In order to keep a legal status in this country, I had to return once more to Ambon to visit the immigration office. Well, not once more because this extension will expire on the 13th of August, so I will have to return one more time before I fly back to the United States.
But before we returned, we had time for one last interview. On Facebook I had seen that a small education event had occurred on the other side of Banda Neira. The photo showed an older gentleman releasing baby turtles to the sea together with small children. When we located this man he told us that these children saw the baby turtle nestle 5 days before, and that they left the eggs alone. However, when the baby turtles hatched they took them to their home to play with. He and other volunteers of the protected marine park then gathered the kids and told them about their ancestral knowledge: that if you help one turtle to find his/her way to the sea, it would come back and bring all his friends. Besides this he told us that the turtles also come to the beach when the moon shines bright and is circled by cloud, the “umbrella moon”. Believe it or not, but it was this exact phenomenon that Ayu and I noticed 2 days earlier during the wedding night, a strange but beautiful moon with a circle around it. Next time we know this is the time to spot turtles laying their eggs!
This time around our visit to Ambon was much more productive and fun than the previous times. It started off good with a visit to Natseba beach, the place to eat rujak. They say you have not been to Ambon if you have not been here. Besides this, Ayu and I visited the Rumphius library, which is owned by the Catholic church and holds many old manuscripts. Amazingly, they offered to copy these books for me, for a small fee, so now I am in the proud possession of several old Dutch texts. This is great, because besides typing out all my notes I will have something to read when there is another rainday (like today..)
We also met with Usman Thalib, a historian of Banda who teaches at the Pattimura university in Ambon. He provided us with some interesting insights and many references to legal texts that might come in use when writing about DOB/KEK (see one of my first blogs in Banda). After our meeting he and his wife invited us to come along to an Islamic gathering the next day at the house of the Senator. We gratefully accepted, the next day I was dressed up appropriately (I had left my batik and hjiabs in Banda) and we went to the event (where we stayed over 6 hours..) When we arrived there, I was asked to prepare a little speech in Indonesian. Everyone said it went well, even though I feel my Indonesian is not the best when standing on a stage in front of 70+ people… Haha. The night before we left Ambon we went to a traditional Japanese style karaoke booth with friends, a fun and sad farewell.
Now I still have some space to reminisce, because as I said previously too much happened in Kei to tell everything. One of the major events that I did not yet touch upon was our visit to the Raj (king) of Banda Eli. Banda Eli was founded by refugees from Banda Besar that fled from the Banda archipelago during the ruthless regime of Jan Pieterszoon Coen. They promised never to return to settle on Banda, a promise that is still honored by the current population of this village. As the Banda Islands were re-populated with imported slaves and colonists, the local culture changed into the form that we can experience nowadays. However, in Banda Eli and Banda Elat on the Kei Islands, they continued to speak their own language, Bahasa Banda, and continued to sing the old ancestral songs and make traditional pottery. Due to the high waves, I was unable to visit the village but we did meet the king of the village in the port-city Tual where he has a second home.
Now why this story now? This is because we met a long-term Canadian traveller, Chris, at Kei and he told me he was planning to visit Banda Eli. Of course, I was disappointed that I could not visit the village myself, and asked him to see if he could take some pictures of the pottery for me. When we arrived back in Banda, he already travelled to Banda Eli and was waiting for us in Banda Neira. With a piece of pottery for me! So I am overjoyed to see a sample of it here, and I am wondering now if I should tkae it back to the USA or donate it to the museum (which strangely enough does not have any samples of the original Bandanese pottery). If you are interested in reading more about the Kei Islands or how to get there, take a look at Chris’ blog:
Another suprise when we returned to Banda Neira, was that professor Timo Kaartinen from Finland is currently visiting Banda for the first time in his life. He spend years of fieldwork in Banda Eli, is a close friend of the Raj, and most of what I know about Banda Eli is through his work. Very exciting to meet him, and I hope we can continue our conversations during the next few days.
Ps: my apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos.