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!


  1. Dear All,
    We send hello from the Burke. Please travel safe, we miss you!
    Julie just typed up a really long comment and is mad because blogger wouldn't accept it.
    So I send good wishes on her behalf too.

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