Ambon for us was complete culture shock. It is about as far from tropical paradise as it seems possible to get. Rather it’s a full on frontal assault of the senses: hot, noisy, smelly, ugly and totally chocked by humans and their shit and garbage - humans walking, driving, motorbiking, sleeping, talking, playing - everywhere humans - and almost all very poor. We played 'spot the European' for days on end and failed to see another whitey. Almost nobody spoke English.
Despite the crowding its citizens run there lives with patience, humour and zest. We saw no obvious road rage, no anger, no rudeness. Nobody tried to rip us off (not hard anyway) - rather most were, by Australian standards, zealously honest. The few people we most interacted with went miles out of their way to help and assist us despite the sometimes excruciating language difficulties.
That humans, in such crowded impoverished circumstances, manage to conduct their lives with such grace and dignity is beyond me. Oh that Australians in Australia could do half as well - certainly not I!
|Housing clinging, not always successfully, to the steep slopes around town.|
|On the way to the downtown market...|
|Sunset over a captured illegal Phillipino fishing boat.|
A big feature of our visit to Ambon was the chance to visit the Ambon War Cemetery where the remains of Vicki’s great uncle Lawrence Scott were interred. Lawrie, a Tasmanian from the town of Tunnack, entered WWII as part of Sparrow Force, dying at the age of 21 as a POW in a Japanese camp in Ambon in 1942. Vicki’s much loved grandmother, Muriel Sherburd, was Lawrie’s older sister. Muriel mourned her little brother’s early departure till the day she herself died, age 94, in 2009.
Vicki and her children were the first of Lawrie’s direct relatives to ever visit his grave – an important occasion for the extended family and a moving one for us – Ambon is a hell of a long way from rural Tasmania.
|The immaculately maintained Ambon War Cemetery.|
And while in Ambon we all got sick! Cold, flu type maladies that left us flat, tired and listless with dry, rasping coughs. Finally, escaping Ambon on 25 August we headed off for the village of Wanci on Wangi Wangi Island.