He is 19 years old and responsible for the airport massage chairs, one of which I sit on.
– Where are you from?
– Greece, I answer.
– Are you Christian?
– Me too. Have you traveled to the Euphrates River?
– No, I answer, a little surprised.
He writes something on his mobile in google translate and shows me the translation in English:
Although he seems to know some English, he still writes on the cell phone and also captures in audio and translates my answers (not to be misunderstood).
“Do you like the massage chairs? I hate them!”, blushing and giggling.
– They are good, I say, not very confidently. Previously I had a foot massage, where a hijab wearing girl had shown particular care and in the end I felt like wearing new shoes – so much better than the massage chair. The girl did not say a word, and at the end she just sat on the side and left me wondering if it was over and I had to pay.
“Do you have snow in your country?”, And after showing him some photos that I kept on the mobile phone, since it is very unlikely they have ever seen it, he asks “Can you eat snow?”. “If you want – it does not taste very good”
– What’s your name? I ask him.
– Efrat, Indonesian for Euphrates, he tells me and chuckles as his joke is now complete. Smartass Efrat.
“Why are you traveling?”, he shows me again on the cell phone.
– Hmm …. This is a difficult question. Especially when asked by a person whose most distant journey is probably from his village in the interior of the inland of Flores in Indonesia, to Labuan Bajo airport that serves the famous Komodo island. What is the most basic thing to say? “To see something different” I decide. “Yes, something like snow we discussed before.” He seems to agree. “And what else?” “To build memories. And to send pictures to my mom, “I say. “And that makes your mom happy?” He says and looks at me. “I hope” I say laughing.
“How old do you think I am?”. The truth is he does not seem over 20. “20” I say, “why do you ask?”. “Ah,” he says, “I think we Indonesians look older than we are, while you Europeans seem younger.” I do not agree with that, my impression was that the Indonesians look younger, mainly because of their small build. On the other hand, they behave very maturely for their age (makes sense since they get married and have kids very early). “Do all Indonesians look the same to you?”, he says shyly. “At first they did Efrat, after a few weeks I began to tell the differences”. “All Europeans look the same to me…”.
I thought of this ‘equalization’ of the Europeans for a moment. The truth is that whoever spots me on the street and asks for a photo with me, he or she will then brag for the photo with the ‘white’. Regardless of who is the white, whether handsome or ugly, gentle or rough, poor or rich, Mother Teresa or Donald Trump. Absolute anonymity …
My trip has begun 20 days ago, from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. After wandering in Java, I spent a few days in Bali, a few in Lombok, etc. and then arrived in Flores Island, which I was now preparing to leave. That’s because for the last days of the trip I had a specific goal: To stay with the so-called nomads of the sea, the Bajau. People who for centuries have replaced the earth with the water element and their descendants do not want to break this tradition and so they live in stilt villages over the sea.
One of the villages is called Sabela and is located in some tiny islands on the southeastern edge of the island of Sulawesi. The island of Sulawesi is not only one of Indonesia’s largest islands, but also of the world (it’s not that difficult for an Indonesian island), and besides the strange shape and the difficult name, it will also prove difficult to get to it. Because of an earthquake … In the country with more than a hundred active volcanoes … and tsunamis too….
– Hati-hati, Efrat tells me. In Indonesian, meaning ‘take care’.
(Greek version of this text has appeared in http://www.travelstories.gr)