Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sit on a hot bus filled with thirty 11th grade students for 15 consecutive hours while driving along windy mountain roads? Well I am here to tell you all about it!!!
I’m not entirely sure what it was that took over my body and convinced me to go on this crazy trip, but I’m sure as hell glad that I did. Not only did I get to spend valuable time with my students, but I got to travel across Flores for free ;))))) Now for a brief synopsis of each day…
Day 1: On November 24th, I woke up at the reasonable hour of 3:30am to head to school. The 5 male teachers I would be leading the trip with, and the smiling faces of 154 students greeted me. To say that I was a walking zombie would be an understatement. We boarded our buses, six in total, and I immediately popped a dramamine. My counterpart paired me with another young teacher in the UPW (tourism) program to be in charge of one bus. Lucky for me, this bus was filled with one of my favorite classes. I was super excited for the trip that laid ahead, and for the students to quiet down and go back to sleep.
Two important things:
- I have learned that Indonesians’ favorite past time is making noise.
- Dramamine will knock me out for hours and turns me into a caricature of myself.
I forgot both of these things.
By the time we left, it was 4:00am and I don’t think my students could have been more awake. Instead of falling asleep, rage music immediately started bumping and a handful of kids started hanging off the side of the bus. Our caravan of buses must have been quite the scene to behold. This is how we traveled for the next 3 days.
There isn’t really much else to tell you about this day because as I said before, dramamine knocks me out for hours. I spent the next 15 hours drifting in and out of consciousness. We stopped in a village called Lembor for lunch, which I don’t really remember because I was basically blacked out. We arrived in Ende at around 8:30pm and stayed in what was probably the grossest hotel/hostel I’ve ever been in. The bathroom was moldy and I showered with a bucket and basically slept on a metal frame. I was so tired and out of it, that I fell asleep despite everything. Apparently the teachers I was with kept knocking on my door to see if I was okay, but I slept through the whole thing. Oh well! (???)
Lesson of the day: Don’t take drugs and then try to be a good mentor for your students!
Day 2: On November 25th, we woke up at the reasonable hour of 4:00am to drive to Kelimutu National Park. Thanks to my trusty friend dramamine, I was super well rested and excited to take on the day. The drive through the mountains and villages surrounding Kelimutu was spectacular, especially with the sun rising in the background. The raging techno music at 5am also added a nice touch.
Kelimutu volcano is one of Flores’ main attractions because it has three different colored lakes on the top of it. The majority of my students had never visited Kelimutu before, which made the day even more exciting. Also, this experience was especially important to them because they all study tourism.
After a short walk to the top of the volcano, it became clear to me that the next couple of hours would be a selfie spree. I swear to God that I’ve never taken so many pictures in my life! In between pictures, I was able to enjoy the scenery. If anyone is planning on visiting Flores, I highly recommend that you check out Kelimutu. The lakes are beautiful and the wildlife is also pretty awesome. I even took a selfie with a monkey lol!
Our afternoon was spent back on the road, driving from Ende to Bajawa. This section of road was especially beautiful. The first half of the drive was right along the ocean and then later went into the mountains. Before arriving in Bajawa we stopped at some hot springs (which unfortunately I don’t remember the name of). Although I didn’t want to go in, a group of my most nakal (naughty) students pushed me in. More and more selfies ensued.
We spent the night at a hotel in Bajawa, which is the city where my counterpart is from. This hotel was infinitely better than the night before, and I was able to take my first hot shower in three months! Since Bajawa is in the mountains, it was only about 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night. I must admit that I got some sort of sick satisfaction from watching my students shiver. Maybe it’s because I’ve been sweating my way through Labuan Bajo life thus far??? It’s about 90 degrees here every day.
Lesson of the Day: Hanging off the side of a bus is an efficient way to cool off, and also an efficient way to die.
Day 3: On November 26th, we woke up at 7:00am to head to Bena traditional village. Bena is located just outside of Bajawa and is one of many traditional villages on Flores Island. These traditional villages usually consist of grass huts located in a remote mountainous area. Bena was stunningly beautiful. One of the highlights of my trip was drinking local coffee in a hut with Bena locals and the 5 co-teachers I led the trip with.
However, from conversations I’ve had with some people, I have learned that many of these traditional villages are becoming overrun with tourists. In various villages, not enough infrastructure has been developed to help maintain customs and culture. Apparently, Bena village is a prime example of this. This all feeds back into what I’ve covered in past posts; tourism in Flores is expanding at a rapid rate and many people are concerned that the island might not be able to handle it.
Tangent aside, after we left Bena we started our 9 hour journey home. We stopped at the beach to enjoy lunch and then stopped in Lembor again for dinner. We arrived unscathed in Labuan Bajo on Saturday night around 9pm.
Lesson of the Day: Indonesians have a special gift for being able to sleep anywhere, like on a giant pile of backpacks on a bus driving 60 mph on windy mountain roads.
This field trip was hands down one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would drive across an Indonesian island for 3 days with a caravan of 154 11th graders. But hey, I did it and I loved (almost) every second of it.
Prior to this trip, I hadn’t traveled outside of Labuan Bajo, so this trip was especially eye opening for me. The majority of my students are from small villages located outside of Labuan Bajo, and we saw a handful of these villages during our trip.
Flores Island is hands down the poorest place I’ve ever been, and one of the poorest islands in Indonesia. I knew this prior to arriving in Labuan Bajo, but to be honest with you, exploring the rest of the island kind of blew my mind. I still don’t quite know how to formulate my thoughts and words about it, but once I do I promise to write more about it.
This trip completely flipped my perspective about where I live. I learned that Labuan Bajo is considered to be the metropolis of the island. This in itself astounded me. The neighborhood that I live in is very poor, and I myself have experienced my share of hardships while living here (see Hard is Hard). For example, upon arriving in Labuan Bajo, I was shocked that my toilet didn’t flush and that my shower head was located almost directly over my toilet. I am now used to these aspects of my life, and have even grown to love them. However, the initial shock upon arriving from the Western world was hard.
All of this pales in comparison to the rest of Flores, especially the more remote mountain villages. I spent many hours of this trip thinking about my presence here. On the one hand, I feel guilty about being here and living on a comfortable salary provide by the US government. But on the other hand, I know that teaching English to my students will help them get jobs that will improve their lives. I suppose it’s all relative, but it’s most definitely important to think and talk about. This trip was life changing to say the least– it’s amazing what can happen in three short days.