We’re into double figures! Wow, already. But we have still a long way to go before the end of this journey. And what better way to start off than the trip with Finn to see his school and meet the children. Did I mention cockerels at all? Well we have no real need of an alarm clock as infallibly we are awoken by the cock crow before the electronic emanations from the telephone, and so it was this morning. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter as today we were going off to do something away from the beaten track of the tourist. Tania and I had agreed before the trip that we wanted to interact with “real” people in the countries that we visited, and here was a golden opportunity to do just that, and to give something back in return.
Breakfasted and ready we awaited Finn’s arrival with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. There is always a fear associated with the element of the unknown, and when one considers that we have in our charge 3 very important little men, one finds oneself playing a variety of scenarios and assessing all of the possible risks. It is here that our judgement comes to the fore, and in this case our feeling was that this was a marvellous chance to experience something special. Sadly our risk strategy did involve leaving the camera at home so there aren’t any photos, sorry folks.
It was not long before we were on our way. Finn leading the way riding pillion on the scooter of one of the students we had met the previous evening, Tania and Luca on one scooter, and me, Mateo (in front) and Oskar (behind) on the other one. We drove though a couple of villages in the direction of Mataram before turning left onto a small road. Following this for a couple of clicks we passed 2 schools side by side, but we did not stop there. Suddenly, Finn slowed and turned left down what can only be described as an alley. We followed, past tumbledown shacks, weaving our way through a maze of poverty until we eventually arrived at the school. No obvious signage declared its existence, but it was somewhat reassuring to see students dressed uniformly, and the semblance of classrooms.
We were led to a wooden platform covered with a woven roof of leaves where we were introduced to the head (I guess). His father had originally founded the school to teach religion to the very poor (school has to be paid for), but upon his passing, the son had broadened the curriculum to encompass Maths, History and Languages amongst other subjects. After chatting for a while, we were mobilised into action; Tania and Mateo went to one classroom, and Oskar, Luca and I to another. We took the position of teacher at the front of the class – I actually didn’t see one teacher in the classes I went into, though Tania tells me she did – and then the willing students presented themselves and asked us the usual questions.
The children were very excited to have us there and tumbled over themselves to have the chance to speak to all of us. The girls giggled a lot and were again enamoured with my boys; the boys were either a little shy or too cool, but they chipped in as well. After a while, I decided that we should give them a test in vocabulary if they were willing – this gave us a chance to see what they knew as well as put a little structure back into the chaos, and it gave Luca and Oskar an opportunity to participate fully as we pointed to parts of our anatomy and eagerly awaited their responses. There was genuine pleasure on their faces when they knew the answer, and to their credit they knew almost all the English words of the parts of the body we pointed too. Eyelashes (one of Oskar’s) was one they didn’t know – and there were giggles again when we told them that they were used to flirt with boys back home. Luca then proceeded to demonstrate how adept he was at fluttering his eyelashes much to the amusement of the female part of the class.
All too soon, our guide informed us it was time to move on to another class. We mounted some steep concrete stairs (no handrail) to the first floor and passed a class in front of which sat Tania and Mateo. Reunited (briefly) to say a collective hello to her class, I moved on with Oskar and Mateo this time whilst Luca stayed with Mum. Stopping at the class next door we were again at the head of the class and the children were invited to come up to ask us questions. These were younger students and so there was a slight reticence in coming forward, but those that did spoke pretty well – much better than my Indonesian. We thought that the test went well in the last class, so we did the same again. Body parts didn’t last long though as Mateo wanted to do animal noises instead. Those of you who know Mat will recognise that he does enjoy a bit of clowning around, and this proved a perfect opportunity for him to go crazy doing noises and actions. Well, the children loved it, and guessed most of the animals we acted out, and also gave us the Indonesian names for them too.
As lunch time neared, we left the class – much pinching of cheeks and general “you very handsome boy” (to Oskar and Mateo I hasten to add) – and went back to join the head for some refreshments. Very sweet black coffee, some coconut water drink, noodle chips and a kind of black biscuit which was quite tasty. His nephew was also there and we talked of the history of the school, our trip around S.E. Asia and our new roles as teachers for the children during our time away.
It had been a very rewarding experience and an honour to have been invited to the school. With smiles and handshakes all round we begged their leave and thanked them for their hospitality and kindness. Jumping back on the bikes we headed back home feeling very happy and buzzing from the morning’s events.
We had promised the boys a trip to Malimbu beach by scooter that afternoon – Tania and I had agreed to hand back the scooters today since the new-found part of Senggigi was just as good and within walking distance from the home stay. We got the beach stuff and headed off as soon as we could as it was bloomin’ hot, all of us anticipating the crystal waters awaiting us at the end of our ride.
The location did not disappoint us save for a rather gusty wind that sand-blasted us every now and again and we spent a lovely afternoon snorkelling in the clear water. No snakes this time, thank goodness. At one point a solitary figure wandered up the beach carrying a rucksack over one shoulder. He sat down with us and engaged us in conversation. He was self-taught in English, all of it learnt by talking with tourists. He was from Lombok, but had spent some years in Bali before returning to the quiet life.
He also had a long term strategy when it came to selling. He talked with us for a good half an hour before the merchandise came out. He had all the usual necklaces, but also, it transpired, he was somewhat of an artisan and he made bracelets from the spoils of beach combing. More unusually he fabricated bracelets from the roots of deep growing seaweed. This stuff is like thick electrical cable and has to be heated in order to shape it. Not the most elegant jewellery, but honest in its simplicity and, refreshingly, used only natural products from the sea. He was an interesting man and thanked us for talking with him when he left, even though we hadn’t bought anything from him.
As the shadows lengthened the wind blew stronger and when one resulting exfoliation was one too many for Mateo, we packed up and headed home. We ate at Bumbu Cafe again and had whilst there met with the travel agent from two doors down. He was a really friendly guy and the boys always high-fived him when they saw him. Mentioning our plans to go to the Gili islands he instantly told us he had a friend with a nice place on Gili Meno. Ah, we wanted to go to Gili T we said… I have a friend with a place there too. And he could arrange transport etc… We said we would drop by tomorrow. Dinner over, emails done, blogs posted we headed home to Bedfordshire.
What a great day, now THAT is more like it :o)