World from a Truck Window

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Recently I got back from North Flores to help my team with tourism-discussion and workshop, and collecting data for my thesis. It was a bumpy-and-lonely journey, as I spared most of my 10 days alone. Sleeping on a bus, jumping on a plane, thinking on a car, or enjoying a pleasant view from a truck window. A truck is common local transportation in North Flores, which can bring you to travel from Pota to Riung for 1.2 dollar. 

In my last trip to North Flores in August, I met several exotic and native birds of Flores with the help of the truck driver. This time, his elder brother who drove me to my destination. He was a bit quiet, did not talk unless necessary. So I mostly enjoyed my time in silence.

In that bumpy journey, I sat next to the driver so I could freely take any photographs. Enjoying the bright sun and blue sky - which Carl Sagan described as a "fake sky" in his book The Pale Blue Dot. The real sky is dark, limitless and black. If we see a white, blue, orange, pink, red, or purple sky, we see a (or a few of) color spectrum(s) of sun's light. Planets with non-black sky are the planets which have atmospheres. So, enjoy it folks! We have a fake beautiful sky in day and real sky in the night without stars. I remember a passage in the novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome: we are the sons of the sun, we really enjoy the lights and afraid when the night comes. 

The world from a truck window is romantic, especially when you take a trip through places you've ever visited before and the people along the road recognize you. Sometimes it was a loud call, a waving hand, a smiling face, or just a nod. You will also feel the wind, sometimes it cools you, and sometimes it whispers a lonely song.

Taking a trip to my research site is quite interesting regarding of the weather. It was rainy season in Bogor, when I started my journey, then 39 degrees Celcius in Labuan Bajo, then I should transit on Ruteng when it was (I believe), 10 degrees, then again, 39 degrees in North Flores. Been my fourth time traveling alone to (and from) Flores, and I found out that looking at the window really helps me to pass the hours of lonely journey. I rarely listen to my MP3 player on phone to reduce the battery usage, and to prevent being rude to local people who talked to me. But you know - as psychology research found - when we are lonely, we tend to feel there is someone, or hear voices talk to us. For me, it's always a song. I never imagine someone talks to me in the middle of journey, but a song will be played in my head.

When I passed the North Flores trans road, staring at the open, calm ocean, "Beyond The Sea" was played. Not the Frank Sinatra's version, but Michael Bublé's. Someone told me he fell in love in diving because it is peaceful down there, beautiful, and you can find many interesting things beneath your feet. Flores sea is rich in corals, tuna fish, and also, pearls. It tickles me that I saw several serious farms of sea pearls owned by Japanese corps in East Flores. Some locals referred it as "we are not completely obtain our independence". They said so due to local conflicts where many fishermen cannot fish around the Japanese farms, and the practice have been there for many years (like, 20?).

Well, I am not a marine scientist, but someday I hope I will understand the best marine resources management practice. Indonesia is the largest archipelago so it is our obligation (and of course, privilege) to master such knowledge.

Savanna is one of major resources in North Flores. It is where people do agriculture in rainy season, and shepherding their livestock. Recent movie that I watched, Marlina, really gives a glimpse of the both sides of savanna: a life, and a death. In my research site, monsoon forests are available surrounding savannas, people lost there sometimes, livestock's dead - or stolen, wild animals attack, but some ancestors, find waters between the great stones.

In such great area, it is common to find conflict over land (which are basically savannas). Some tribes claim here and there, war is sometimes unavoidable, stories about it are available in so many versions - depends on where you sit and whom you talk to.

Another point of the road which I can only see if I travel in the end of the year: burnt monsoon forest. People there still practice slash-and-burn agriculture. We should not blame anyone for this - the limited education in agriculture, lack of infrastructure and resource support, may be involved. Even the access to good seed, is limited. The song of Nosstress, Tanam Saja, played in my head. Life is so harsh there that they only can plant corn for three months in a year, sometimes paddy, but depends on the rain. In March, the dry weather already awaits the farmer again to rest until around October.

When we see it by our very own eyes, somehow, we will understand how people can do things that we never understand indeed.

See a bird flying in pictured above? I wasn't sure whether it was an eagle or not, but people said that it was migration period for birds from Australia. Flores has an incredible sky full of birds, sometimes I saw kingfishers, I've seen Asian Paradise Flycatcher twice, eagles so many times, pitta once, Flores' common hill Myna, and others. I often was not ready with my camera, and suddenly What a Wonderful World played in my head. It is always thrilling and exciting to see wonderful, free birds upon the sky.

Last picture: a broken road in North Flores. I was really afraid when passing this road, but the driver calmed my and said that he passes it everyday, day and night, and we would be fine. Government had not repaired it at that time, however, their effort in establishing main road in many remote areas in Flores should be appreciated. Each village now has funding for 1 billion rupiahs each year, and we can see improvement in many places. No song played in my head. Just a hope that the road will be fixed soon and people's life there will get easier a bit.

World from a truck window is not lovely. But I want to recall what Carl Sagan wrote in his Pale Blue Dot book: mind wandering is important, as humans are wanderers. His mother sailed alone to America as she wandered how was his husband doing, and then started a new life in the new country. We, and our ancestors never stop walking. Even if we failed in one point or one place, we kept moving forward. That's what makes humans civilization is so advanced. And why are we not thinking to live on Mars? It is not a harmful thought, rather, we will be encouraged to think how we save our only current home; our Pale Blue Dot. As humans often think that the universe was made for us, our wanderings and explorations will lead us to a widen knowledge and ideas, that we are only speck of dust in the universe.

Keep moving; that's what makes us at least an important speck of dust, to make an impact in our very own world.
And that was what the truck driver taught me when our truck was trapped in a really bad mud: you have to keep moving no matter how bad the road is, unless you will never get to anywhere.

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