visit the renowned places in Tana Toraja, where they showcase the people's culture. One that piqued my interest was Londa, where the remains of the departed was placed in caves. The caves itself, was thought of by the people as houses for the departed, my guide explained to me, and are therefore called the house where smokes don't rise; named due to the absence of cooking in said 'houses'. We walked into the winding roads of the caves lit with only a small gas lamp in the hand of the guide, as he led us deeper into the cave, giving as much explanations as he could along the way.

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What did Tana Toraja gave me? a firmer outlook on my photography, perhaps; that and the willingness to be drifted by the currents of fate, as willing as possible. Wonder lies in our backyard, or in our neighbor's or in our neighbor's neighbor's, we just have to drift there.

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The land of the Kings – Tana Toraja – Pt.II

My journey to the Land of the Kings took me to an off beaten path by the side of a nameless road - small, unkempt, and seemingly leading to nowhere. The end of the road, however, did exist, and it ended with a grave - that of a dear family member of mine, Bokko. Bokko had been a housekeeper in our family for 52 years, taking care of my mother and her brothers since their births. She ended up being as much of a mother as her own to my mother, and a dear family to ours. She passed away a couple of years ago, a year after I promised to visit her in her hometown through a phone call - a promise that was never fulfilled. What happened, on the other hand was us visiting her grave, saying last words to the departed years after she passed away. Bokko's family, Arma showed the way to her family's grave, then to the last house where Bokko had stayed, and there I saw one thing that could forever put Toraja in the maps of my mind. _MG_7840

Over the last 52 years of Bokko working in our family, she apparently had been saving money, and sending much of it home to help building her family's house; a traditional wooden raised house, which showed the amount of work that had gone into the house. I went up the wooden stair to enter the main part of the house - a living room lit only by windows, surrounded with unpainted - but new - wooden walls. As I sat down cross-legged on the floor along with Arma and Bokko's brother, I noticed in the corner of the room, a TV set with what seemed to be a stereo and a DVD player, looking out of place in the plainness of the room, and my mind began to wonder if Bokko had also purchased the TV set with her money. Looking around the living, room, in fact, I could see the wonders of the person that was Bokko; an old mechanical sewing machine that she had been using, a big Chinese tapestry given to her by her sailor brother that he had presumably gotten from overseas, a carved piece of the last supper, and what seemed to be either a Chinese or Korean ornament hanging from the ceiling. It was a comfortable small home, that she had built, and rebuilt for her family, over 52 years, with a piece of her own sewn into each part of the house. "This is so like her," my mother said to me as I looked around, "she had always been very clean and neat." For the next half an hour we sat and chatted with Bokko's family, surrounded by pieces of her world that she had brought home from her travels and work, and it gave me a certain peace of mind.

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Before we head out of the house, Arma showed us the room where Bokko had been sleeping in her last days. A small wooden room reflecting the rest of the house, it had a small mattress laid out, and a couple of random objects - Bokko's brother had been using it as a storage. As I looked around, I noticed a wooden cupboard, which turned out to be Bokko's, and still held her belongings. I opened the cupboard to find clothes, accessories, and other items that I did not give much attention into, and we stood there, where time seemingly stopped. Here was the Cupboard where Bokko last grabbed her clothes from, a place she kept all of her belongings in, inside the house she had rebuilt for 52 years. This was all we needed to see, and exactly that was given to our family, the treasure of understanding, of knowing, of nostalgia and love - that of Bokko.

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Our family will always miss you, Bokko, thank you for your companionship all throughout the 52 years. My family; my grandma, my parents, my uncles and aunts, my sister, along with myself, will always have you in our heart, wherever I go, along with your house, along with your cupboard, and your family.

thank you. 2013/10/18

The land of the Kings - Tana Toraja - Pt.I

Untitled_Panorama1It was the same scene I had seen over and over again all throughout Indonesia; in the lands of FLores, in the highlands of Malino, and now, In the land of the Kings - Tana Toraja. Golden lights filtered through the cloudy afternoon, falling carelessly upon the greens of the rice fields - and I was, fortunately, there with my camera. Like much of the famous cultures of the world, however, Toraja is enveloped in a cocoon of tourism, with signs for touristic objects can be seen all throughout the city of Makale and Rantepao. Looking for a glimpse of truth into the culture, therefore, could be a little difficult - or is it?

Perhaps the truth is that being so closely in touch with tourism and the rest of the world, is a fragment of a culture's last means of survival; this is definitely true for Toraja's dying art of traditional cotton threading. Located by the river of Saddang, lies an area - upon which the river takes its name from - where the last remaining cotton threaders work; Grandma Ippang was one of the two last ones, according to herself.

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Grandma Ippang introduced herself to me as she performed said dying art of cotton threading. Surrounded by cotton tapestries - all dyed with natural products, such as redwood and leaves - she spun hundreds of years old wooden wheel, which, combined with the pull of her left hand, somehow turned a lump of cotton into a thread. "This thread will then be used for weaving to produce these tapestries," she pointed at the tapestries behind her, "this one is approximately two million rupiahs (approximately two hundred Dollars)," she continued. Throughout our conversation, Grandma Ippang never once ceased her threading, the art which is as much chore as theatrical diplay nowadays. "The art is dying," she said, "the young prefers to practice weaving instead of cotton threading - it's much easier."

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At the age of 84, the only other person she knew could do the traditional cotton threading method, was her daughter, making her bloodline the last Cotton threaders in Toraja. The rise of mechanized cotton weaving in factories drove traditional cotton weaving to the brink of extinction; this is only right, due to the low cost of production. The only people that could afford - and appreciate - traditional cotton threaded weavings, therefore, were foreigners. "They (the foreigners) love these kinds of stuff - natural and handmade," Grandma Ippang told me; she went on to explain the natural dyes used in each threads. Perhaps, Grandma Ippang's daughter will pass on the skill of cotton threading to her daughter, to ensure the survival of her people's art. Even if passed down, however, at this point it seemed as if it's merely prolonging the inevitable.

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Les Animales

One of my biggest weakness is my inability to "see" light - this made it harder for me to use flash in my photography, no matter how much I wanted to. On a related note, I have always wanted to do a black background photography. Earlier today I started my light/flash training._MG_7553

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A piece of black paper, some random boxes, a suitcase, a tripod leg, and a flash later, I took hundreds (literally) of photos of my M3. some turned out better than others. Most of the shot were taken with the flash 'feathered' towards the M3, where the light hit only the peripherals of the object - a technique I learned from Kevin Clark in Duchemin's Publication, "Photography" magazine.

What did I learn? I learned that controlling flash is difficult, and a minuscule change in direction and feathering could mean a completely different image. Another lesson was that a couple of dollars worth of black paper could make a wonderful backdrop.

Porta 'studio' - a piece of black paper, a luggage, and a shoebox.

After The Books

Months follow the book shoot, and my sister and her then-fiancee-but-not-really were running around trying to get married. I appeared at the end of the line - at the actual marriage, with my trusty camera in my hands to capture the moment; the moment when it all changed. The moment when, instead of losing a daughter, my parents gained another son; and I gained a new brother. Looking back on the photos now, it reminded me of an Eluvium song, An Accidental Memory. The wedding played liked an old movie in my head, and the photos will one day be old and yellow (if printed), and for many, it will be an accidental memory, taken by the bride's brother. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="1858,1859,1849,1850,1851,1852,1853,1854,1855,1856,1857"]

Hundred Alleyways; Legian

"Come, look inside, we have souvenirs," a shopkeeper urged me as I walked down the streets of Legian, Bali. The shopkeeper's call, along with many of its incarnations, seemed to be ubiquitous through the hundreds of shops scatterd along the bustling street of Legian. A favorite tourism spot for Europeans and Australians, the streets of Legian offers not only souvenirs, but also food, nightclubs, hotels, and through silent whispers and murmurs, hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana. Interestingly, another popular offering, seen in many parts of the street, was motorcycle rentals; often rented by westerners, these bike rentals provides transportation for the more adventurous tourists. Basking in the afternoon sun, motorbikes lined up alongside Legian street for tourists to rent.

What captured my attention, however, was not the brightly lit shops and their similar, familiar wares; nor was it the jutting five star hotels with their luscious marble walls - it was the little alleyways; tens, perhaps hundreds of them, sandwiched in between shops like secret, nameless paths. The traditional stone paved road, surrounded all throughout with old buildings, could provides an insight to the life behind the grandiose scene of Legian, Bali - at the very least, it provides us with a sneak peak of the backstage to the show.

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The images of Flores

At the very end, this post is for those who wants to see Flores through the eyes of my camera, and my camera only - no words at all (except for these ones). This is, The Images of Flores - all of the images. Enjoy![gallery type="rectangular" ids="1806,1807,1808,1809,1810,1811,1812,1792,1791,1790,1789,1786,1785,1784,1774,1773,1772,1771,1760,1759,1758,1757,1756,1755,1754,1753,1752,1751,1750,1749" orderby="rand"]

Flores Pt. III – The Blossoming Island

It was nearly five when my alarm sounded; the faint cool wind drifted from out of the window, blown by the ceiling fan, and brushed my cheek, lulling me back to sleep. I forced myself to wake, however, for I had an appointment with a man that will take me around the islands of Riung that morning. Finished washing myself, we traveled down the main road of Riung towards the dock. Riung is a recently growing town due to its tourism potential; its seventeen offshore islands, along with deep diving spots with intact coral reefs and lively biota is definitely a huge asset for the town. Its small age in the field of tourism, however, meant that the facilities provided in the town were very limited; there were two inns, and a couple of small restaurants. Not to mention the roads to get to the town was a small road, enough only for one car, surrounded very tightly by tall shrubberies, with no guiding signs – it literally took us hours to find our way into the town from Mbay. Riung had, in the local’s term, just recently bloomed. Riung’s young age, however, had a couple of gains; for one, Riung was empty from tourists; for another, the people of Riung was still maintaining their traditional lifestyle, and thus some things were still visible – such as an old fisherman and his fishing net early at dawn.[gallery type="rectangular" ids="1785,1786,1784"] A day away from Riung, is the port city at the western end of Flores – Labuhanbajo. The name itself meaning ‘The Port of Bajo’, Labuhanbajo harbors tens of ship of all sizes around its coastline. The feel of Labuhanbajo itself was an echo of Riung, or perhaps the it goes the other way around, with Riung echoing Labuhan; regardless, both towns has their ports, boats, and multiple island outside of its shores. Unlike Riung, however, Labuhanbajo is a port located right beneath a mountain, which produced a wonderful sight for those who had never seen it. Also unlike Riung, Labuhanbajo was much more developed – its port was lined with diving companies; most of which are owned by foreigners, its city houses many more hotels compared to ruing, and constructions could be seen all throughout the city. The reason for this entire crowd is the many islands outside of Labuhanbajo, including the Island of Rinca, and the Island of Komodo. Many companies offer their boating and diving services to foreigners; they would take them to diving spots, or simply take them on mini cruises around the islands. Despite its massive outgrowth, Labuhanbajo is also considered as blooming by the locals due to its young age in the field of tourism – a mere two years. Labuhan panorama-2-2 [gallery type="rectangular" ids="1789,1791,1790"] Despite their differences, both Labuhanbajo and Riung shows what Flores trully is; an island full of wonders yet to be explored. Whether or not the tourism waves will good for Flores in the long run is yet to be known. I have heard of people comparing Labuhanbajo to Bali's Denpasar, but in my honest opinion, I think Labuhanbajo, given time and care, will give Denpasar a run for its money. In the end, Flores currently is truly, a blooming island.

Flores Pt.II - The Dawn of days

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="1771,1772,1773,1774"]The stone steps rose higher and further apart as the journey went on, though it was hard to tell for we had no lights and it was an hour before sunrise. We had come unprepared; our cellphones were our source of illumination, ‘cept for the light from the other hikers meters in front of us; we were content to follow in their guided footsteps. Armed perhaps only with ignorance, we hiked up the steps of mount Kelimutu, Flores, exerting every ounce of our concentration so as not to trip – the journey took us a good half an hour. Arriving at the summit, 1700 meters above sea level, we noticed that we – along with the travelers in front of us – weren’t the first to arrive; others had come before us. The sky had turned an otherworldly color from the rising sun, tucked beyond the clouds, and the hikers had settled down facing the east towards the volcano lakes and the sea of clouds. There on the summit, peddlers hiked to sell coffee and tea, along with other snacks for visitors; most of whom are foreigners. “Kelimutu coffee!” A man announced, standing close to us, “Kelimutu coffee, made with the lake water!” He continued. The man spoke English quite well as he conversed with many of the visitors, offering coffee or tea, or merely telling the stories about the volcano. The story goes that the three lakes atop the volcano were given three different names; the lake of old men, the lake of young men and maidens, and the lake of demons. It was also said that Kelimutu housed the spirits of those who died in the lands of Flores, and those of massively unclean hearts (my guide mentioned the name of a government official who had recently visited Kelimutu), will cause the water to change color. Among the talks and the legends, the sun slowly crept from the clouds, shedding golden light to the surface of the volcano, and then we saw it – Kelimutu at its most true, representing the dawn or dusk, the source or the destination. Whatever it represented, it was quite magical. Perhaps it was the journey, or the actual view, but it made it worth it; I set my foot firmly on the summit of mount Kelimutu, and the dawn was the stuff of wonders. As the day matured, more coffee and tea were made, more crackers and noodles were consumed, and the summit became livelier with chatter in numerous languages – Dutch, German, French, Indonesian, and local dialects. Introductions were made, and more chatter about local folklore seemed to arise from the crowds, when suddenly, a local pointed at something. “Monkeys,” she said. A band of monkeys had joined in on the crowds, attracted by the potential for food. “They usually come over for snacks given by the tourists,” one of the peddlers told me. Indeed, some snacks sold were intended as bait – “monkey bait,” another peddler announced, trying to sell fried bananas. The monkey was happy enough to receive easy food, and the tourists were content with taking photos – both sides were happy, though what repercussions would arise from such actions, no one knows. We trekked down the mountain around three hours after we went up, and finally laid our eyes of the path that we blindly follow hours prior. On our right, next to the steps that we were so struggling to ascend before, was an enormous chasm; we had been walking next to a hill that we couldn’t see. Surprisingly the stone steps were better than I had thought of it to be, though no less scarier as it narrowly twist and turn down the rocky mountain. When we arrived back at our transports, it was nearly 8 AM, and more people were coming to check the summit. We descended down the mountain back to the village nearby, Moni, and proceed to continue our journey to the rest of Flores. Another day, another trip, another wonders.

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

The First Hop - Flores

QC5A9345-2 I should be in Flores by now, I thought to myself. I got a call this morning from the airlines, informing me that the only flight to Flores had been cancelled due to plane repairs - the next plane will be the day after. Nevertheless, I will be in Flores tomorrow for a week or more travel across the island in pursuit of stories and photos. Every story needs an introduction; this is mine, and perhaps some others along with me. At this point I have yet to have ideologies on travelling, and will have my first travel by throwing myself out there - as much as I could. I expect as much failures as there are lessons, or perhaps if my road lies truly here, tons of beginner's luck. At any case, chances will be taken, and fingers will be crossed.

cheers-