While Andrew and I are busy exploring, Judith-the-wise convenes a meeting of all members of the Leslie-Band. She invites Osmond to sit in as well. Judith opens. “It has come to my attention that you three have a concern you would like to raise?”
Over-Thinker begins. “Yes. I’m concerned Facebook’s Face Algorithm is going crazy over the sudden influx in the appearance of our faces as a result of the Indonesian selfie-brigade.” Over-Thinker ducks her head a little bit and darts her eyes right and left. “The Russians are going to know where we are!”
Andrew’s Evil Overlord overhears this and rolls his eyes. He breaks in to say our faces are already all over the internet in the blog, so we let that cat out of the bag a long time ago. Judith nods in agreement with Evil Overlord, and the Three Sisters all start talking at once.
Ms. Sensitivity and Over-Tryer grumble because Over-Thinker is off target. Over-Thinker begins defending her paranoia, but with everyone shaking their heads at her, she simmers down and stews for a minute. Ms. Sensitivity leans over and whispers something at Over-Thinker; Over-thinker nods.
“Yes, right. That’s right.” Over-thinker remembers what she is supposed to be over-thinking. “We are concerned about the use of MEMEs to convey political opinion on Facebook. They are mean, they cause people to either lash out at each other or retreat to their corners, and no one is talking about what actually needs to be discussed.”
Judith considers this. “I don’t know...I like MEMEs. MEMEs are funny, sometimes."
This does nothing to quiet down the Three Sisters. Speaking all at once, they say “Sometimes, yes… yes, we do…but no, no, no! They are making everyone hate everyone else. They play on the reader’s values and convictions to make the reader feel like the reader is right and good while the other side of the issue is or ignorant or corrupt. These MEMEs are sewing hate among Americans making us all disrespect each other! We can't get anything solved because we won't work together."
Over-Tryer begins pacing in the corner of the room. Over-Thinker’s eyes suddenly become wide again and she speaks in a whisper hiss: “I think it’s the Russians!”
Judith sighs and rolls her eyes, but Judith is wise and she knows better than to ignore the Three Crazies. “Okay, Okay, calm down. We’ll figure something out. Over-Tryer, what do you suggest? What should we do?”
Over-Tryer sits down in front of a notepad and pencil for a minute, shifts in her seat, then stands back up again to pace. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I want to tell everyone to stop using those damn MEMEs to talk to each other! I want people to talk to each about real issues and their real positions, not just shoot around this crap.”
Ms. Sensitivity chimes in. “The other day, one of our friends sent around a MEME that called us unpatriotic. Then another friend called that friend a twit for sending the MEME that called us unpatriotic. This whole scenario makes me mad.”
This sends Over-Thinker into a diatribe. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m NOT unpatriotic. I think our country is great. I like our constitution. I think our constitution gives us the right to think and act in a lot of good ways. I like procedure and process, wise action, legislating in a sensible manner, using amendment procedures if necessary...." Over-Thinker continues on a rampage. Judith lets her ramble on until Over-Thinker, out of breath, calls on Over-Tryer to do something, then falls silent.
Judith waits to hear if anyone else needs to get anything else off their chest. “Okay, okay. So, before Over-Tryer does anything, why do you think that person sent that MEME? You know all these people. Are they mean people, usually?” The Band looks crestfallen and each shake their head. Ms. Sensitivity tears up a little.
“I bet most of them don’t intend to be mean. I think they might be upset, too.” Judith the Wise says. This calms everyone down. “Hearing what you guys are saying, you are concerned that we need to speak up about the way everyone is thinking and talking about political issues.”
Everyone nods. Judith continues. “Okay, let’s think through how to do this best. You know we can’t stop people from posting MEMEs and mean things, right?” Over-Tryer looks at Judith incredulously and opens her mouth to protest. Judith holds up a hand, “No, hear me out. We can’t control anyone but ourselves.” Over-Tryer shuts her mouth and folds her arms to pout. Over-Thinker pouts, too.
“I hate that.” says Ms. Sensitivity.
“How do you guys feel when someone tries to tell you how to think or what to do?”
Ms. Sensitivity breaks in, “I would NOT like it if someone told Over-Thinker how to think. I hate it when you do that, Judith.”
While Judith kind of wants to defend her actions and motivations from Ms. Sensitivity, Judith is Judith-the-Wise, and she knows that will not help. So, she just nods and says, “Yes, yes, so you see what I am saying! So, let’s think. What else can we do?”
I leave Judith in charge of this mess and join Andrew to check out the cute little cafe on the water we saw while being mobbed in the Rainbow Village the day before.
We tie Grin to a stick and climb up the scaffolding. As with everywhere else, we are met with curiosity and interest from the people already in the restaurant. We make our way through selfies and photos before ordering some food. We watch the sun go down, drinking non-alcoholic, sweet cocktails. (They sell beer in shops here in Tual, but we have not found any bars or drinking establishments to nosh a full strength cocktail or a glass of wine.)
We order a “roti” thinking it is the curry and vegetable filled Indian food wrap we are familiar with. This is what comes out. White bread, toasted, smeared together with something a lot like Nutella, topped with chocolate sprinkles, chocolate syrup, shredded cheese, and some multicolored malt candy balls.
“Huh. Would you look at that?” I say, leaning over the food that has been dropped off at our table. “Do you think they brought us the wrong order?” Indonesians around us watch us expectantly to see if we like our food. “Roti?” I say, pointing. They nod vigorously. “Huh. Okay.”
We dig in. It’s a delicious dessert.
We enjoy ourselves. The restaurant has a young, energetic vibe, and a great view for sunset. So, we make a plan to return again. The next night, as we climb up the scaffolding, we are invited to sit with new friends, Daim and Ima, husband and wife, along with a group of their friends. They do not speak English and we do not speak Bahasa Indonesian, yet they welcome us to sit with them at their table. They are patient with us as we try to communicate using Google Translate. Somehow, we convey that we sailed from America on our sailboat to visit Tual. They are impressed. They ask me how we like Indonesia and we say we like Tual very much. Tual is our first stop!
At some point in the midst of our conversation, Diam says to us, “Yes, here in Tual Muslims and Christians are friends. We live together as brothers and sisters.”
At first, I am not sure I understood him correctly as we were typing away at the Google Translate, and it can be a tad unreliable. But he repeated it and pointed at the nearby mosque. Ima and Daim are muslim (apparent from her beautiful silk headscarf), and Daim explained his friends sitting with us are Catholic. Why would Daim bring this up with us? It gives me the impression that the people in Indonesia know at least a little something about our struggles in America. Daim didn’t criticize us or accuse us. He made a simple statement intended to convey hope and goodness of brotherhood. He also wanted to praise his own country’s way about things. He did it so gracefully.
Daim and Ima teach us a local Kei Island phrase for "how are you/very well." "Falbahei? Bok Bok!" (That is my attempt at phonetic spelling.) They get a huge kick out of it when we finally learn it well enough to get it right. They start telling everyone in the restaurant to ask us how we are doing.
"How are you doing?" The new restaurant patron asks us.
"Bok-Bok!" I say, a cheery smile with two thumbs up. (Apparently, Indonesians like the thumbs up, they use it all the time.)
The new restaurant patron's face brightens into a huge smile, wide eyes and then they laugh. Everyone around us starts speaking in Indonesia a million miles per hour. I worry for a moment that they are teaching us bad words and they are making fun of us. But, no. That doesn't seem to align with the cultural reading I have done on Indonesia. They have literally fifteen different ways to say "no" because they dislike saying no and they must always do it kindly. If someone needs to be reprimanded or corrected, they never do it in public. It seems really unlikely they would mess with us as tourists.
Around 11 p.m., we were tired and wanted to leave. We check on Grin and find the tide is so low he is stuck in the mud. We could wait two hours, or we can walk Grin out. Andrew decides he's too tired to wait, so he puts me into Grin and wades his way out through shallow water and mud. Our friends call out one more time: "How are you!?" "Bok-Bok!" I respond, and the whole restaurant cheers.
Then, they call out: "Don't worry, there are no crocodiles here!"
Andrew hadn't thought of the possibility of crocodiles until they brought it up. We both look back to try to understand their body language. Are they messing with us? Is there a crocodile coming to bite Andrew's face? Or are they just sincerely trying to put Andrew's heart at ease. Every Indonesian at the restaurant has gathered at the edge of the patio, watching us wade Grin out to the center of the channel. They are leaning forward, women clasping their hands together, men standing and waving instructions on where we should walk next.
"Crocodiles?" Andrew asks.
Daim repeats, "No, no! Don't worry! There are no crocodiles here." He seems 100% sincere. I really don't think they are teaching us bad words.
Once Andrew gets Grin into the deep part, Andrew climbs in and they ask one more time: "Faldahei!?" "BOK BOK!" Andrew and I both cheer. They cheer and wave, wave, wave.
We make an appointment with Ima and Daim to go to their favorite spot on the island, Ngor Bloat, the “pasar panjan” or long beach the Indonesians claim has the softest, whitest sand in the world. Since Andrew and I consider ourselves to have some expertise in soft, white sand beaches, this is something we must judge for ourselves! So, the next day, we meet them at the wharf with our picnic bag packed.
We all ride in a taxi van together, Daim, Ima, Ima’s brother, and Daim and Ima’s little boy. We drive the twenty minutes to the beach. We play in the sand and the waves, we take turns taking each other’s photographs, they coach us on how to turn ourselves into a backlit “heart” with the sun in the middle. (Apparently, this is a required photograph for all husbands and wives who visit the pasar panjan.)
They order food from the snack shack to give us the authentic Ngor Bloat experience. We enjoy a picnic with fried bananas, potatoes, and “seapod” scooped up with dried plantain chips. Don’t ask me what “seapod” is. I don’t know. It is chewy and seems a lot like a sea snail of some kind. They are stirred up with a delicious Indonesian sauce made of red pepper, kaffir lime, garlic, a little sugar, probably little vinegar. They are tasty, and the leftovers go well in spaghetti with tomato sauce, believe it or not!
We enjoy a lovely time with our warm new friends. Their beach is every bit as beautiful as claimed. The sand is soft like talcum powder.
By the time we return home to Sonrisa, they have already posted nice pictures they took of us on our Facebook page. I log into Facebook so I can reciprocate. I finish, but of course I do not put Facebook down. What have my friends at home been up to while I’ve gallivanted around the beach?
I shouldn’t have asked.
I thumb through Facebook and sigh. The Leslie-Band is still stewing, even though we have been distracted by all this fun.
“Yeah,” The Evil Overlord says, stretched out in Sonrisa’s cockpit, humidity gathering on the chilly part of a can peeking out above its beer-coozie. “Let them fight. Forget about it. Come have a beer with me.”
I move over to the bean bag next to Andrew, but Over-Tryer is really bad at just relaxing. We scroll through Facebook over and over again.
“Judith,” I hiss, trying not to call the attention of The Band of Crazies. “Why are you letting them scroll through Facebook? It’s just making things worse!”
Judith just puts her hand up to say “Patience, patience.”
Then, a good friend of mine throws me another wild card. She posts this article on Facebook, with no other comment. Just the article.