Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ambon Manise

Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, is the transportation gateway to the Banda Islands. It's tagline "Ambon Manise" means "beautiful Ambon." But years of conflict, rapid unplanned growth, pollution and traffic have made it less than beautiful. For those who make it to the truly beautiful Banda Islands, waiting in Ambon is the price you pay. And I am here now, paying once again.

Several days ago, Sarah, one of our students from the US, developed a serious eye infection that required treatment beyond the capabilities of Banda's tiny health clinic. So, she and I made our way from remote Pulau Ay to adaquate health care. We started in the early morning on Tuesday in a torrential downpour on a small motorboat for the 1 hour trip to Banda Naira, then onto the bi-weekly ferry overnight to Ambon. After checking in with a doctor in Ambon at 3 AM, we then caught a 7 AM flight to Jakarta, where we met another doctor who accompanied Sarah to a hospital in Singapore. She will be there for a week before heading home. Sarah was our resident expert in ID of human bone, a skill that came in handy when we unexpectedly uncovered a 19th century grave in the Lautaka site (we were able to leave the grave intact and continue with our excavations into the 1500 year old layers of that site). We will miss Sarah very much for the last two weeks of the field school, but we are all very glad she is in good hands.

I caught an early flight this morning from Jakarta back to Ambon so that I could rejoin the team for the last 2 weeks of the field school. But the last 120 kilometers back to Banda is always the hardest part of the trip. The weekly flight on Saturday has been cancelled (a common occurence), and the next ferry is too late for me. I spent the afternoon asking around the cargo docks of Ambon for any smaller cargo ships that might be making the trip, with no luck. My only hope at the moment is for Emily to send a boat from Banda to pick me up either here or in the next island over, Seram. We just talked via sat phone and she is now working on organizing some kind of transport for me. She reports that excavations on Ay are going well--we have three sites opened, two open village sites and one rockshelter, all dating to the Neolithic period (3400-2000 years ago). I have been given a shopping list: skippy peanut butter, ziplock bags, screen, bandaids and benadryl (that pretty much sums up our lives!).

So, I may make another post before I leave. Our dreams of using the sat phone to upload blog posts have not worked out--we get about 4-5 minutes of connectivity before getting cut off, not enough time to log in at 7500 baud (anyone remember when dialup modems were that slow??). So, like with postcards sent from the Banda post office, you may be reading about our experiences after we return!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hello Mister!

By Josh Diles

It has been over forty days since I left snowy Seattle for the warm climes of Indonesia. My mind has been crammed with the history, language, and culture of Indonesia as well as a plethora of archaeological techniques and practices that will serve me well as I pursue a career in the field. We are entering the final stage of our journey, once again stepping down the technological ladder as we leave the 24 electricity, ice cream freezers, and phone stations that Banda Naira provides, and head to the island of Pulau Ay, where the generator only stays on for a few hours in the evening. I am going to have to get used to sleeping without a fan.

In addition to all I’ve learned, I will be taking much, much more home with me. This trip has truly been life changing. One of the fondest memories I will be taking back with me is that of the children of Indonesia. I have never met a happier bunch of kids in my life. They turn a stick and a rock into an afternoon of fun. They can whip me in badminton (which should NEVER be played in a sarong). They help me with my Indonesian and I help them with their English. A group of kids can always be found playing right outside our guest house when we return from a hard day in the field, and they are always very happy to see us. Shouts of “Hello Mister!” are still music to my ears after all these days. I have even been reading to the kids, from a book I found at the airport, written by my favorite author, and translated into Indonesian. Its entitled Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, and while I’ve read it in English a few times, I’m on about page 12 in the translation. I don’t have to understand it, however, to read it to the kids. They help me with the difficult words, and I know they’re understanding it, because they all seem to laugh and go “Awwwww” in unison at certain parts of the book while I’m reading. I’m hoping it’s due to the book’s content and not directed at me.

Well, in just over three weeks I will be back in Seattle, enjoying a Stacia’s pizza with triple cheese and anything made out of pork on it, while\ watching a movie with my much missed friends and family. I’m kind of regretting a return to toilet paper, but maybe I’ll do some plumbing when I get home and install a mandi. All my love to TB, Jana, Mom, Dad, Jeb, Jess, and PQ. I tried uploading some photos but it’s pretty impossible at 14.4k.

Under the Volcano

Under the Volcano

Laura Phillips

It wasn’t until after 8pm last night that the field crew finally made it back to the Flamboyan. Exhausted, but triumphant having finished excavations at BN1 (Banda Naira Site 1 near Lautaka, if you have a detailed map on hand), the hungry crew celebrated a final dinner. The lab crew worked until just before 8, too. We almost finished packing up all of Peter’s collections from his 1998-98 excavations. This morning, Kelsey and I will finish up the final boxes, so Wuri can courier the collection to Ambon next Tuesday on the cockroach-infested ferry-from-hell. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Bemoli boxes make it. Bemoli is the frying oil that everyone uses here to fry bananas, cassavas, and fritters. I am told these boxes are quite strong, but I’m worried the signs of dripping oil on the outside of the boxes will undermine our packing job. Nevermind what the bugs will do…

Right now, everyone is gathering o on the Flamboyan porch, bags in hand, ready to stow our gear on Ayub’s trusted boat. A small group will head over to Pulau Ay this morning; the rest of us will catch a larger boat (2 engines) after lunch. In the meantime, it’s Friday, our free day, and we’ll wander around the town that has become our home. Many of us are no longer known as “hello mister,” and instead, are called Ibu or by our first names (Selmat pagi Kelsey…or Wilson, Ari, Watana, Pippit…)

Today is also our last opportunity to use telecommunications. I’ve heard there are no public phones on Pulau Ay. It was great to hear Clara, Yari and Eric’s voices this morning. I’m looking forward to sharing all the amazing stories. In the meantime, I hope you are all well. XOXOX, laura (mommy)

Home (by Andy Lawless)


By now most of us are missing it in some way or another. Not that the food is bad, or we can’t get our clothes clean, or the various sundry comforts that come with home are not present here. The weather is warm and the air is clear. And dear Mom each night a roof hangs over our heads sheltering us from the rain. There is laughter and there is sweat. The beer is cold and the coffee hot and strong. The coral, when we swim among it, is resplendent with color and light. Fish I’ve never seen before. Scary deep blue sea that pulls us inside refreshes us too. Salty smiles as we make the big plunge.

The work is real. Deep, dark holes that take us back over a thousand years. History of the animists, history of the Hindus, history of the Muslims and Christians. Colonial coins make the eyes of skeletal remains in an unmarked grave. There they lie in the same earth as the sculpted ceramics of the cannibals and the jaw bones of a pig.

After numerous visits over the past decade, I’ve even got a familiar circle of friends who make their home here. Those who I’ve grown to trust, and those with whom I can’t seem to find trust. Social bearings that help me find familial comfort.

It feels a lot like home. The drunken laughter that erupts from the twisted words and minds of the orang nockals, the wild men, the orang gila, the crazy men. The friends whose trust I’ve gained. But it’s not for them that I write, or the fecund beauty these islands emit, a scent of sea and earth so sweet. I just wanted to write to say I’m missing you, and I wanted you to know I love you.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Field School In Banda Naira Indonesia 2009

By Piseth Kimsan

First of all I would like to introduce myself. I’m Piseth Kimsan, I’m a student of archaeology from Cambodia. I think I am the first archaeology student who has had the chance to participate in an excavation in Indonesia, so I’m very glad to join this program.

There are four steps in this program. First of all we had to study Indonesian language for two weeks in Yogyakarta and we had fieldtrips on the weekends to archaeological sites nearby.

Second, we moved from Yogyakarta to Ambon and from Ambon to Banda Naira island by ferry.

Third, we had to study about research methodology such as survey techniques, lab work, excavation, and mapping... etc.

Now we’ve been staying on Banda Island for the past three weeks and we started digging since 30 JAN 2009. We opened two units: 5 and 6. We have found a lot of pottery sherds, beads, charcoal, fish bone, and Chinese coins… in both units.

Now I’m working in the lab with Laura, Michelle, and Pau. We dry all the artifacts, write new labels, inventory the artifacts, sort artifacts from flotation samples…etc.

Soon we will finish excavating on Banda Naira, and will take a boat to Pulau Ay to start a new excavation.

The filthy Ciremai ship is fading from my mind, and I’ve been busily running the lab. The lab on Banda Naira is located in an old Dutch home with spacious rooms, minimal furniture and negligible lighting. It is blissful. Three students are typically assigned to the lab, and we all work outside on the covered porch in the 95degF tropical heat. Several people have brought Ipods, so we rock out to 70s and 80s bands, inventory the artifact bags and sort heavy fraction (2mm screens). Snacks are a must to keep the lab folks happy; and I walk down to the market every few days to pick up something new. Kofikos are the current favorite: coffee-flavored hard toffee candies.

Tropical environments make labwork a little tricky. It often takes three or four days to dry the heavy fraction because the air is so humid; the light fraction takes even longer. Since the heavy fraction is washed in the sea at the site, it has to get washed in fresh water at the lab to ensure that the metal artifacts don’t rust. Yesterday, as I scooped up water to put into the wash bucket, a gigantic cockroach floated to the top of the scoop. I managed to gracefully cast the scoop contents into the garden, but from now on, I’ll look first before I scoop.

As expected, tasks at the lab revolve around organizing the artifacts that come out of the site. But, in the late afternoon, we are also attempting to blog. This sometimes feels impossible. We have tried (yes, for hours) to use the Satellite phone, but can’t seem to connect to the ftp site. We have also tried to log on to the internet at the local hotel. Most of the time the power is out, so it’s not an option. Yesterday, however, Wilson, hunched over a two-foot high table for over two hours on a plastic child seat, managed to upload two of our blogs (at least I hope you’ve seen them!). The connection is extremely slow, and some of the documents haven’t been readable by the hotel computers. We are finally getting the gist of it now (I hope), and will try to send a few every other day or so.

I hope the Newts are enjoying the winter break. Are you up on San Juan? I miss you all and think of you often.

Love, Mommy/Laura

February 12, 2009

It is important to let the people of Banda Naira know why there is a large group of foreigners walking into the forest every morning. Those who see us at the site may create their own stories as to why we are digging large, nearly perfect square and rectangular holes. At the end of the day I wonder what the villagers think of me as I walk back to the guest house covered in dirt from head to toe. The opportunity to give them knowledge in order to crush any scandalous rumors came up with the help of a local high school.

The students came out to the site and watched the various archaeological tasks that we were all assigned to. We were either in the pits digging, screening the soil, recording artifacts or doing flotation on the beach. The Indonesian students from the Universitas Gadja Mada and from the university in Jakarta translated the questions from the students and the explanations from the English speakers. The high school kids were then given the opportunity to rotate through the jobs in order to get a hands-on experience at doing each archaeological task. They appeared to be very enthusiastic about each of the different jobs. They were able to dig up their past in order to get a closer look at what their ancestors may have once used.

The high school students then gave guided tours of our archaeological site to the surrounding local villages. By having the hands-on experience of doing all the jobs, the young students were able to explain what was being done as well as what was found. At the screening stations, the students would look in and often pull out a small artifact that one of us had missed. Having those extra set of eyes looking through all that dirt was very helpful. They leaned in to look at the small coin pieces and the small beads which we had found. They listened intently as they walked around to each station with the students explaining each process.

Being able to share this experience with a local high school as well as the surrounding villages has felt rewarding. We are giving them an opportunity to see their past through the artifacts that are being found. Hopefully, someday, museum exhibition will be set up on Banda Naira displaying the history of this island to the local villagers.


Honeymoon Lane

We made it to Banda. Hardly the harrowing trip ancient mariners might have made to get here, but still it was the kind of journey that leaves an indelible mark on the memory.

In Ambon we’d arrived at the harbor three hours after the original scheduled departure time, which was currently an hour before the expected boarding time. Not much to our surprise the 4 pm hour ended up being 5 hours before the actual departure, giving us plenty of time to contemplate the sea voyage ahead. In the closed off heat of the waiting room I’d anticipated our passage across the Banda Sea to be aboard the reliable Rinjani we’d sailed before between Ambon and Banda. But Pelni, the Amtrak of the seas, had recruited another ship in their fleet to transport the commonwealth of Indonesia to the eastern reaches of the archipelago. And for those with a keen eye, you might notice a bit of rust at the bow of the ship. Hardly the sort of scar that instills confidence in the passenger. In fact, as she pulled into the harbor, the first thought that crossed my mind was whether or not we’d make it to Banda first, or page 3 of the world section in the New York Times. Yet Another Indonesian Ferry Lost at Sea. Does anyone really care? Apparently Pelni could not give a damn. Besides the derelict nature of the ship, Banda one out, and The New York Times will have to wait, hopefully for a very long time.

The experience of boarding this beast of the sea is one of great contact with all of your fellow passengers. The press of bodies crammed into singular passage ways with large amounts of baggage gives a person the sense that they are in fact the sausage grinding through the mill.

We were fortunate enough to have been advised by Peter to bump ourselves up to first class and Daud for the sake of economy and ease told the officials at the info desk who hand out the keys that Laura and I were married. Which is true. And happily I might add. We’re just not married to one another. We each have beautiful spouses back home that we both miss very much.

Daud, Laura and myself hoped first class might provide us with a swanky moonlight ride to Banda and offer a quiet sanctuary from the hustle of the ship around us. But once we’d run the gauntlet of boarding and been shown our cabins, swanky quickly turned to skanky.

When the lights came on in what we were now amusingly referring to as our honeymoon suite, the cockroaches did not quickly scramble. Instead they went about their usual business of climbing walls, creeping up curtains and crawling over pillows without a care for us. So much for getting any rest through the midnight crossing.

We secured our bags and quickly abandoned the cabin for the upper deck of the ship that serves snacks and drinks, and plays music at what I like to refer to as shouting volume. There we snacked and shouted at one another as the moonlight glittered on the water around us and cockroaches climbed up our legs. We quickly adopted a new policy for the ship, which was do not touch anything that isn’t your own. The film of scum and rot was ancient and thick. In the wake of the ship the plastic and filth from the deck floated off behind us like tin cans tied loosely to the bumper of a newly married couple’s Oldsmobile.

Now that we were underway, our schedule could be precisely predicted and we hoped to be in Banda by 4am. Throughout the night we wandered the ship to keep from dozing off, and to keep ourselves from entering the twilight zone honeymoon suite. But once we found we did want to enter, we discovered we were locked out, and the first class passengers were locked in, which would have presented a huge problem had this tub started to sink. After about 20 minutes of searching all the decks, we finally came upon an open door and were able to visit our cabin with its luxury accommodations.

At 4am the final arrival horn sounded, echoing throughout Banda. Down on the dock we saw our friends, Peter, Sopian, Bowo, and Nia, anticipating our arrival. They’d been there two hours waiting to help us unload our mass of wears. As the stairway and exit ramps were rolled to the ship people started climbing over one another like clowns in a Fellini film, scrambling to get on board and help passengers with their luggage. Getting off the boat was another communion with our fellow passengers, like so much sausage pressing out of the bowels of the ship. Feeling the hands of a derelict reach inside her pants pocket, Laura grabbed for her passport and took the cash out of the hands of the derelict, shaming him, not for having tried to pick her pocket, but for having been caught doing it.

As exhausted as we were the reunion with our friends was a great relief. And the beauty of the journey is that after traveling half the world around in two weeks time, and landing back in Banda with its simple beauty and charm, I felt strangely at home again.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thursday, February 12th 2009

Assigned to work in the lab today and can’t think of a better day to be here. With the humidity, it’s probably over 100 degrees right now in Banda. Everything we touch is hot and sticky and the flies that love nothing more than to land and feast in our open wounds and cuts aren’t helping the situation. So luckily, four of us are in the lab today without a dress code that demands knee and shoulder coverage needed to set a good example for the school children of Banda Naira working with us at the site. We skipped out the daily 45-minute hike from our guest houses to the dig site and replaced it with a 100 meter walk down the road to our spacious lab that we are graciously allowed the use of by an older Indonesian Ibu that Peter has known for years.
While we are in the lab sorting through all the artifacts found in the last couple weeks, most of the rest of the group is at our site near the village of Lautaka which is right on the beach. We currently have two pits in progress, and with photography, flotation of soil samples, screening for artifacts, and using GPS and the Total Station to plot and map our points of location and findings, there is usually something to be done. A couple members of our group went to film the Banda Nutmeg harvests today and interviewed the farmers. Last night our members involved with the high school and community integration were able to get Banda radio air time and publicize our dig.
We’re possibly going to the island of Pulau Ai in a couple days and it might be hard to leave Banda Naira Island and the people we’ve met here, although a few of them might end up going with us. Tomorrow is the group’s day off and another day of snorkeling sounds great.

The intimidation of the ferry trip two weeks ago has faded in our collective minds. I have yet to see another cockroach since the sleeping cabin of the boat. In our short time on Banda Naira, we’ve experienced quite a lot, and the time has passed quickly. I no longer stop to admire the panoramic view of the ocean on our daily walk to the site at Lautaka, and instead sweat onwards for the ensuing 30 minutes of the hike. After climbing Gunung Api, the towering volcano within swimming distance of Banda Naira, I feel that any walk where there is a human-worn path presents little challenge. Our trip up the volcano lacked switchbacks, and the loose scree and nearly vertical path (actually the route rainwater exits the mountain) made for a difficult trip. The warm puffs of sulfurous gas at the top were eerie, as we knew we were close to the crater, but could not see into it because of the low cloud enveloping the mountaintop. Luckily, 16 people went up 660 meters, and 16 people came down, two wearing flip-flops. Our days pass rotating through positions in the field, and it is impressive just how much we have accomplished in almost two weeks of excavation. We spend our down-time in the water, going for boat trips to sublime beaches and pristine snorkeling locations; once even under the light of the full moon. It seems incredible that we are one-third of the way through our time in the Banda Islands, and I am sure that the coming month will bring even more adventure.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Banda Sejara

It would seem there are few harder places to get to in the world than the Banda Islands. Throughout history it has been this way. Henry Hudson was left to freeze in the arctic ice on his last expedition to discover an easier passage to the Spice Islands. Christopher Columbus was obstructed by America in his effort to find a direct root to these jewels in the Banda Sea. A Portuguese fleet in 1498 held a Malay pilot at knife point in order to discover the location of Banda, and for a hundred years they guarded the maps that directed their ships to Banda as state secrets to prevent others from finding the precious source of nutmeg that grew there. It was the only source for the spice in the world. And in that world of pre-refrigeration, and primitive medicine, nutmeg served many purposes under the sun. It was a natural curative, preventing meet from spoiling. It was known to cure dropsy. And if taken in abundance could produce hallucinations. The islands and the spice they produce were so rare that a sailor who'd survived the journey to Banda could retire on the value of a pocketful of nutmeg were he fool hardy enough to try stealing some away. And were he caught, he'd have his head put in the guillotine.

Though the value of the spice has been lost over the centuries, the difficulty in getting to Banda hasn't seemed to go away. On this, my fourth trip to this far corner of the world, I've found it harder than ever to reach Banda's shore. The arduous journey has made fast friends of Laura and me. We left Seattle on the 26th of January. Almost two weeks later we set out on the last leg of our journey aboard the Pelni ship Rinjani which will carry us for the next 8 hours to Banda. Though it's not the same six month journey the Dutch, Portuguese, and English sailors endured in the 16th century, it is still by modern travel standards quite a trek. It takes less time to get to the moon.

I first went to Banda in 1997 with Peter, who was conducting the first archaeological dig on the islands while pursuing his doctorate in archaeology through Brown University. He'd told me about the rich colonial history of the islands, and the parallels between the 16th century spice trade and the oil business of today attracted me as a film maker. So I loaded myself down with 4 cameras: 16mm, Mini-DV, Stereoscopic, and a 35mm Nikon, tons of film and tape, and a DAT recorder to make "Banda: Life of Ruins" a documentary on Peter's work, as well as the history and culture of the islands. Now 12 years later, after collecting nearly 100 hours of archival footage, and more than 16,000 photos, I join him and his colleagues again. My role this year is to continue documenting the work, and to teach the students in the field school the techniques of documentary film making. As we've discovered over the years, it's an invaluable tool for recording the destructive process of archaeology. In five weeks time we expect to have a 15 minute documentary completed for Mollucca TV, and if time permits a 30 minute piece on the making of a traditional dug out canoe, a Kole-kole we built in '97 and called Mimpi Gila, meaning crazy dream. It's rather ambitious, but that has been part of the mantra of this crazy dream we've pursued in Banda.

See you in Banda!

No photos of Ambon yet because we arrived late in the afternoon yesterday. We had a lovely dinner with Dr. Daud, Achmad (a local film producer) and Simon (Balai Arkeologi collections manager). We picked the individual fish out of the cooler out front, then the restaurant prepared it pan fried and smothered with delicious sambal (hot sauce). One of the accompanying vegetable dishes was cut up green tomatoes -- crunchy and not too sweet.  

I have yet to see anything of Ambon except the restaurant and the swanky hotel. We are just about to head off to the "mall" (whatever that means) to get rain ponchos and peanut butter. I'm told these are the only essentials. Ambon, so far, appears to be a bit like the Wild West. At dinner last night the power went out in our neighborhood several times. Since the sun goes down at 6pm, the restaurant was pitch dark.  They are used to it though, and have a generator. There is a tv in the hotel, but watching CNN with a delay is not really worth it.

The photos on this blog include the ubiquitous Balinese offerings that are set out twice a day in front of store fronts and houses, and a photo of Andy in front of some very typical contemporary Balinese "art."  We see this type of really bad art for sale everywhere, and can't figure out what the attraction is or who is buying it. 

Off to shop.  Eric, Clara and Yari: I have heard the phone is effectively ship-to-shore and very bad, so I may not be able to connect tonight.  I hope the talent show was a blast.  XO, Mommy.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Absolut Bensin

Bensin is gasoline, for those who want to know. I just liked this typical street scene, so I figured it worth a blog. What else is there to say, folks here know how to make do with what they've got.

Minyak Gosok--my saviour

Morning rituals include cold showers, sludgey coffee, and a full application of minyak gosok. Minyak gosok means 'rubbing oil' in Indonesian. After seeing my initial addition to the toxic DEET, Ambra was horrified and steered me towards the local treatment--specifically the one with the black fly on the label. It smells of camphor and citronella, and seems to keep most of the mosquitos away without outright causing cancer. Those of you who know me well know that mosquitos love me over anyone else. I still get a few bites everyday, but I did with the DEET, too.  There are local remedies everywhere in Ubud (called jamu, I think), and I'm sure there is a minyak gosok to keep away biting ants, but I haven't found that one yet.  Of the multitude of ants, the tiny red ants seem to be the worst, and I get ten bites or so daily. Fortunately, the hydrocortisone I packed helps with these minor annoyances. I also have some sort of itchy rash all over the back of my hands that Andy seems to think will be with me until I return to Seattle. Alas, this is the tropics, and such is life.

Today we procured the tickets to Ambon. Lest you think this is an easy task... it took four trips to the travel agent: first to make the reservation and pay a deposit, second to pick up the tickets that hadn't arrived yet, third to pay the full amount and get confirmation from the airline, and fourth, finally to obtain the tickets.  In between visits, we drank mango/banana lassi (Andy's new concoction), and took a long stroll through the rice paddies.  Off to Ambon tomorrow at 6am, and on to the next adventure.  

I love you Clara, Yari and Eric.  I'll bring home lots of stories.  --XOXO Mommy

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chicks and Donuts

Andy's blog really says it all. This place called Bali is a wealth of contradictions.  Stores where you can buy authentic Gucci bags adjacent to tiny rice carts and rooster cages.  It rained buckets and buckets last night, yet no water made it to our cottage shower pipes this morning. And ancient temples are next to fancy restaurants that serve chicken cordon bleu.  

The internet, too, is filled with issues. We seem to be able to find cafes, but sometimes have problems logging on. Neither Andy nor I can figure out how to get any of our pictures loaded up in any sensical order.  So, if you wondering why these photos seem random, well...  

Ubud is too touristy for me, so Andy and Ambra and I have attempted to find the "other" Bali.  We had a lovely walk in the rice paddies two days ago, and found an incredibly tasty organic farm/cafe in the middle of the paddies (see photo of the view).  Along our walks we've seen some interesting things.  My favorites so far are the donut bikes (Clara and Yari - can you find the ones with the chocolate sprinkles?) and hand-colored chicks (my dear Trulucks -- what would Blue Sky think?), and some intriguing temple wiring (Eric -- it rains torrents here like Tokyo, and these wire jobs are all out in the open).

My final quick comment before Andy and I get kicked out of this fancy restaurant is that the coffee is great here.  Note the photo showing the sludge. (Heidi -- believe it or not, this was served in an Illy cup!) Bali kopi is served to us daily on our porch -- no milk, just huge sugar crystals.  ...and copious amounts of sludge at the bottom. It seems perfect for the tropics.  Oh, and one final note: thanks to all the folks who've been commenting.


The Dogs of Ubud

There are many myths about the island of Bali. One of the most ridiculous we heard at a warung in Ubud while enjoying dinner our first night here. A gentleman wired with a headset, cell phone, and a computer, sitting among what we assumed were friends, (though if they were friends, he made no consideration of them) was speaking with what we presumed was soon to be his ex-girlfriend, explaining to her that babies don't cry in Bali. He told her this several times, I'm guessing because her baby might have been crying on the other end of the line in Switzerland, or Sweden, or wherever his soon to be ex-girlfriend might live.

As I've walked the streets of Ubud these past few days, eyes fixed on the sidewalks at my feet to avoid falling in one of the many gaping holes ready to swallow up unaware pedestrians, I've noticed the special breed of dogs that wander the streets here. They are mongrel mutts, the mangiest I've seen. They roam freely unattached to the people of Ubud, living off the scraps, and garbage that fall to the way side. They own the streets, sometimes enforce a stop to traffic. There is no sense of ownership to these dogs, and with Rabies on the rise here in Bali, we often find ourselves crossing the road to avoid the mutts that occupy our path. And when we've come upon a gang of them harassing one bitch or another, or simply positioning for dominance, we've amused ourselves with the memory of the delusional traveller at the warung by attempting to create another myth about the island, "Dogs don't bark in Bali."

Fortunately for us, Ubud is not all about the dogs. These past few days we've managed to get our bearings and reach out beyond the tourist center with all of its stores, and hawkers offering transport, to find the serenity that is so attractive on this island. Walks through the rice paddies and leisurely lunches in the hills have made our enforced stay here pleasurable as we eagerly anticipate the next step in our journey.

The project in Banda seems to be well on its way without us for now. Peter has told us that he's opened up two units at BN1, a curious site we excavated in '97 and again in '98. Each unit is roughly 80cm in depth at this point, and based on our dig in '98, could easily get down to 3 meters. We found many of the similar faunal and ceramic remains that were found elsewhere on the island, but what was unique were a series of earthenware ceramics shaped like birds heads and pigs noses. A photo of our friend Kathy who joined the expedition in '98 can be seen holding one of the pigs noses up to her own.

As for Laura and me, we head off to Ambon on Friday, and catch the ferry to Banda on Saturday. It will be good to get down to the basics of Banda.