Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Croak

So my last project at Traveler is writing an article about tourism on the Indonesian isle of Flores. For those of you who are too stupid to live, the announcement of three-foot-tall humanoid fossils on Flores a month ago catapulted it into the news. (It also forced evolutionary science to re-examine itself somewhat, but that’s a different post for a different blog — probably Science Josh’s.)

I was hoping to write an article about the boom in tourism interest for the island, particularly the village of Liang Bua. Few had ever heard of the place before, but suddenly news articles talking about its rustic, almost primeval charm, had motivated people to try to go there. The French version of the Associated Press even ran a story on specifically that subject, so I was hoping I could springboard off that short article into something larger.

My research, unfortunately, has made me realize that Flores is the Indonesian equivalent of the Ozarks.

There’s not a whole lot to do or see there, and for three good reasons:
  • You can’t actually see the “Hobbit” fossils, as they were shipped away to be studied.
  • Furthermore, the closest you can get to said fossils is a distance away from the excavation site, which is a cave. Basically, the island’s tourism highlight is a cave.
  • The island is near Komodo, which has the famous Komodo Dragons, the largest predatory reptiles in the world. They can eat a goat whole. If you had to chose between one and the other, what would you want to see?
  • What Flores does have is these three lakes with colored water: one blue, one red and one green. However, the green one recently turned to a color they euphemistically refer to as “cafĂ© au lait.” Shit brown, I’d assume.
On top of that, Indonesia is basically on the opposite side of the world from Washington, D.C. The eleven-hour time difference makes phone interviews difficult.

Nonetheless, I received an email from some Indonesian tourism jockey that attempted to answer some of my questions. While the letter offered very little in the way of information, I found it highly entertaining, as did Canada Sue and UCSB Melanie. And now for your entertainment, I present selections of it here. (For legal reasons, I’ve changed his name to “Babu.” The capitalization is Babu’s, not mine, though I have bolded a certain section in which he mentions having successfully starting a war.)
Dear Mr. Drew Mxxxxx,
Thank you very much for your email about some questions.
Here are some point of my response:

Our company has recently success in organising the Pasola War on Sumba island specially hosted for the guest from Hapag Lloyd Germany. A hundred guests attend the event which we organised worked with the local government and local people.

This year our begining success was with Sri Chinmoy (the most popular prayer) from your lovely city Washington city, then Happag Lloy ships to West Timor on February.

Now we focus our attention to make the LIANG BUA as one of the HIGHLIGHTS on Flores and Komodo trip. We are fully aware the beginner may not be a successor but we want to be a frontier to get the LIANG BUA to be promote as the HIGHLIGHTS.

We always explain at the beginning to the people that their visit mainly NOT to see the FOSSILS but at least to make them understand the real site where NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY found the place and fossil.

EBO GOGO, OLA BULA ARE not yet on the people questions. But many of the visitors, specially from the archiogist traveling from village to village asking people whether they know some ancient ruins or any for their studies. From what I knew, every findings are similar to the story of the Flores legend such ANA DEO and more traditional legend.

THIS IS A UNIQUE WHY I COULD SAY IT SIMILAR TO THE STORY OF THE LEGEND.

YES.... I THINK SO THAT MORE PEOPLE WILL VISIT FLORES. The National Geography on your news has given a significant values of the broadcasting to contribute the islands from the eyes of the world. So i think it could be more and more eyes paying to the lovely island Flores, as they are much more and many ancients heritage.

I feel and trust as local there will be many people coming in to Flores specially those who are interested in special interest tours and adventure. One point may be we upset was WHY THE FOSSIL DOES NOT PLACED IN FLORES...?? This is a questions that of course will never influence those who are on the upper people.

BUT IF WE COULD PROMOTE AND EXPOSE THE SITE AND TRIP to FLORES. THEN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY AND US GIVE A REAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE LOCAL TO ACHIEVE THEIR DESIRE.

Thank you very much for your kind support.
Best regards,
[Babu]
Personally, I think it’s funniest if you try to read it out loud, in a serious newscaster voice like the lack of grammar doesn’t matter.

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