Once we were approved to do so, we head to shore and purchase our usual internet SIM Card to read the news. The Caribbean is a disaster zone after being hit by several enormous hurricanes. People in Puerto Rico are starving to death without clean food and water. Our President called an NFL Football player and Black Lives Matter supporter a “son of a bitch” during a speech. He stated the football player should be fired for at first, sitting, then later, kneeling in protest during pre-game national anthems. This caused everyone at home to get worked up.
My Facebook feed is filled with volleys of MEMEs fired back and forth. Some of the MEMEs use ironies to point out failed logic on both sides. Some of the MEMEs use emotion to trigger responses of loyalty, honor, dignity, or anger. Some are condescending, accusing the other side of being either so evil or so stupid that they can't see reality. Some are impassioned speeches designed to shine a light on what the poster deems "most important".
I pop in to say "HEY! What about Puerto Rico?" In response, I receive a total of four "likes". Maybe it's how I said it, not what I said. Maybe people were already out donating, gathering supplies, and doing things to help instead of "liking" my post. Who knows, but somehow I doubt it. The air time my post received was practically nil.
Like it or not, this Kaepenick/President Trump thing is consuming the minds and hearts of our nation. What is the root of this? And why did the President feel compelled to bring this up now? Kaepernick started sitting/kneeling over a year ago. There must be something important going on if we are reacting so strongly to it.
This is the moment when Over-Tryer, Over-Thinker and Ms. Sensitivity get involved. The Three-Crazies joined counsel as we slid our thumb over the iPhone and perused our Facebook Feed. Sometimes, Ms. Sensitivity would recoil. "Jeeze, that's awful. What an asshole."
"But that guy/gal is our friend, Ms. Sensitivity! Do you really think they are an asshole?" I ask.
"Yes." she says, matter of factly. "At very least, they are acting like assholes."
Did these MEMEs change my opinion in any way? No. For the most part, they incited anger, disregard, and disrespect. These MEMEs all suggest that if you don't agree with their proposition you are either cold hearted, unpatriotic, illogical, racist, ignorant, or evil. They call people names. What is the natural human response when someone calls someone else names? We either go on attack or we retreat to safety. We either act like an asshole, or we act like a snowflake. It's human, and we all do it.
Nope, the MEMEs didn't get Over-Thinker thinking at all. Instead, Over-Tryer wanted to go on the attack. She started poking everyone else: "Isn't this racism? We have to call it out! Look, look! Isn't this racism? They say its racism! I have to do something. I want to send my own MEME."
Over-Thinker looks skeptical. "I don't know, I'm not sure. Does it mean all Trump supporters are racist? All Republicans? Anyone who is upset about Kaepernick’s decision to protest during the national anthem? Anyone who disagrees with the proposition that police officers are acting improperly?"
"Yeah, I don't know either," says Ms. Sensitivity. "About 1/3 of our friends fall into one or more of these categories. We know them. We work with them, sail with them, some are close family. Racist hearts are rotten with hate. Our friends aren't rotten with hate, I don't think."
All three of them puzzle in silence until Ms. Sensitivity pipes up. "If we send a MEME, I want it to say 'YOU ARE ALL ACTING LIKE ASSHOLES.'"
That afternoon, we have an appointment to complete our last check in procedure with Immigration. This does not go as planned. The man behind the counter breaks the sad news that we have only a 30 day visa rather than a 60 day visa as we thought. Andrew pushes back.
“No. Your process has changed. Its different now, I have sixty days.” Andrew explains in his gentle Andrew-Sales-Guy voice.
The Immigration Man beams big smile and laughs, nervously. “No, No, Tual is not one of the ports at which you can get the sixty day visa on arrival!” He delivers this news as though it is one of those silly things about life that none of us can understand or control. His laughter indicates he is hoping like hell Andrew will be nice about this. The back and forth continues, a bit of a struggle due to language barriers, but the Immigration man remains cheerful. In the end, we do not get our way at all. We are stuck with a thirty day visa and this is a large game changer for our schedule. Indonesia is 2,000 miles wide; sailing Sonrisa at even her best average of 150 miles per day means to sail through Indonesia will take 20 days, leaving 10 days to explore a nation of 70,000 islands. Life just threw us a wild card.
We head back to Sonrisa to regroup. While Andrew studies charts and considers what to do next, I am still fascinated by the interaction I just watched. It seemed based on a social rule I haven’t seen before. I research more about Indonesian culture and find information that says Indonesians prioritize peaceful interaction above most everything else. If they have bad news to deliver, they do it gently. If they have a disagreement, they speak kindly. They never raise their voices, and if they see someone else who does, they do not like it. Sailors have gotten themselves into procedural predicaments by getting upset, raising their voices, and expressing frustration in a way that causes Indonesians to shut down completely. Indonesians do not yell back. They will smile, laugh a little nervously, and then shut the administrative office window on you. I tell Andrew what I learned. We are lucky Andrew’s personal demeanor tends toward quiet pressure anyway.
This cultural quirk plays in my mind next to the news videos of our President calling Kaepernick a “Son of a Bitch.” I realize again how our day to day decisions, the tiniest decisions, are the threads that make up the fabric of our culture.
Ms. Sensitivity takes up some knitting needles and nervously tries to knit a blanket. “I don’t care if someone calls someone else a ‘son of a bitch,’” she says, needles clinking together, “but it seems like an unhelpful comment from our President.” She sucks air through her front teeth, using her bottom lip for leverage. She is displeased.
The next day, Andrew and I begin exploring Tual in earnest. Everything is full of color and patterns. A random basket of crackers sits on the sidewalk, for the taking? Cheery people hang out together on the street, goats wander loose through town.
While we try to find the beer store, Over-Thinker and I strike up a conversation with Andrew about cultural priorities. “We seem to be prioritizing 'winning arguments' or 'destroying our opponents' over working together and preserving our friendships in the US. Should a 'fight for justice, respect, and fairness' take priority over respect and friendship? Can these priorities both be served, yet live peacefully together somehow? What can we do differently?"
This last question raises Evil Overlord’s hackles, but he is left to stew about it for a few hours because we happened upon the guy who can hand make Sonrisa's Ship Stamp.
Oddgodfrey decides he wants a stamp, too.
Then, we found the beer shop.
Then, we found the fruit and veggie market.
We found giant, raw cinnamon sticks and became very excited over confirmation that we really have arrived in Indonesia, also known as the "Dutch East Indies, Spice Islands."
We get waylaid because everyone at the market wants their picture taken, pictures with us. We stop to get one picture and that attracts the attention of some other cheerful and wonderful person just down the road. It cracks me up.
Believe it or not, the woman pictured below specifically requested that I take this picture. She adjusted herself from her previously cheerful and smiling position nestled amongst the vegetables she was selling to set herself up to look like this. Now, I'm wondering what this body language says in Indonesian. I'm betting its something like: "conscientious and wise."
Hours later, we escape, put away our groceries, and we settle down into Sonrisa's cockpit for a chilly sunset beer. Andrew has his long legs stretched out from one beanbag to the other, his head propped up by one arm. We are smiling about the funny people at the market who all requested their photos taken.
Andrew says, "Maybe we'd be better off if we posted more selfies with international tourists."
The Evil Overlord hears this and pops his head up to say “Forget about it, there is nothing you can do. The only way real change ever happens in any society is when one group with enough power and weapons to win makes war.”
I mostly ignore Evil Overlord because I'm used to his cold cynicism, and I think he's kind of a stinker. But, Over-Thinker slinks off to take Evil Overlord's news back to Ms. Sensitivity who knits so furiously her blanket goes crooked (like always) and she knots it off declaring it to be a hot pad (again). When Over-Tryer hears Evil Overlord’s knee jerk declaration there is nothing to be done, she slams her fist on the table. “We’ll see about that!” In a wild-eyed frenzy, they decide something must be done.
Sipping on my local Indonesian brewed "Anker" and watching the sunset, I didn’t notice Over-Thinker slink away until I felt the commotion of the Three Sisters stirring up trouble. When I heard them declare something must be done, all I could think was “Oh crap. JUDITH, HELP!”