Teaching film study to Year 8 students always presents the problem of finding the right film, one they haven’t watched to death but can still provide enough teaching content to make it worthwhile. You go through the list of possibilities: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Nightmare on Elm Street desperately seeking something they haven’t seen that may even hold their wandering interest. And then you have a light bulb moment! Finding Nemo it has to be. A film that has it all: humour, wit, compassion, acceptable Christian morality and no surprise sex scenes.
Think then, what joy it was, to finally meet Nemo’s parents (pre attack) in the underwater aquarium that stretches around the delightful Kroko Island, just a 10 mile hop from Lewolewa, a biggish town on the island of Lembata. Having taught Nemo to countless Year 8s I feel a familial bond with the cute little clown fish and their perky attitude. So there I was, floating over the scatterings of coral when all of a sudden, Nemo’s parents come swimming up to my goggles with that “What do you want?” look in their eyes and trying desperately to be intimidating and failing hopelessly.
The anchorage at Kroko Island goes into the top 5 all time best and I know I’ve used that list already on our Indonesian journey. A live Volcano gently puffing out white smoke provides the backdrop that then cascades down to coconut palm fringed beaches complete with pristine white sand cay all surrounded by crystal clear water. We sat and stared thinking there were elements of Parker Point here but this was way beyond what Rottnest could offer. No active volcano to start with! The anchor was buried in soft sand some 25m below and, believe me when I say, you could see all the way down to the grey shank.
Fall off the back of the boat and paddle over to the reef and spend an hour or two drifting over what was pretty average coral but a spectacular variety of tropical fish with colours so vivid they could have been freshly painted. This was our first taste of the wonders of Indonesian sailing and it was such a pleasure to be free from the packed and often dirty harbour anchorages that had dominated much of the Sail Indonesia rally so far. Indonesian fishermen were meandering through the anchorage selling their produce which included fresh coral trout and medium sized crayfish (20,000 rph or about $2) It became a tradition on Kroko that 4 o’clock meant yoga on the sand cay followed by drinks and nibbles as the sun set to the west. This was an Olympiad sun downer with Americans, Canadians, Dutch, New Zealanders, English and French all engrossed in the business of sun downers which is pretty much yacht talk.
We went ashore to the village to check out what was supposed to be a market day but was actually 3 women sitting on fraying plastic sheets selling lollies and some strange fruit. The town was rough and untidy and it looked in need of strong hand to get it shape. We had visited a similar fishing village south of Lewolela and were amazed at the concrete paths swept clean, the bamboo fences around the houses and the overwhelming sense of order and pride that enveloped the village. This village was more like a camp. We did meet Efron, a student of English who offered to take us around the village and the tour included the school. Imagine 4 classrooms of rendered brick with a veranda and next to it a smaller toilet block. In the middle sits the school bell, a weathered and beaten artillery shell hanging from a piece of rope between two flimsy sticks.
The buildings are dirty and worn down and the school yard is nothing but baked dirt. But it is a school and it does what all schools do and that is educate and enlighten. This is third world existence and coming from the painted, glossy and ordered world of Australia makes the gap hard to fathom. What is more amazing is that the kids are full of the joy of life and want nothing more than a smile, a shake of their hand and of course a photo taken.
Walking back to the dinghy I seem to have collected a conga line of kids who were all singing their best Head and Shoulders as they ran and giggled their way behind me. We had done an impromptu lesson back at the school and it had proved a big hit. An old lady came to the door of her hut as we passed and her instant smile of approval was a sight I’ll never forget. These kids occupy and amuse themselves and it brings back memories of my own childhood when we would come home from school, dump bags wherever grab our bikes and not be back till it was dark and dinner was ready. Not an adult to be seen and so it is here. The result is this joy of life that you see plastered over their smiling faces, in their unbounded energy and in their lack of fear and doubt. I read about the plague of “helicopter parents” emerging in Australia and I suggest they do a tour of remote Indonesian villages to see what childhood is really all about.
Our tour guide sort of invited himself back on our boat to practice his English and Diana obliged with some practice of her Bahasa thrown into the bargain. We gave him an exercise book and a pen for his studies and the first thing he wrote in it was the song Head and Shoulders. It was a song we sang till we wept when teaching English in Japan and he dutifully wrote all the verses. He was going to be the master of this song and I felt deep pity for the poor kids who were about to be Head and Shouldered. I took him back to the village and all the way back he was singing:
Head and shoulders knees and toes
Knees and toes, knees and toes
Head and .....................you get the idea...............but he was chuffed. So much so that he appeared the next day and went diving with us. It must have worn him out because he fell asleep when we got back and it was only when we said that we might have a little nap that he politely got the hint and said Salamat Tinggal....and off he went. The Indonesians are the most polite, humble and gentle people I have ever met and to be around them is a joy. After 5 days in this top anchorage we decided to make the arduous journey down to Teluk Sagu, a perfect horseshoe shaped bay a whopping 7 miles away and there we became expert village traders...more soon. Rob