Experiences on the far side of the world.

I’m constantly reminded of the truly generous spirit of people here on the far side of the world. A sweeping statement if ever there was one but consider the following, which have occurred in just the last few days.


Samarinda, Borneo.

Imagine if you will walking into a shop/store that specializes in fridges, dishwashers and washing machines to look for a memory card for a camera. You wouldn’t even bother; you would go to a camera shop. I did ask at my hotel reception desk if there was a camera shop anywhere nearby and was confidently told to go to the Big Mall which sounded promising and off I went. Dropped at the main door I entered to discover three floors each as big as two football fields, maybe even three, with no signage not even in Behasa, the local language. Plus it was packed, packed with families, roaming bands of shoe kicking children, yes shoe kicking, balls were presumably banned, moms, dads, babies, the usual bands of happy shoppers. I did find a vast supermarket within that rivaled Costco or a large Tesco and discovered Twinings Earl Grey but that wasn’t the point of the expedition. I wandered about amongst the crowds looking for anything familiar, anything that resembled a camera shop but no, nothing. Endless bakeries and bread shops, bread I might add very strangely colored, bright red, lurid green, pink even. I left empty handed, except for the tea, and disconsolately returned to my hotel, which by chance was attached to the aforementioned fridge and dishwasher shop.

Entering I received some odd glances, I mean, here I was, obviously a tourist, why would I be looking at dishwashers! But I spied, in the corner a cell (mobile) phone shop and fearing ridicule took a chance. Lots of phones, Samsung to be exact, not many customers and a couple of staff attending to the cash register. Ok, here we go again, out with my best gesticulations and sign language but I had a prop, my camera and removing the chip I kind of waved it about and pointed to the cash register, hopefully. How pathetic can you get? But I nearly fell on the floor as the young woman piped up “ would you like to buy a memory chip for your camera? How many gigabytes do you want?” I gaped briefly and then described what I was looking for. “Oh no” she said, “ we don’t sell those here but if you want I can go to the computer shop in the town after my shift ends at nine o’clock, buy what you want and bring them to your hotel.” To cut a long story short, she, Linda, did, at ten o’clock at night, refused a tip, refused an offer of a meal or refreshment. Gave me my bits and jumped on her scooter and beaming pleasantly sped away.


Balikpapan, Borneo.

Again. As it happened I knew the lady, Anita, who now runs the Immigration office in Balikpapan, Borneo where once again I was extending my visa. When I was there two years ago to extend my visa she was running the visa extension department, she was promoted and now runs the whole ship. She recognized me and ushered me through the new rules and regulations including acquiring a sponsor, my hotel manager would suffice, and after the usual bureaucratic antics I got my extension. Then she asked if I would like to go for dinner with her family, well sure I said. The family appeared at my hotel to pick me up; husband Robbie and two children who spoke no English aged probably seven and eleven. We had a very pleasant meal in a Warung (local restaurant) where we ate crab and freshly caught fish with the inevitable rice and some sort of green veg’.

Nothing could persuade them that I wanted to pay my share and they took me back to the hotel. Very wonderful.


Banda Neira, Banda Islands.

I mentioned in an earlier post the generosity of the staff at the hotel Maulana in Banda Neira where they spontaneously not only baked me a cake for my birthday but also gathered round singing the birthday song and generally making me feel ‘in the spirit’. There were lots of other little things they did to make me feel welcome. One time, while I was packing I discovered that my shorts had not only split at the seams but the pockets had also come apart. I mentioned this to Galuh, the lady who was running the hotel, and asked if there was anyone in the small town who could mend them. “ Don’t worry,” says she “ I have a sewing machine at home and I will fix them, no problem.” Next morning, there they were, all mended and I’m wearing them now with renewed confidence!


There you are then, the generosity of mankind in a faraway land. I might add that one of the three woman wore an Abaya and Hijab to work, another, while professing to be Muslim had attended Catholic school while the third, who I met only briefly so we didn’t delve too deeply, lived a city that was just about 100% Muslim.

Just goes to show as they say.

18 responses to “Experiences on the far side of the world.

  1. Glad you got your shorts fixed. Winchester failed!

  2. Nat Stratton-Clarke

    Amazing! So nice to hear of the good in people and the acts of kindness that happen everyday. Its so easy to forget.

  3. Granny’s comment is priceless! As are these uplifting tales. Thanks for sharing so eloquently, what the world can be like in other cultures than our own. It is so important to learn from these people all over, including these muslims who have been demonized. Some of the nicest people I know are Muslim. Sure seems like Borneo treats you quite nicely. Glad there are still sincerely kind and generous people out there, sad you have to go all the way to wherever you are to get find them 😉 Happy to hear your birthday was celebrated in classic Tim style. Look forward to the next blog!

    • Hi Seb.
      Sorry for the delay in responding but I have been without wifi for over a week!
      Imagine that….
      What strikes me frequently here in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population is how happy people are with their lives. I particularly noticed this in an airport cafeteria where the staff were laughing and joking with each other.
      A totally different atmosphere than, say, Heathrow or even SFO.
      Of course I have mentioned how everyone says hello while passing in the street.
      Imagine that on the high street, you’d get arrested!
      Next blog on its way now I’m back in wifi land.

  4. I’m almost in tears – what heartwarming experiences. Amidst all the other stuff happening in the world, here we have Humanity shown at its finest, not only amongst individuals, but apparently as a cultural trait. Worth re-telling, again and again. Good to know you are being well looked after!

    • It is. It is. It is.
      A cultural trait, and a very fine one.
      Perhaps we could learn.
      It is not an affectation or even forced it’s just that people seem genuinely pleased that you are visiting and taking an interest.
      And I was so pleased that one of the kind people made a comment here after an exchange of texts.
      Thanks Annie.

  5. You, Mr. Tim, just have that kind of air about you that makes others just want to help. Well done and Happy Trails.

  6. NIce to hear about all this humanness in these insane times we are living in!

  7. Hopely you enjoy the rest of ur trip and would come back to Samarinda again next time, Tim.


  8. It seems in this world those that are the least materialistic have the biggest hearts. Happy to hear like the other comments you are being cared for. Your English charm wins through every time x

    • Well i’m not sure about that but thanks anyway.
      In the words of the song:
      ‘Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.’
      Everyone seems very caring in these parts and prove it repeatedly.

  9. Lesley Garban

    Culturally sounds more and more like good old NZ where everyone goes out of their way to help, especially if one is travelling alone. Wonderful and such heartwarming experiences for you.

    • I missed this, so sorry. It is true isn’t it, people seem to be more friendly and helpful to solo travellers. Three people took me to my bus yesterday! Three!

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