Octavianus is from Flores. His skin is a bit darker. He has friendly eyes. He manoeuvres us through the shitty traffic of Manado.
Do you miss it, I ask, Flores?
I am very very homesick.
Why do you stay?
To survive. (literally his words) On Flores no Bluebird.
Bluebird is the taxi company Octavianus works for, which branches out all over Sulawesi. But not in Flores, apparently. Bluebird feels the effect of the likes of Uber, Grab and GoCar. There has been fighting, he says, in Bali, in Makassar.
I make 5000.000 a month, when it is a good month, Octavianus says. Xmas is the best. I want to go back to Bali. Better business there.
5000.000 seems a little bit steep. A policeman makes that much.
Manado life and traffic.
Octavianus sleeps in quarters provided by Bluebird. Four people in one room. Communal bathroom. He goes home every three days, to be with his family, who lives eighty kilometers out of Manado.
Every year, when travelling, we give some money to what we call a good cause. Octavianus isn’t the poorest Indonesian. He isn’t miserable. But he is so nice, so friendly, and, according to our standards, he hasn’t struck it rich, nor does he want to. He didn’t ask for money, not even for a tip. We give him a fifth of his monthly salary. For us, it isn’t much, but it is something. We could give at home, to Medics Without Frontiers, or WWF. But this feels more personal.
We are going back to Belgium, after a month of Sulawesi. And we will miss it. It is an easy to travel island, with great variety in nature and culture. We might even come back, see the Toggians, climb a volcano, get a Padi, see the Easter Island like statues in middle Sulawesi, do a trekking. We wouldn’t especially go back for the local cuisine. The Indonesian food isn’t bad, but the menu is always more or less the same. We wouldn’t necessary go back for the awesome views of snowy mountains, though the landscape is sometimes breathtaking. We would definitely not go back for the cities, because they are, truth be told, uninspiring.
We would come back for Octavianus. And for the Sulawesi.
Going home …