In Maumere, it took two days for us to find the market. The first day, the scooter driver sent us to the right. The man selling bananas sent us left. The schoolgirls sent us to the back of town. The bemo driver took us to the park. By the end of the day, we were sure it was a plot to confuse the foreigners. Eventually, we headed home with our purchases from the supermarket that we had found. The supermarket was a large building with tidily ordered rows of teas and cookies and soap, wrapped, then double wrapped, and then triple wrapped with plastic. The only fresh food was imported apples at $7 a kilo. However, we did manage to find the lone pork chop, buried deep in the freezer and frozen rock solid. We wearily trudged home, tired of the heat and disappointed that we had been unable to find the market. We were unpacking our groceries, when we realized that we had accidently bought long-life chocolate milk. I didn’t even know that that existed!
The next day, we took off at 8am, determined, that this time, the market would not escape. We marched off, filled with new resolve. We weren’t exactly sure how we would find the market, but find it we would. We passed the park, with the large statue of Jesus smiling blindly and benevolently down on the cracked pavement and withered shrubs. Two teenage girls walked laughing, towards us. “Hello mister! How are you?” one asked, and then burst into a new fit of giggles with her friend. It appears that in Indonesia, foreigners of both genders are ‘mister’. We smiled and waved and called, ‘Selemat pagi! Di mana pasar?” (Good morning! Where is the market?) The two girls pointed different ways, had a brief argument, and then smiled, and both pointed the same way. We thanked them and walked away.
After a couple of blocks, the girls appeared again. They started to lead us to the market and it seemed as if they were our self-appointed guides. It turned out that they were in a tourism program, learning English, so that they could go to Bali and work in hotel management. They were fifteen, and living in a boarding house with several other girls while their parents worked in Bali. They got us to the market, and we bought them ice-cream as a thank you. They then marched us back to the boat, practising their English with us all the way. When we got close to the boat, we were joined by another friend of theirs, also in the tourism program. She was seventeen, and her English was quite good. We invited them back to the boat, eager to repay them for being such wonderful guides. After much giggles, they accepted. They loved Charlie and also the artwork on the walls. We exchanged phone-numbers and facebook, and promised to stay in touch. They laughed and grinned and then indicated that they must go. Wishing them luck, we waved as my dad took the back to the wharf. They were so sweet and so kind and I hope that they will succeed in whatever they do.