Paga. A seaside village, a few fishing boats, a high school.

The soreness from my crash is starting to kick in, along with the self-recriminations. So I just need to take a deep breath. Remember why I’m here, why I’m wandering around the world on my own with my motorbike, and this is the answer: the little things. The small moments of daily life, shared with people whose viewpoint on the world is different from my own.

So I walk the length of the village looking for food, and two little boys – maybe five and seven, obviously brothers – are also walking the length of the village hawking freshly cooked doughnuts. Hello, mister! they call out to me, their faces impish with delight. They’re cards – they pepper me with questions – and they sell me some doughnuts, seribu each. They are singing to themselves and dancing along the footpath, until the older boy breaks out into a full rendition of Despacito, complete with dance moves. It reminds me of when I was a little kid, and the endless games my sister and I would invent when we were sent out into the bush to gather kindling. It was a boring job, so we invented an entire fantasy world to go with it. These little boys are doing their daily chores, selling doughnuts for mum, and they’ve made a cabaret out of it.

I keep walking with a smile on my face. It’s a small village, but there are two tiny beauty salons. They are both run by fabulous transgender individuals sporting elaborate hair treatments. I try to remember when I last combed my hair.

People watch me with interest as I walk along the street; some of the young girls giggle, and I see a freckled pale skinned girl laughing shyly at me from the shade of a doorway. Is she albino, or is she Caucasian? From the fleeting glimpse, I can’t tell.

At the end of the village, I find women selling fresh vegetables. I buy kangkung, eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, chillis. I try to buy fresh coffee from a shop where they’ve been roasting and grinding coffee that day – the smell still hangs tantalisingly in the air – but they’ve already sold it all.

At another smaller shop, I ask for soap. The girl shows me a selection of the most popular products but I shake my head. They’re all ‘whitening’. ‘But I’m already white!’ I tell the girl desperately and she laughs hard before digging out some normal soap for me.

Making my way back through the village, I pass a procession of men and women walking the opposite direction wearing beautiful traditional kain. Perhaps they are going to church, or some special event. The old women want to know where I’m going with the vegetables, what I’m going to do with them. I’m going to cook them, of course! I say, and they all chortle in amazement that the white girl knows how to cook kangkung. Of course I do, I tell them, I’m not useless! Who doesn’t know how to cook kangkung!

I kind of love how the old women openly tease me about being white. It’s honest and good natured and it reminds me of home.

The last thing on my shopping list is beer. Today, I crashed my motorbike and slid forty metres down a road on one knee. I could do with a beer.

So I ask around at a few shops. In one shop, I meet Karolin. They have no beer, but we chat easily. Karolin is about my age, and an English teacher at the local high school. She’s gentle and elegant and interested in the world, and I leave with a new friend and an invitation to speak at the school.

* * *

The homestay is a bungalow on the beach. There are no waves, just smooth dark sand and water that changes from azure to purple depending on the colour of the sky.


I swim there, three or four times a day. There’s no-one on the beach except for the fisherman who chug past in wooden boats several times a day.

I have a rest. Then a few days later, Beastie and I go to school.

* * *

Karolin teaches English at the local high school, and she wants me to come and talk to her class. She tells me that her students all study English for years but, here in Paga, they rarely get the chance to talk with a native English speaker. So I head down to the school with Beastie.


Beastie goes to school.

It’s morning, and the school day is just starting. I drink sweet tea with the teachers, then tell the kids a little about what I’m doing: crazy white woman riding halfway around the world on her own. They are shy, at first, but Karolin insists: ask her questions. And they do.

The boys are laughing and joking and acting, but the girls are on form. They’re interested, they’re paying attention. When they ask me questions, they speak clearly and confidently, and they look me in the eye. These young women know how to communicate, and I’m impressed by them.


They ask me how old I am, how many siblings I have, what kind of job I used to have; building a picture of how you get to a place in your life where you leave everything and everyone you’ve known. I am often asked, “Don’t your parents worry about you?” In Indonesia, it seems difficult to imagine a person unmoored from family ties, and I see the beauty in that too. I hope that these clear-eyed young women will have the confidence to step out and pursue a dream for themselves, as well as living out the hopes of their parents.


Not shy anymore!

In Karolin, they have an example of educated, dedicated professional woman; her students are a credit to her. I say this to the principal of the school before I leave.


With the good teachers of Paga.

He invites me to come back to the school and to stay with his family next time I come to Paga.

So I leave this gem of a village, perched on the edge of Flores with the mountains at its back, a sleepy eye always on the sea.

And instead of heading West – the direction I am supposed to be going – I turn East and follow more glorious asphalt twisties through the mountains to Maumere. Yes, I’ve been to Maumere before, but I haven’t done this road before. And that’s why I’m here, after all – to wring every bit of joy out of every corner. I’m here for the hedonia; not just to say that I rode to Paris.


0 thoughts on “Beastie Goes to School

  1. royle100 says:

    Good to hear batteries are recharged and you’re back on the road.
    Safe journey

  2. Hasan Kacmaz says:

    beautiful moments and you tell it so wonderfully. Just another proof of how much of beautiful places and people are out there

  3. ririnetral says:

    Menunggu cerita pengalaman dan petualangan berikutnya.
    Semangat dan utamakan keselamatan…

  4. Dan irby says:

    Love this blog. I’m sure you are an inspiration to the students.

  5. Darin says:

    Sounds like an amazing visit in this village. School visit sounds amazing! Hope you found beer! 🙂

  6. James says:

    I guess you just put your camera on the road, turned around, and rode back to capture that cool pic?

    1. BikeHedonia says:

      Actually this pic was taken by my lovely friend Niko. We all went for a ride together near Kotamobagu, Sulawesi, and took turns fanging up and down the road for photos haha. It was a fun day.

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