The city of Ambon

6 August 2016
Femke Lobach

Finally a dream come through, I am in Ambon. This city with an exotic name. It has been raining constantly for the last few days. Rivers and mud flow into the sea. Clear seawater turns into a brownish muddy liquid. Suddenly a chair pops up in the water. ‘Watch out’ I shout to Gijs. The closer DSC06751we get to the city the more rubbish we see in the water; plastic, garbage, chairs, tables, a fridge, palm leaves, wood and oil. We sail past rusted freight vessels at anchor, a graveyard at sea.

We have to turn around there is just too much rubbish and too much mud. Finally we find a spot to throw out our anchor, near the village Amahusu. I just don’t dare to start the generator; too much plastic is floating around and can be sucked in and block the inlet. Rain still torments the yacht, I am soaking wet. Everything is humid and wet inside and outside. Is this the exotic city I heard so much about? Where are Max Havelaar, Louis Couperus or Kris Pusaka? What happened to the Asian version of ‘thousand and one nights’?

Shacks, churches, mosques, old buildings, new government buildings, old colonial houses, DSC06764overflowing rivers like an open sewer system. Garbage everywhere. Cockroaches, rats, mosquitos. A bloated dead rat passes our yacht. Huge fishes, it must be tuna, and dolphins jump out of the water in pursuit of their prey. How can people and fish live in this horrible rubbish?

The people of Ambon are incredibly friendly. ‘Belanda, Belanda, Van Persie, Sneyder, and Robbe’. ‘Hello Mister’. Children walk around us and giggle when we join them in the little busses that take us into town. We are one of the very few tourists. I admire these people. I feel humble for their kindness and the way they approach life. Despite all the garbage and the dirty city, I do feel welcome. A few ladies of a small street food place, a makan, try to teach me how to make bumbu, rendang and ikan. We have so much fun. When I leave an hour later, everyone in the street laughs and shouts ‘lekker, lekker’. It is raining again and they help me stop a local bus. ‘Terima kasi’, thank you, ‘Dankie’.

Gijs buys a shirt in a tiny shop or better a shack. He fits the shirt while eight men watch him, laugh and keep saying ‘good, good’. ‘Nice, nice’. ‘You buy’. The women giggle when they see his bare chest.

DSC06759The military are everywhere, government-employees drive around in new cars but most of the inhabitants have nothing more than four walls, a roof and a scooter. I once more realize that caring for the environment truly is a luxury product and the least of their worries in this huge city. I feel how spoilt and lucky I am, born and raised in The Netherlands and just a visitor passing by.


3 comments to “The city of Ambon”

  1. Witlox says:

    What a nice story again, !!!

  2. Olga says:

    Een prachtig stukje Femke

  3. Peter Mainsheeter says:

    Happy Birthday Femke!

    Good luck and stay healthy!

    Peter “Mainsheeter”