East Nusa Tenggara province, or in Indonesian we call Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) is surprisingly huge! I’ve just probably noticed that since my recent travel to Pulau Alor (Alor Island) on the 10-12 December 2016. Alor, along with other big islands and regencies in the East Nusa Tenggara (Sumba, Flores, Lembata, Ende, Maumere, Kupang — Yes, I finally know that they are still part of NTT) are home to many dive sites and beautiful marine wildlife with locals who may look and talk like nothing you’d find in large cities of Indonesia. They are the people of East Indonesia who many are descendants of the neighboring Papua, that inherits dark skin, curly hair in many ways. Different, I thought, and much to my surprise, I fell in love with this paradise.
After all the traveling I’ve done, this was my first time going on a trip to do a mission. Social traveling you may say. It was a mission to help expose the less-explored beautiful island in East Nusa Tenggara, Alor Island. Not many of you know, but Alor Island have actually been rewarded recently for having the most popular dive spots from Anugerah Pesona Indonesia Award 2016. So my curiosity was challenged when a friend posted about this social trip organized by Thank You Indonesia movement with a tagline, “Jelajah Alor. Mewarnai Pulau,” which basically means to explore Alor Island and paint them in colors! If that does not sound promisingly fun, I don’t know what else is.
The mission was done in a small island off the coast of Alor, called Pura Island. There are about over 140 houses in a steep rocky hills with village locals who has deep intimacies with their culture and are very open for innovation. This social project is done to fully raise the awareness of this island to many Indonesians and obviously to the world. We helped paint bright colors to the houses in this island, starting in Harilolong Village, since they are the most visible from the ocean. The goal was one: to help many diver boats and sailing ships to notice this multicolored houses in order to pay a visit to Pura Island. So tourists won’t only visit to explore the underwater heaven Alor has to offer, but also to meet many promising new friends and exposure to culture that are so rich, it will leave you in so much awe.
The friendly and hospitable Pura Island locals who cherishes their culture will welcome guests in the coolest tradition. Dancing! Lego Lego dance, is a traditional dance where locals will gather hand in hand (pinky in pinky, actually) in circle, moving in specified steps, while singing and chanting followed by the traditional gongs and drums. Lego Lego dance is part of their way to enunciate gratitude for the guests that comes by. I was lucky to experience this awesome dance, being one with the locals who chants loudly and move with steps that are hard to process by the brain. (Even I who dances on a regular basis still got lost in their steps).
I was in so much envy from where these people live. I mean, climbing those steep rocks everyday, only to find endless panoramic beauty by the window of your house is definitely an eye pleaser. The view of neighboring island in full lush, the ocean in the middle with the knowledge of fresh resources underneath the surface of the ocean only made this island so precious.
Okay, so the mission started as for us to paint the villagers’ houses in bright colors. My friends and I was set out in groups to do one local’s house. We were assigned to do a house of Mr. Max Namaboling, a name very unfamiliar for many of us who lives in the capital. It was a tough yet cool name to remember. Papa Max (as many people here would call in familiarity) lives uphill almost in the steepest top of the island. We were climbing those rocks and steep trails drenched in sweat to get to his house. But alas, the scenery we saw after we got there, left us…speechless.
I was already picturing myself on the set of a movie based in Greece, Mammamia when I got there! Bougainvillea flowers bright atop his roof, overlooking the sea and the neighboring island. Gorgeous! Lucky man. But it was not only him, almost all of the houses in this island have the same exact view. Aren’t you envious? After spending time painting bright blue color on the side of his house, we were offered delicious bunch of mangoes, fresh from the trees! Villagers of Pura Island are all-rounded farmers, fishermen, agriculturist of many. So no wonder they’d have supplies of fresh fish, veggies, fruits, even their own traditional gin made fresh from the Lontar tree. Late afternoon talks with the locals only made us fall in love over and over with their tranquility of innocence and willingness to exchange life stories. Their heavy Eastern Indonesia accents and language is very unusual, but that doesn’t stop the fact that we’d still be able to communicate. Still, with those heavy accents, the beauty of Bahasa Indonesia that unites our conversation as one is what made me proud of being an Indonesian.
There are so many places to explore in Alor, not only in Pura Island itself, but the beaches and other wonderful adventure-filled sites in Alor that is waiting for you to notice. I myself would also love going back here, not only to see how the locals’ been treating their island, but also to dive all the way underneath their beautiful ocean! I want to write so much more about this beautiful place, because what I experience through out doesn’t seem enough to put in writings. Go and explore it yourself, I dare you. Again, thanks to Thank You Indonesia movement for organizing such wonderful social trip and leaving us all mesmerized by the beautiful Alor.