Day 2: A bump into an old friend

~This is part of the Minahasa-Sangihe Chronicle, a journey by Toshi and Uncle R in their ancestors' homeland in North Sulawesi, which is located just on the Indonesian border facing southern Phillipines. Date of journal: Saturday, 8 March 2008 ~

When I woke up at 8 the next morning, I hurriedly opened our room curtain and I was fascinated to find a bustling city under my feet, but two mountains at the direction of 000º and 090º each.

Wow. My first impression of Manado was how green and tidy it was. And it has an amazing vista on its suburbs, which aroused my curiosity even further.

After having Nasi kuning (yellow-rice fried in kunyit) for breakfast; Uncle R and I headed out to look for Oma Tr’s house.

Oma Tr was apparently a quite well-known figure in Manado since she was the wife of a late acquaintance of a famed General.

Due to her fame, Uncle R was able to locate the house (which was very close to the Jengki fish market) simply by asking at a nearby police station. When we arrived at her home, she was very surprised to see us and gave us a very warm welcome. She wasn’t expecting us at all in the least bit (since we came to North Sulawesi unannounced). Indeed, that was the first time ever that I met any of my paternal grandma’s cousin and I was startled at the striking similarity she bore with my grandma.

She then had a lengthy chit-chat with Uncle R for around two hours. Having never been a skilled conversant, I was mostly left out as I kept on writing stuff they discussed on my worn journal.

Well, although my MP3 player was able to record stuff, it was only able to hold up 512 MB (or about 1 hour of .wav file) and moreover, 90% of it was filled with my fave Jack Johnson and John Mayer songs. Hence my opting for the traditional method of journal-writing (and I had no PDA!)

From that conversation we discovered that some of our known relatives (especially the one in Bitung, a Muslim-dominant city 40 km southeastern of Manado) have been deceased over the last few years, considerably making our family-tree completion more difficult.

I also learned that Manado has recently been urbanized by Gorontalonese migrants, an apparent fact that has been miffing the city mayor over the last few years.

At 11, we bade farewell to Oma Tr then we had an estimated 3 km walk to the Manado to look for lunch. It had been a while till Uncle R realised that he had forgotten to give the Batik souvenir he had bought for Oma Tr. Oh dear.

It wasn’t really sunny that time, the sky had a cloudy overcast that day, which was presumably the reason we could enjoy our 3 km walk to the seaside Boulevard that took us around 45 minutes or so.

I remembered very well about the warnings I heard from Dad (and a couple of Manadonese friends) that dogs (yes, those bone-lover canines) were displayed on the streets as roasted dogs.

I was indeed puzzled as I was unable to spot any of the “roasted dogs”, and Uncle R confirmed my doubts when he told me that such facts were merely exaggerated. Roasted dogs could only be found “deep” in the markets only when you look for them. Haha, no wonder…

In any case, Uncle R just advised me to ask the ingredients of whatever food that they served, just to confirm the facts right.

Trying the local food was something I was very eager to do but apparently, it turned out later that my expectations were too high. Uncle R and I ordered the same menu: a tuna (they call it cakalang) portion and a plate of bitter papaya leaves, and two other Manado-specialty lauk (side dish)…. and I was left with a not-very-good impression of Manado food.

They’re all spicy!! Truly I tell you, the waiters claimed that they weren’t, but it was a matter of fact that was readily available to the highly sensitive tongues of Uncle R and me; which was why Uncle R ordered an extremely sweet es kacang to counter the spiciness. I myself ordered 3 bottles of Tehbotol (a bottled tea brand).

I then decided that it would be my last encounter with Manado food: I was thinking of going to KFC for dinner.

After lunch, we brought some pastries and headed back to Hotel Wisata for a quick nap.

At around 4 PM, we went to Sam Ratulangi’s Gramedia bookstore to have a quick look at what stock of books did they have there. Not that much, really. Comparably, half of the Bintaro Plaza’s stock. And the books there are more pricey! An average comic in Jakarta would cost Rp 12,000 while the same one in Manado cost me a pocket-sucking Rp 13,500.

That’s still a small difference to another book Uncle R found, which had a much wider price gap ratio of 59:74!

We then headed to the cathedral to look for tomorrow’s Sunday Mass schedule and *gasp* I found my old schoolfriend Cecep there!

It actually happened quite funny. He bumped to me as I was entering the chapel door.

Then I heard someone calling, “Toshi!”

I continued walking.

Then he called my name again, a lot of ppl in Manado are named Toshi anyway (my real name is a Christian-sounding one), hence I ignored that call.

When I glanced onto my back, I was surprised to find my old matey Cecep waving his hand to me!

I gaped in amazement, having bumped to an old schoolfriend thousands of kilometers away from Jakarta.

We used to go to the same Catholic primary school of SD Don Bosco in the elite Pondok Indah district of South Jakarta together, and hence I was very surprised to find him in Manado by chance. We chatted for a while and I found out that he had moved to the reputed Sam Ratulangi University of Manado –said to be the most affordable in Indonesia in terms of tuition fee— because he loved his hometown of Manado.

I wasn’t really enjoying Manado that time, despite having been a quite clean and safe city (it was presumably because of my bad encounter with the food) so I was surprised to find out that Cecep loved his hometown!

Well, everyone has their own sense of belongings, don’t they?

Cecep and I agreed to traverse the city on the next day (Sunday), and hence I was delighted to find that Uncle R had no obliging schedule on that day.

Cecep and I parted as he went for his scheduled Saturday evening chapel and I went for a dinner with Uncle R.

“It really is a small world, isn’t it?” Uncle R commented, having seen me encountering Cecep.

“It is,” I grinned.

We went to the beach to see the sunset (which was… *unfortunately* partially blocked by the bloody clouds). I actually expected Manado to resemble Anyer, you know, the typical Jamaican-typical coastal city with the sandy beaches and coconut trees aplenty? But it wasn’t.

Manado was getting more and more urbanised these days; and the proof itself was prevalent in the Boulevard area.

Uncle R noticed a seaside restaurant he had gone to 12 years ago, and now, that so-called seaside restaurant is 500 metres away from the sea!

(In case you don’t get it, my last sentence above meant that 99% of the Boulevard area was reclaimed.)

Such a pity, really. The city developers must have had something like a Kuta-Bali typical street on their minds when developing this Boulevard district of Manado. Yep, I noticed the resemblance… Not a really bad idea honestly, except for the fact that they were too money-oriented (and not people-oriented) when planning this particular part of the city

Both me and Uncle R stuck to our unspoken agreement of not having another dish of Manado speciality as we went to Es Teler to have some baso-dumpling noodles for dinner before heading straight back to the hotel at 8:30.

~to be continued tomorrow~

Anonymous –   – (9 April 2008 at 17:57)  

Man! Am I glad that the roast dog wasn't real *shudder* You did a great job in reporting the trip. Awesome pics too! Have you ever considered to be a journalist?

PS: I'm hooked on Virtual Villager 2 now. All I can think of at work is my tribe people, tech points, and who'll be the next elderly :p

厚山 利彦 (Toshihiko Atsuyama)  – (10 April 2008 at 01:15)  

thanks, d! yep, journalism is the major I'm about to take in college later, that's why this blog now serves as a kind of "exercise field" for me, hehe.

As for VV2, I got kinda bored with it that I chose to uninstall it... it was hard to fill in my collection (esp. the rare ones!) :)

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