Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Arctic Whirlwind

"When it came to deciding the passage to the Spice Islands the merchant adventurers were most insistent. Although they had watched the Spanish and Portuguese successfully sail both East and West to the East Indies, they plumped for an altogether more eccentric option. Their ships, it was decided, would head due North; a route that would shave more than two-thousand miles off the long voyage to the Spice Islands."

Looking out the windows of the University of Washington anthropology advising offices, its hard to imagine that I might actually be missing this winter weather in a week or so. As it is, my departure ticket may well read January 5th but in my mind I'm already climbing the temple steps of Pura Besakih, navigating the back alleys of Yogyakarta, and taking total station measurements on Pulau Neira. 

Like those merchants from London's East India Company, I too will take a different route to the Banda Islands embarking first for Bali via Taipei, Taiwan. From there its on to Yogyakarta, Ambon and finally the Banda Islands. I've been fortunate enough to have traveled through much of S.E. Asia over the years and am looking forward to getting back to a part of the world that has always felt like home. There is something about this part of the world that resonates deeply within me- the stifling heat, the exotic sights, the friendly people and required self-sufficiency that both reassures and challenges the traveler willing to stray from the beaten path. That aside, I feel very fortunate indeed to be a part of this grand adventure. Not only will this trip allow me to experience a part of the world seldom visited by non-indonesians, but puts me in the envious position of doing so with a group of spirited individuals from around the world. While I certainly look forward to the archaeology at hand, I know that the relationships forged over the next three months will be lasting and poignant.  

I've recently finished a book on Banda Island's spice trade called Nathaniel's Nutmeg. While it most certainly will not make many critic's top 10 lists, it is an interesting yarn and provides in colorful detail the stresses brought to bear on the islands by Dutch, English, Portuguese and Asian trade during the 16th and 17th centuries.  In a rare moment of creative brilliance (or supreme expository laziness), I thought it might be interesting to mold my remaining blog entries around the chapter titles of Nathaniel's Nutmeg beginning with chapter one- Arctic Whirlwinds. 

Fittingly enough, the snow and frigid temperatures of the last two weeks have provided an uncanny backdrop for this first entry. How well the remainder of the trip syncs up remains to be seen but given the freedom of this forum (not to mention an unlimited supply of artistic license) it should prove an interesting endeavor. 

For now I am well into my pre-trip rituals: Loading up on great music, indulging on cups of soy chai and watching hours upon hours of Wes Anderson films. 

Talk to you all again soon.

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