Thursday, January 2, 2014

attempted visa runs

No flights from Flores fly directly to East Timor. Our only option was a mid-afternoon arrival in Kupang, Timor and rush to the consulate before the doors closed for the weekend. With a visa that we hoped to receive by Monday afternoon, we'd be able to take a 10-13 hour bus ride across the island to reach the border of East Timor before Tuesday night, when my Indonesian visa expired.

But when you travel on a whim, things don't generally work out as smoothly as you're hoping. At least in our case it didn't.  After haggling for a decent priced taxi from the Kupang airport, we arrived at the East Timor consulate after the doors were shut. Then, with kindness in his heart, and an extra dollar from our pockets, the driver took us to the Indonesian consulate so I could at least renew my visa. Except, in recent turn of events, what once was the consulate location was no longer. It happened to be in the vicinity of the airport, and there was no kindness left in him to take us back and forth from there for free. And, in all likelihood, it too would probably have shut its doors for the weekend by the time we arrived.

Instead we squeezed out the last bit of mileage from our willing funds and went in search of accommodations. The first location, boasting a swimming pool (that was empty) and a $25 dollar "steal" of a room, was anything but. At least for Asian standards. We passed. The second location, and the current TOP PICK in Lonely Planet was unsurprisingly full by our arrival time. We ended up settling on the third location: a $5 dollar hole in the wall. A hole in the wall we settled for precisely because it was $5 dollars.

The wifi, we were informed, was at their cafe - down the road and to the left, right on the waterfront.

We grabbed our laptops and plopped ourselves at a table with first class views of the waves that  crash against the cliffside we sat upon. But the waves weren't what my eyes were focused on. No, no. They were focused on an open bedroom. One with pristine walls and bed with a mattress that looked so inviting I was willing to give my very soul in order to sleep upon.

That's when Edwin entered the picture.  Edwin, a middle aged (a bit more than, actually) Indonesian who was a former actor, now with more money than he knows what to do with, was also the owner of the joint - and the hostel we were booked into as well.  He has quirkiest of personalities to go along with it.

We chatted as he held onto an overpriced hammock, which he bought online from Mexico.

He was quick to say how much he paid for things. The mattress. The sheets upon the mattress, both made in America. The shower head that was made in Germany. And the list goes on.

I wanted in. I wanted in that moment. Looking at that room and thinking back on the one we were currently fated to had me in a slum of despair.

The room was new. Never used. The shutters were being placed on the window as we spoke. We asked how much it was, and to our astonishment, after the cost of everything he put into it, he said, "Ten dollars a night."  I looked at Esther as fast as she turned to look at me.

"Can we stay here tonight instead?" I asked.

"Well... you already paid for your room at the other building, and even though we're the same business, that money stays there," he explained. He has perfect English.

"What if we pay $5 dollars there and $5 here?" we asked.  I was even willing to lose the $5 dollars and fork out $10 more just to stay in the room by the sea.

He looked conflicted, but said it wasn't possible. Although, he added, we could move into the adjacent dorms the following night (which were new as well)- since room in question would be taken by then.

My face dropped. Sadness filled my eyes. And he stared at me once more, conflicted.

The hammock swung back and forth in his grip.

"Okay. You two can stay here tonight for free," he finally decided.

My face, and I'm sure Esther's as well, lit up. "Wait... what? We can pay the difference," we spit out.

But his mind was set. We raced back to 'the hole in the wall' to grab our things and check out.

We reveled in the joy of such an amazing room, with an even more amazing view, that we were given for free. And then realized we were hungry.

"Edwin," we asked, "where's the best place to get food around here?"

"Hmm..., what type of food do you want to eat?"

"Anything," came our response.

He said he'd order in, since he didn't feel like making anything from the kitchen.  A meal, which too, was offered for free.

1 comment:

Patti said...

What's that saying? "When God closes a door he opens a window?" In your case, it was another door!