Last week, I taught my final classes, something I will write about eventually, but not just yet. This means my students are testing this week, and so after almost nine months of constantly working on various projects for school, I find myself with something like free time. I still have several projects to put the finishing touches on, and plans to solidify in order to properly say goodbye to everyone here (I’m having a party at my house, and my school is planning an event at which I may even be expected to sing in front of the whole school, so there is still plenty to do for all of that). Still, with no classes to attend and plan for, I’m much less crazy-busy than I have been.
And so, one morning before going to visit some dear friends who have been instrumental in making my time here wonderful, I set out on my motorbike, camera in hand to just take a short jaunt through the kota (city) that I have called home for the past nine months and take some photos, something I have always wanted to do, but never found the time for.
This is Patung Saronde, or Saronde Statue, which depicts two traditional Gorontalo dancers. This stature is at a traffic circle downtown, and is regularly used as a reference point when people give me instructions to a small toko (shop) or rumah makan (restaurant). It is also right around the corner from Coffee Toffee, where I do all of my internet work, and where the staff have essentially become extended family. Even if I’m just passing by, I can’t help but smile.
This is the largest masjid (mosque) in Kota Gorontalo. There is a mosque on every corner in Gorontalo, each one with its own personality, and I have come to orient myself in the city by which mosque I am passing.
In the city square stands a statue dedicated to Nani Wartabone, the local Gorontalo hero. Historically, he is credited as being the leader who brought Gorontalo to independence, two whole years before the rest of the nation, fighting the Dutch with determination and bravery. According to legend, he possessed powers such as teleportation, which helped him to defeat the colonizers.
This may not look like much, but crossing this jembatan (bridge) means you are headed out of the kota and onto a winding road that follows the shoreline, taking you past beautiful beaches and the bluest ocean you will ever see. I have learned to be less afraid of the sea by heading out on this road and going snorkeling and swimming with friends, finding incredible beauty beneath the waves. Next year, living in the concrete jungle that is Jakarta, I will miss the hot sand between my toes, and the peaceful silence you always find underwater.
Also pictured here is and angkot, one of the more popular forms of transportation in Indonesia. Gorontalo doesn’t really have any angkot routes in the city, but there are several that go back and forth from the villages outside of the city.
One the subject of jembatan, this one holds a special place in my heart. This marks the city limits in a different direction, on the way out to the village where one of my site mates lives, works, and just generally inspires me with all she does. She has developed an amazing relationship with her community, and often shares this with other ETAs, myself included, and I cannot thank her enough for it.
This view was captured from yet another bridge, which also marks the edge of the city limits in yet another direction. This road is by far my favorite for motorbike rides at the end of a stressful day: it leads up into the mountains, above the coast. The road is steep and more than a little broken, but the views are incredible, the air cooler and fresher. Nothing heals my soul faster than heading out this way.
While six photos and a little bit of babbling might be all that my computer, my schedule, and Gorontalo internet will allow, there is no way that these can encompass what the streets of Gorontalo have come to mean to me. It can’t show how the sun bakes my skin if I am riding at midday, or the way the street of warungs (food stalls) smell of ikan bakar (grilled fish) and sate tuna every night. It can’t express the insurmountable small joy of buying bensin (petrol) from a particularly sweet Ibu from one of the thousands of petrol stands you find on the side of the road, or the way riding through a downpour is simultaneously frustrating and and slightly dangerous, and one of the most fun and refreshing parts of living in Indonesia.
My time here has been defined by the ways and the reasons I have traversed these jalan (street): work, travel, weddings, shopping, the simple need to get on my motorbike and escape… The better I know the city, the more it feels like home, and by this point I not only know the twists and turns and intersections, but many of them are embedded with memories of my adventures and misadventures. Gorontalo no longer feels like home. It is home.