The occasion was Idul Fitri, the holiday that comes at the end of the Ramadan season of fasting in the Muslim world. Where we were, on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, it seemed like a combination of Christmas and Easter. Everyone got dressed up. Gifts were exchanged. It had the added twist of forgiving your enemies and accepting personal responsibility for discord. Nice.
Jim and I were traveling between Singkang and Biru Beach on this beautiful holiday in February 1997. Our guide shuffled a few kids into a line for a photo opp. They tried to be proper, but apparently we — in our swamp boots and straw hats — were the funniest thing they had ever seen. They couldn’t stop giggling. I guess we looked like giant albinos clowns flown in for their entertainment.
Later that day, when we arrived at the beach — the only foreigners on a beach packed with Indonesians on holiday — our status as objects of hilarity continued. There, in my swimsuit, without glasses, picking my way in bare feet across the rocky sand, I admit that I lost my sense of humor about it and started to cry. I felt so vulnerable and ugly and homesick. In so many words, Jim told me to get over myself and we went on to have an interesting time snorkeling yards away from the crowd of bathers…
Funny how that memory emerged from looking at this photo again. I can only imagine what the day would have been like if anyone had been actually nasty.