I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Over the Top

Did you know that I am a movie star? Because as far as people in Buton are concerned, we - me and the other 30 or so white people on Sail Indonesia - are. I had always wondered what it would be like to be adored - people clambering over one another just to touch my hand, take a picture of me or better yet, take a picture with me, crying tears of joy just because of my presence (not joking). Of course I have done nothing to impress these people other than have white skin and come from a land far away, but apparently, it is enough. And not only is the local reaction the to us what makes me feel like absolute royalty, but the way we are treated by Sail Indonesia. I know I have already gone on about this in previous posts but seriously, this shit is over the top.

We arrived in Buton, an island off the east coast of Sulawesi (not to be confused with Bhutan), a few days ago. Upon arrival we were greeted with a massive welcome ceremony that I opted out of because at that point I couldn't stomach another traditional feast and more pictures. Ironically, the welcome ceremony wasn't any of that, but the events that followed have been full of speeches by important people - the governor, the minister of tourism - massive traditional feasts, customary dances, hundreds of pictures with random people and overwhelming hospitality. And it has all been for us, the yachties of Sail Indonesia 2013.

Yesterday we came into shore yesterday morning and were whisked into tents to be dressed in traditional garb. I was wrapped in a yellow sarong and tunic which made me feel like a princess, except that it was ridiculously hot. We sat politely through multiple speeches (mostly in Indonesian) by high-up government officials before being invited to the Dole-Dole ceremony. This ceremony, in which one thousand women of marriageable age literally feed people food who then give them a small gift in return, was one of the strangest things I have ever done.

You must understand that the scene was hectic: one thousand girls with huge trays of food lined up on the floor under tents, thousands more people watching, thronging us trying to take pictures or touch us, and being led by our personal guides to a random platter to be fed by a girl while her family watched on. Bizzare.

I sat down at a platter. A shy girl covered in makeup introduced herself, unwrapped some food from a banana leaf and held it to my mouth. I managed not to drool or spit anything out as I took a bite. Rice. Ok, rice is good, I can eat rice. Hmmmm... what else doesn't look too weird. Keep in mind that I was just recovering from a sick stomach and not feeling very adventurous. I ate a few more things, all spoon fed to me by the girl, and smiled and made yummy noises after each one. She was obviously nervous and I was nervous, but more because there were ten cameras trained on me and I was afraid of getting a mouthful of something I did not want.

Finally, the meal seemed to come to a close and I paid the girl 5,000 rupiah (about .50) before wishing her luck and leaving. I was then swarmed by people for the next 20 minutes who wanted their picture taken with me. I resolved to standing still with a smile plastered on my face while people draped themselves on either side of me. Finally I had enough and my guides shooed people away so I could get back to the dinghy. I now have sympathy for famous people who get mobbed by paparazzi and hysterical fans. Because that is what it was like.

Aside from Dad getting a serious case of food poisoning, I would say the Dole-Dole was a success. But of course that was not enough for one day, so Sail Indonesia planned a gala dinner for us that night. We all went back to our boats and recuperated for a few hours before returning for dinner. By this time the dusty field where the previous events had taken place was transformed into a classy restaurant with white table cloths, buffet tables and white christmas lights for atmosphere. I was blown away.

The food was amazing. Even the roasted cow heart wasn't too bad, but I kept picturing Daenerys from Game of Thrones macking on that huge, raw horse heart and it made my stomach churn. The curry shrimp, the nasi goreng, the soups and salads and never-ending dessert tray totally impressed me. After dinner there was an "awards ceremony" where each of us was given a framed certificate from the government of Buton. But why? All we did was show up. We haven't even spent a dollar in the village. I guess it gives a whole new meaning to "99% of success is showing up."

Tired yet? I am. But the fun doesn't stop there. Today we were the guests of honor at the Takawa Colossal Dance Show, a dance that involved 12,500 dancers. And I promise you, there were at least 12,500 dancers. First we were whisked away in air conditioned cars to the dance, with escorts and flashing lights and signs on each car that said "Sail Indonesia VIP". When we arrived (after passing thousands of people hiking up a dirt road in the hot sun) we were given special seats on a balcony overlooking the whole dance area in the shade. With water bottles for everybody. And a plate of food.

The dance was nuts. Can you imagine 12,500 dancers? It is hard to, but think Soviet Russia parades or North Korean shows... this was kind of like that. Totally overwhelming. At one point the dancers held up a "Sail Indonesia Buton 2013" sign and then proceeded form the shape of a boat. I am not saying the dance was specifically for us, but we definitely influenced it.

After the grand finale we were all invited to go down and dance with the dancers. I didn't want to but went out of obligation, and as soon as I got down to the dancers I was mobbed by people trying to take pictures with me. Mobbed as in people pushing each other out of the way, pulling me in multiple directions, grabbing my hands and hugging my legs. I don't know what the infatuation with white people is, but people were crying to get their picture taken with us.

My guides pulled me back to safety and the balcony was cordoned off from people trying in to take pictures. It was out of control, chaos, wild, an experience of a lifetime... but I am glad it is over. We were whisked back into cars and brought back to the dinghies this afternoon, only to learn that tomorrow we are going to a village a few hours away and are going to be staying overnight in hotels there. I think we have been effectively kidnapped by Sail Indonesia. To say the least it is over the top.
At 8/22/2013 7:30 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 05°30.71'S 122°50.79'E

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