28 Oct

In last month’s article I skipped ahead to Malaysia to illustrate what happened with the censorship of the commercial my friends and I made in Bali. My husband and I had decided to stay places we loved a maximum of six weeks, then to move on unless we found work. After being so totally spoiled by the food in Bali, we took a train to Jogjakarta, Java. We didn’t care for the food as much in Java and felt bombarded by all of the noise. We stayed only three days. We did a little shopping for brass statues. Then we found out that we could get to Singapore very cheaply on a tramp steamer. I remember it being $50. They offered first class and “other”. We opted for “other”. We had been warned by fellow travelers that we would be packed up against each other. People suggested that we get onto the boat as early as possible in order to stake out an area where we would have room to spread our sleeping bags out and sleep. We heeded all of their suggestions except for one. “Never carry money in your back pocket”. So, it ended up that a pick-pocket took my husband’s loose cash. Fortunately, the bulk of our money stayed in our moneybelts under our clothes. As we embarked onto the ship, crowds of seemingly poor people, all crowded together around us, pushed and pushed toward it. The crowd lifted us as we proceeded on, at times our feet not touching the ground. I’m sure a lot of money changed hands that day without all of the people realizing it.
When we finally got onto the huge human raft, we decided to try to roll our sleeping bags out side-by-side. This took some doing. Soon after we lay down, a large bully of a man came up to my husband and said, “I cut your throat while you sleep!” He made a graphic gesture with his finger as if cutting his own throat. After that my husband couldn’t sleep. We made it through two nights. We ate rice from a large container that looked like a garbage can. They served us tea out of another large container just by dipping a cup into it.
The next morning brought it’s own form of excitement. I really could not believe what I saw. All of us began to disembark, again with much unnecessary shoving. We felt like animals all pressed together headed for a long swinging ladder. It went from our ship to dozens of tiny rowboats coming to pick us up. They took all 500 or so of us to larger powerboats. At first I felt afraid, but swinging down the ladder felt exhilarating and really got my adrenaline pumping. Since the only food the people on the tramp steamer ate was rice, I felt grateful to receive fish heads on this new vessel. I had not realized how delicious they could taste! To think I would never have tried them if I hadn’t been on such a limited diet. Yum yum!
Next stop – Singapore. . . 


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