Labuan Bajo, until we return

Until we return Labuan Bajo

I have discovered that the perfect time to leave a place is when you really do not want to. Leave when at the top and not when you are eager to go. That is the case with our leaving Labuan Bajo this time. We have made so many great connections here, we walk down the street to a chorus of greetings, we have the town “figured out”.

Diving wise we have hit almost all of the hot spots, know the dives and the ins and outs of each site. We have saved a few for the next trip and better weather as the season settles. Great connections have been made with many of the livaboard dive boats, new friends and an acceptance that we are part of the fleet; this is of huge value to us. We get exuberant welcomes at each anchorage, I love hanging out with the local boys and western dive guides.

As we are all divers usually someone has to sit out a dive to drive the dinghy, Sam and I trade off often if we have to. If we are lucky, and we are most of the time, we can get one of the crew off a dive boat to help out, they guys love coming with us and they are experienced at the dive sites. So the ritual now is, pull into the anchorage near the dive site, drop the anchor and launch the dinghy and send the bikini clad girls off to “find a boy”. We always make a new friend and like last night we get invited on the livaboard and have a party. The guys on the boat called my “Papa Americano” I love it. I recall the first time I was called Papa and I was taken aback, reminiscent of the punk kid calling an older guy Pops, not a term of endearment back home. Here age is reverent; there is a culturally installed respect and actual desire to connect with older people. I see the older Indonesians come into the bar and the young guys always greet them and visit. In all of SE Asia being called Papa is a genuine term of endearment so now it just brings out a big smile.

There are so many things like being called Papa Americano that make this place magical, only here can being stopped by the police for not wearing a helmet turn into a fun story. Hanna and i took off on the motorbike sans head gear and were stopped at an intersection when a uniformed policeman tapped me on the shoulder and motioned me to the curb. we got a full police escourt to the station, flashing lights on the truck and two motorbikes, i was a bit worred but remembered i was in Indonesia and had plenty of cash. At the station a long discussion in two languages transpired with multiple officers adding to the mix. i did mention my friend, who owned the bike and that i loved Labuan Bajo. i was expecting a bit of a cash outlay but none was hinted. Finally they just said, “go”. But no encounter is complete without a photo shoot, cameras came out of everywhere and we all posed, such is life in Indo!

Musically I have hit a peak, the last night at The Lounge was a gas. The band was great and I did some of my old time rock songs. I had an idea of a great stint and set up the gag early in the day so when I was rockin’ to Johnny B Good, I signaled to the waiter and he moved a chair and cleared the bar and up I went, dancing on the bar! The place went nuts, whoops and hollers everywhere, the band was shocked but howling and poor Sam hid in the corner covering her face, so good to embarase the kids you know, hahaha. The band loved it and said “do it again” so for the last song, a medley of Twist and Shout and La Bamba, up I went again as the crowd joined in the singing, it was, as they say in Texas, “a hoot and a half”. What a cool ending to a month of jamming with these great kids.

Plans have been made to have the band perform at a big event in September and do some more old time rock and roll as the audience will be a bit older. I am really looking forward to this. The boys (and one great girl) are so good to play with, none of the usual ego busting stuff, they just love the music.

I made the rounds and said my good byes to many new friends and made plans to connect when we return in a month. The news traveled fast, I heard several of the boys on the street say, see you in a month. It will be a great reunion.

So off we go to return to another favorite spot, Gili Air. I will assist a dive shop there for the month of Ramadan as their Indonesian crew go home for the holy month. We will hit some new spots on the way back, today we are diving on the side of an active volcano where we hear there are bubbles coming up through sea, should be interesting.