|Mr. Cinta and his students, with Lola and Jana|
The second impression came when left the Banda Sea, turning into Ambon Bay between the two main peninsulas that comprise Ambon Island and seeking the protected port of Ambon City.
|Trash along the shore of Ambon City -- with plenty floating|
in the river, too, posing navigational hazards
Rubbish is an inescapable rudeness and affront in Indonesia -- and Ambon was, well, ugly.
Thus, stories of religious strife and the vast amount of trash we encountered first-hand shaped our early impressions of this city.
But we stayed long enough to look closer and soon discovered many things to enjoy in this crowded city of nearly 400,000 souls. The food was spectacular. The wireless worked. And the people were remarkably friendly -- despite our youngest having to endure far too many women pinching her soft white cheeks.
We dinghied ashore the first day and walked through a gritty, dark and downright stinky alleyway to arrive on a streetcorner bustling with more noise and traffic and smells than any place we'd been in a long, long while. Mango carts, bicycle guides (becaks), motorbikes, mopoed taxis (ojek), automobiles, pedestrians, taxis, bicyclists... all crowding together, many of them bucking the trend of the local (and sometimes, to us, indiscernible) traffic patterns.
Even now, after nearly a year since we arrived in SE Asia, I'm mesmerized by mopeds and other vehicles crowding the streets in this part of the world. Tual and Ambon introduced me to the frenzied driving (by the time we arrived in Bali, we were brave enough to enter the fray ourselves) -- and I still stop on the sidewalk just to watch the traffic, a striking shift in scenery, compared to sailing in a ten-knot breeze.
|Ambon streetside care|
He led us only a little way down the street to a red van. Two women emerged with their Telkom-mobile shop. I marvelled at the efficiency of this small troupe, watching as the Seussian thingamabob unfolded before our eyes: front doors and side doors opened, then out popped a display counter, and next came the folding table and chairs: - voila! -- Thing One and Thing Two had set up an Internet street-side access provider, just for us. Within twenty minutes we were up and running. And smiling.
|Coast Guard vessels, right, in the evening light|
|View to Ambon houses from the Commonwealth War Cemetery|
During our stay, the Coasties also insisted on filling our water tanks, even urging us repeatedly to tie Momo alongside Akelamo for convenience, but we declined the generous offer because the angular curve of their considerable steel hull would damage our rigging (something we finally communicated via a pencil-on-napkin drawing).
We have now come to realize that we're as much a curiosity to the locals as they are to us -- and we've grown accustomed to having our photo taken quite often by locals capturing the family in the dinghy, or the family walking down the street, or the family visiting the Islamic Theme Park (more on that forthcoming -- in the Malaysia tales).
We had several exchanges over tea and biscuits, too -- some more successful than others. And near the end of our stay in Ambon, our new benefactors came to Momo for a visit, too, marveling, we think, at our cramped quarters and what my children decided was our underappreciated tea. Both Lola and Jana observed how our guests gingerly sipped small quantities and feigned that their thirst had been quenched, while Captain Djufri kept encouraging the one reluctant drinker to finish his cuppa -- which he promptly did, though all of them adamantly refused seconds.
|Happy fruit vendor|
|Jana pets an eel|
Also, we'll not soon forget the jam-packed and bistering hot waterfront market, fireworks every night off our stern and the pre-dawn call to prayer, which, in the spirit of the Christmas season, was always answered, loud and garbled, by a nearby church. I've grown accustomed to the call to prayer. But I never expected to travel this far from home and be accosted by canned Christmas music.
4:30 AM in Ambon.
Other photos from our visit to Ambon below.
|Ambon waterfront market|
|Locals gather at dusk at the city waterfront|
|Fuel shop in Ambon alley -- and the fuel was even clean! (photo by Lola Elvy)|
|Part diesel depot, part kiddie daycare -- fueling up in Ambon (photo by Lola Elvy)|
|Fuel alley, Ambon (photo by Lola Elvy)|
|Family fuel operations /vendors (photo by Lola Elvy)|
|Parrot overseeing the fuel op (photo by Lola Elvy)|
|All smiles in Ambon alley (photo by Lola Elvy)|