Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rising above the unwashed masses

The search for paradise creates strange incentives. While at times, in a land where no one speaks your language, it can be a wonderful sight to spot another foreigner -- someone to converse with, to play a game of chess, or to exchange a book.

However, when scarce resources become involved, the foreigner becomes your enemy.

Case in point, the night ferry from the Togean islands back to Gorontalo last night. There were around 15-20 foreigners on the boat, and only 4 nice cabins with A/C, electricity. Every foreigner on that boat was a threat to my abilit to get a cabin.

However, I was in luck, because I don't play fair.

Before heading off to catch the ferry, I had a chat with Lani, one of the friendly dive-instructors at the Black Marlin -- the same company whose agent in Gorontalo had reserved me a cabin the previous week.

Lani called his buddy, and asked to reserve a room for me.

Hours later, I met his buddy -- Ali, an english speaking gangster, with tattoos, needle marks, and a really friendly personality. He looked a bit like Vinny Jones, and we chatted for quite a bit of time. It seems that Ali knows -everyone- in town, and if anyone needs any business done, it usually happens through him. Not someone you want as your enemy, but a perfect person to have in your side of the ring.

Thus, when the boat docked, and the foreigners, indonesians, and goats all pushed and shoved their way to get onboard, I stood patiently on the dock.. Minutes later, once the crowd had cleared, Ali strolled off, handed me my key, and I was done.

No other foreigners managed to obtain a cabin on that boat -- it was packed to the gills with 2 local football teams.

I did at one point head downstairs to the economy class seats -- a sweaty, stinky den, melding the scents of urine, sweat and tobacco smoke. It made me glad, almost euphoric that I had managed to use my connections to get a cabin.

And thus, when I catch the boat _back_ to the islands on Wednesday, a crappy boat without A/C cabins, I'm going to experience something far closer to that economy class experience.

All because of you Mike, all because of you.

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