ESL in Tual

Our new friends, Paul and Christine on SV TTAAK from Australia, introduced us to Muin.  Muin is 23 years old with a passion for physics and language.  He attended school in Makassar, Indonesia, where his focus was geophysics, but when he realized that there were no English courses in his hometown of Tual, he teamed up with a friend and decided to start one!  He had taken a 3-month course in Java, and continued to improve his English using YouTube to listen to and practice.  Now, he was eager to pass along that language to the youth in his own community.

It just so happened that we were anchored in the Tual harbor the week his class was starting up.  When I first met Muin, I was impressed with his English pronunciation and vocabulary.  He had a strong grasp of the English language.  He tried to be shy and nervous at first, but my barrage of questions didn’t give him room to stay quiet.  Gradually, he shed his nerves, and we found we had a lot to talk about!  We met up again, before hi…

Pygmy Seahorse Spotting - Leave it to the Professionals!

When all else fails, call in the professionals!  For the past 3 months in Indonesia, we were seeking out the elusive pygmy seahorses that are said to live in the delicate branches of the sea fan.  Today was the day I finally gave up and opened my wallet.  After all, the folks at Triton Bay Dive Resort boasted five species of the tiny invertebrates, and I’d failed to find even one on my own.  So, Mark, Elizabeth, and I suited up to go on a dive with ‘Jack’ - the master of finding the macro.

Before entering the water, he told us we’d try to see all five species in this one dive.  I desperately wanted to believe him, but internally I scoffed, “All five in one?  I’d be happy with even one!”  I shushed the pessimistic doubter in me and flipped backwards into the water, determined to stay right with Macro Jack and his bionic eyes.

Immediately, Jack had honed in on a pink gorgonian sea fan and was carefully looking through it to find a pygmy.  His flashlight glinted at me and he motioned …

Triton Bay

From Tual, we had a rocky sail back east to Triton Bay, an up and coming diving area that offers gorgeous beaches, daily hornbill sightings, and diverse marine life.  The best part about Triton Bay, in my opinion, is the shallow, sandy-bottomed bays whose calm waters have provided me with the best nights of sleep I’ve had in a long time.

Each morning, I’d awake refreshed, grab my coffee, and sit out on the deck watching the birds fly overhead in their daily migrations as the sun came up.  Ahhh.  What a sweet way to start my day!  
The first place we anchored was near the mouth of a shallow lagoon where we’d later beach the boat to dry out the bottom.  Lately, the nutrient rich waters that feed so much of Indonesia’s marine life had created a stubborn coating of flora and fauna below our waterline.  The shallow (2.0 m) lagoon lowered to 1 meter at low tide, leaving the boat sitting up on its keels to dry out.  Unfortunately, the sand wasn’t exactly level, so we were left feeling like…

Taste of Tual

Since arriving in Tual, high winds have kept us hunkering down on board for the first three days, but now, the calm has come.  We are desperate to restock our produce stores, as we’re down to one yellowing cucumber and a few precious refrigerated green apples.

The market in Tual consists of a maze of alleyways, crowded with individual stalls.  Sure, we could find what we needed eventually, but when we took a local bus (4,000 IDR per person or 30 US cents) to the neighboring island just over the bridge, the vast fresh market wowed us.  I felt like I’d died and gone to whole foods heaven!

While we were out and about, we decided to enjoy a local meal.  Our friends on SV Adamastor highly recommended one alley that was lined with food carts.  Jess specifically encouraged me to try the Soto Ayam.  One older woman was the only one brave enough to call us over to her cart, so that made our decision for us.  We ordered a few dishes - one bakso (meatball soup) and one soto ayam (essentially …

Staking Claim in Misool (Souther Raja Ampat)

Cabin fever has infiltrated Field Trip, and I nearly have a mutiny on my hands.  Since being in Misool, Mark and I have been diving maniacs.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s sinus cold is still lingering, which is keeping her above water, and Michael isn’t quite ready for the diving here.  That means they’ve had a lot of boat time.  The deep anchorages and steep rocky islands don’t offer any chance for shore or beach play either, so the natives were getting restless!

This afternoon, I decided to break the onboard rut they were in and demanded they hop in the dinghy with me to get some fresh air and new scenery.  The first island we approached was atop one of the dive spots Mark and I had dove a few days earlier.  We found a reasonable place for the kids to disembark along the spiky, limestone wall and were careful to keep the dinghy from the sharp edges as they clambered ashore.

Weathering on the surface had created a craggly minefield of sharp, protruding limestone, the spikes of which c…