Friday, January 23, 2009

Hotel Mutiara

At night, when all is relatively quiet except for the rumble of the nocturnal scooters and the buzzing of the glorious A.C., the lobby of the Hotel Mutiara seems like every other hotel in the busy port town of Ambon. However, Hotel Mutiara (which means "pearl" in bahasa Indonesia) plays seashell to a bunch of hermit archaeologists. Some are seasoned with time and field scars, both physical and emotional. Others are fresh buds plucked from the varied terrains of the United States of America (Continental). All of them colorful, all of them interesting.

While they and most of the city lay in peaceful slumber, some (like myself) are up and about tickling the lettered tiles of an ivory tray that will run out of battery very soon. Somehow, all of us arrived in Ambon in one piece AND with all our luggage. It's a miracle actually as we had several stops along the way. The head crab with elfin silver noggin and the golden haired T.A. runs the ship as best they could and we are all quite grateful. I could not begin to fathom the amount of patience one has to muster in order to command such a vessel. Only that I am very glad that I'm not either one of them. Apparently, there was some trouble with paperwork and such that I'm sure could be ironed out with a bit of a bribe on the right palms. Yet our journey has just begun and I'm sure that a lot more "trouble" will come out at us out of nowhere.

As the night crew gives me dark looks (the "When is this guest going away?!" kind of look), it gives me great pleasure to announce that Indonesia feels a lot like home. The narrow streets of the port town could be found just about anywhere in the Philippines. The becak and the angkotan kuta resemble our tricycles and jeeps. The spitting just about anywhere, the screaming, the haggling, the trees, the taste for durian, the uneven streets, the unmarked potholes, the videoke, the strange men with wads of cash, the calling every white person "mister" (in our case, it's "hey joe"), the humidity, the unrelenting sun, the showers in the afternoon, the church/mosque/(insert place of worship of choice), the cigarette kiosks, the eateries, the people... glorious.

I am a Filipina in Indonesia. I am a foreigner in a foreign land. But somehow, just above the bahasa Indonesia , just beyond the smell of spice, perhaps behind that becak driver patiently waiting for a passenger, or the blasting karaoke music from the bar next door, I feel like I've never left home.

Thank you Indonesia.

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