I Made It to Manado

I have been intending to travel outside of Gorontalo and explore more of Sulawesi since I started this grant, but until this past weekend, I hadn’t yet found the time.  But there was a three-day weekend on my calendar, and I was determined to use it.  A few other ETAs from Sulawesi were on the same page, and we decided to hit up Manado, the Ibu Kota (capital) of North Sulawesi, where two ETAs are placed, and who were able to show us about the city and help us find accommodation (here’s to local insight).  My excitement leading up to the trip had me bouncing about like a three-year-old waiting for their birthday party to begin.

Then I almost didn’t make the trip.  Due to various things going on at site, I wasn’t able to buy my tickets until very last minute.  And then I thought I had bought tickets, but it turned out the booking confirmation I had received was a lie, and so the day before I was supposed to leave I found myself talking to various travel agencies, and learning that every flight to Manado was already fully booked.  Aduh[1].

Fortunately, some teachers from my school came to my rescue, and showed me how to take a mobil (car) from Gorontalo to Manado.  I bought my ticket, packed more quickly than I ever have in my life, and hopped in.

It was quite the adventure.  I was in the very center seat of the van, which was driving far too quickly on the roads that wind through the mountains on the way to Manado, and was full of chain-smoking bapak-bapak.  I had gotten into the car with the optimistic intention of continuing to edit an application that was due that Monday, but I realized very quickly that was not going to happen.  At one point during the ten-hour journey, a friend checked in to see how I was doing, and I hastily typed back on my phone, trying very hard not to look at the screen too long: “There is no application work happening.  No sleeping happening either.  The only thing that is happening is concentrating on not vomiting.”

But the driver was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met, who made sure I was always aware of what was happening when we stopped for food or toilets, and who waited with me at three o’clock in the morning on an empty Manado street as I tried to locate my friends’ kos (boarding house), refusing to leave until he knew I would be safe.  And even if they smoked too many cigarettes, the other passengers were friendly, and we were almost strangely attached to one another by the time the journey was over: we had bonded over our survival of the trip.

And though I highly recommend flying rather than taking a car to Manado, the ride was totally worth it.  At the end of it all were several members of the Sulawesi ETA Family, as well as a relaxing weekend in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

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Those of us from out of town ended up staying in Pulisan, about an hour outside of the city of Manado, at the Pulisan Jungle Beach Resort.  The location was absolutely beautiful, and because February is the off-season for tourism, we had the entire place to ourselves.  Our days were spent snorkeling in gorgeous reefs teeming with life, and hiking up the surrounding hills to take in the view.  Our nights were spent chatting and laughing in great company.

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It was this company that really made this trip special, for me.  To be sure, Pulisan was absolutely breathtaking, a reminder that I am lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  But it would not have been nearly and memorable if I hadn’t been able to share the excitement of seeing my first puffer fish, or if I had scaled the steep hill behind the resort, dripping with sweat, and taken in the absolutely amazing view alone.  It is always the people that make the trip.

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Though most of time was spent soaking in the natural beauty of Indonesia, something Manado and the surrounding areas lends itself well to, with its lush jungles and pristine beaches, we were able to spend a little time in the city of Manado itself[2].

Manado was fascinating for me, coming from Gorontalo, as it is majority Christian.  North Sulawesi and my own province, Gorontalo, actually used to be one province, but they split into two predominately because while the northern part of the original North Sulawesi is majority Christian, the part that is now Provinsi Gorontalo is majority Muslim.   There were churches everywhere, instead of the mosques I am now so accustomed to seeing.   At one point, we passed a woman outside of the mall who was trying to sell crucifixes; it was then I realized that I was very much not in Gorontalo anymore.

Manado is also a significantly larger city than Gorontalo: a little more western, a little less conservative.  But still very much an Indonesian city, with the streets crowded with angkots and sepeda motor (motorcycles), and bright colors everywhere.  The Manado ETAs took us to eat tinituan (a sort of porridge made from rice, pumpkin, and lots of vegetables, which is originally from Manado), at their favorite place, and confidently navigated the streets so unfamiliar to us as visitors.

I boarded a plane out of Manado (I was able to procure a ticket home at least, with the help of one of the ETAs from Makassar) a mere 60 hours after I had stumbled out of the van that brought me there.  It was not enough time, but I loved every minute that I had there.

[1] Aduh is generally translated to “Oh my!” or “Oh dear!”  It is essentially an exclamation of frustrated surprise, and I find it to be one of the most satisfying expressions I have learned in Indonesian.

[2] But, regretfully, I did not have ready access to a camera at the time.  My bad, folks.

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