Sangihe Polisi!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

After spending the afternoon asking about the Sangihe Islands with our limited Indonesian (Sangihe bagus i.e. good??), we decided to take the plunge and bought some ferry tickets for the 12 hour overnight ride to Tahuna, the capital city of the islands.  The Sangihe Islands are a continuation of the island chain that starts of the tip of Sulawesi Utara and continues up north to the Phillapines.  Gunung Awu is a periodically active volcano on the northern end of the island that many people we had met had seen erupt as children.  We really had no idea what to expect, but were hoping to find some unexplored and pristine coral reefs. 
We boarded the ferry guided by a group of kids shouting "bule bule (white person)" and giggling like crazy.  They couldn't believe that two big bules (I'm large for an indonesian and Bri is a giant) were going onto a ship out to Tahuna.  The interior of the ship was filled with people hawking food, towels, t-shirts, jewlery etc. and they loved teasing us about our attempts to speak Indonesian.  It was all in good fun though, and we quickly got introduced to everyone in the bunks around us.  A young girl next to us, Diana, was keen to practice her English and helped me with Indonesian in return.  She was traveling home for her grandmother's funeral and invited us to visit her family's house.  Brian also met a student from Balikpapan named Victory who's father worked in the oil industry and who was studying to do the same.  He was very intelligent and interested in science, so Brian and him had good conversations. 
We woke up the next morning as we were pulling into Tahuna harbour.  Our new friends couldn't believe we didn't know anyone or have a guide to take us around.  but we quickly found two motor scooter drivers to take us to a hotel.  Dedy, our driver, offered us his scooter for rent for the extorshinist price of 100,000 rp per day, which we naievely accepted.  At the hotel we immediately met yet another friendly guy, this time a young guy buying tabacco in Tahuna to sell in Jakarta.  He was from Java and had traveled extensively in Australia so he knew English amazingly well, with a slight aussie accent!  He took us out to lunch and told us tales of his business adventures, one of which involved capturing dogs to take up to northern Sulawesi where people prize them as a delicacy!  After lunch we took the scooter and started out to the other side of the island, a  town called Enemiwira.  We hadn't been able to find a map, so we were basically completely clueless and it showed.  A scooter driver pulled  up alongside us and told us he was police.  He wasn't wearing a uniform or anything, so Bri and I were suspicious and somewhat hostile, especially when he was joined by a whole group of "Polisi"  who asked us for our passports, drivers licence etc.  We showed them passport photocopies and drivers liscense and they started getting nicer.  The first guy to pull us over asked us if we wanted to get a beer when we got back from Enemewira and gave us his phone number..."Polisi!"  right!  They directed us to the town of Enemewira, which was over the mountain pass on a windy steep road.  It started pouring on us as we went over the mountain and we stopped to take shelter along with another couple.  The couple introduced themselves and we ended up following them to their village where they led us to the beach.  The beach was along a shallow bay filled with sea grass and when we tried to swim out to the outer reef, the current was too strong and the tide was coming in.  We checked out the lagoon and saw interesting fish and different corals than in Bunakan and Tangkoko.  
When we got back to the beach a bunch of kids were waiting, curious as to what we were doing on their beach.  Our host who led us to the beach came over and tried snorkeling, to everyone's entertainment!  Then we sat around and tried to communicate with only a few words in common and the help of my indonesian phrase book.  The kids saw we liked shells and went all over the beach collecting TONS of shells-a whole motor scooter helmet full!  It was really wonderful to meet so many nice people and we stayed until the sun started going down and we had to wind our way back to the other side.
When we reached Tahuna, we ran into the "Polisi" again and they helped us find our hotel.  We were still somewhat threatened by them though, so when they wanted to go to dinner with us, we were non commital and then left with our friend from Java, Rochi, before they could show up again.  We spent the evening with Rochi drinking some Bintang, and learning about all the corruption and illegal fishing that goes on in Indonesia.   This led to Brian trying to explain why marine protected areas are so important, but Rochi was pretty focused on making the most money possible.  It's pretty hard to tell someone not to go for money when you're an American...every American is rich compared to almost every Indonesian, and why shouldn't they want exactly the same commodities?  Ipods, cell phones, computers, SUV's....everyone wants that stuff here.  Conservation for the future is a hard concept for a 21 year old guy focused on impressing girls! 
The next day brought more run ins with the polisi and more new friends.... Until next time....Selamat malam!  Sampai jumpa lagi!!!   
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