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ANMM Collection

Adventure in the Sunda Seas

Date: 31 August 1938
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Newspaper clipping
Object No: ANMS0542[029]

User Terms

    Description
    Article in German begins: 'Two days after my departure from the German plantation in northern Bali I arrived at Boeleleng, the largest harbour on Bali. Up until then I had seen none of the numerous attractions that were depicted in all the tourist offices. The coastal villages in northern Bali are mostly inhabited by the Madurans and Buginans, all Muslims. One also encounters quite a few fishermen there, whilst the natives themselves are not interested in fishing at all. In Boeleleng I also met a compatriot. He was a tanner by profession, but could no longer carve out a living in Germany in the post-war years...'

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Adventure in the Sunda Seas

    Assigned title: Abenteuer in den Sunda-See

    Translation
    • Berlin News Wednesday, 31 August 1938 Adventure in the Sunda Seas Encounters on a journey in a collapsible boat by Oskar Speck There’s nothing better than Medicine Two days after my departure from the German plantation in northern Bali I arrived at Boeleleng, the largest harbour on Bali. Up until then I had seen none of the numerous attractions that were depicted in all the tourist offices. The coastal villages in northern Bali are mostly inhabited by the Madurans and Buginans, all Muslims. One also encounters quite a few fishermen there, whilst the natives themselves are not interested in fishing at all. In Boeleleng I also met a compatriot. He was a tanner by profession, but could no longer carve out a living in Germany in the post-war years. He had tried to do some work in his profession on Java, but after many failed attempts he ended up in Bali. As a hermit, and known in all of Bali under the name “Sausage Max”, he tried to brave the adversities of life with the help of sausage recipes from Thuringia. From Boeleleng I spent eight days travelling along the coast of Bali. Across Padang Bay I went to Sanoer, a typical Balinese village. I spent 14 days with the German owner of the well-known “Bali Aquarium”. I went on numerous excursions to the southern side of Bali and kept being fascinated by this country’s beauty. I had the opportunity to see many Balinese dances, which were performed mostly at night. I also participated in the festivities of the filing of the teeth. It’s virtually unimaginable to our way of thinking, that a person would have all their teeth filed down almost to the gum with a common iron file. What also impressed me was the way the women of Bali carry loads. One woman would often carry a load of up to fifty kilograms or more for kilometres, without setting it down once. I had an attack of Malaria while still in Sanoer. Against my host’s advice I went across to the island of Penida as soon as I was feeling quite well again. Trying to reach Lombok the next day, the strong current forced me to return to Padang Bay. Only two days later did I finally manage to get to Lombok due to a strong wind at my back. After another two days I arrived at the small village of Kaoeng on Sumbawa. Suffering from another terrible attack of Malaria, as soon as I was on firm land again I threw myself down in the shade of the nearest palm tree, at a couple of hundred metres’ distance from the village. Then I dragged myself to the village with the help of a few of the locals. There I was greeted reverently by the Kepala-Kapang and the village elders. Since it had never occurred in these parts before that a European who wasn’t a Dutch civil servant should arrive at a village, the people had all pulled out their tax books expecting that I would want to inspect them. I declined to do that, much to the immense relief of all the inhabitants. And since I made no attempts whatsoever to demand any taxes, the natives started thinking that I must be some “great chief” who didn’t have to bother with such things. I was ushered into the Kepala-Kapang’s hut built on stilts, in order to drink a glass of black coffee there. Since I was incapable of even holding the glass, they held it up for me, forcing me to drink it. And then I had to lie down in the hut. I was feeling so miserable, I let them do whatever they wanted with me. When the fever attack had passed, I asked to have my blankets and the waterproof suitcases taken to the hut. I had no choice but to prepare for several days’ stay in Kaoeng. Everyone in the hut fell silent when I started to open the locks on my cases. They all exclaimed “Allah!” as I opened the zipper of my first aid kit, and next to the neat row of gleaming instruments my well-assorted lot of patent medicines appeared. They all exclaimed “Obat, Obat”, (medicine), and my reputation improved at that instant by several hundred percent. They followed all my movements with extreme attention, and when I opened a little flask and swallowed a pill, they lost their composure altogether. Suddenly the whole Kampong seemed to have become sick. Every one of them pretended to have something wrong with them, stomach cramps and headaches being predominant, but also people with sciatica, eye problems, and open wounds expected to be healed by my pills. Since the natives’ obsession with Obat was familiar to me from previous experiences, I had stocked up on quinine pills and powder. Everyone received a pill to treat their “worstt” pain. I also promised them further healing of their “suffering” the next day, when I was feeling better myself. During the night, the fever crept up to 40.6 degrees. I alternately experienced attacks of shivering and the greatest exhaustion, when sweat kept pouring from me. In the morning the fever finally abated. Apart from an appalling weakness, I felt significantly better. Abdulrahim, my host, was a typical Buginese: a good-natured fellow, but a real scoundrel at the same time. He told me in confidence that he didn’t believe in the magic of all my Obats. He thought they were the same pills that the government also distributed, and which didn’t cure any real diseases. No, the real Obats were in the small blue bag, from which I had taken my own pills. The Abdulrahim became terribly sick. He rolled his eyes and pressed both his fists into his abdomen. What else could I do? As I didn’t want to let him die a “horrible death”, I was forced to open my first aid kit and give him a pill. Each time I took a pill, Abdulrahim also started to feel pain. The house was full of natives who all wanted to see the sick Orang-Blanda (European). Many natives had arrived from the surrounding villages. They either wanted some Obat from me, or they told me stories for hours about how bad the times were, to then ask me at the end to make sure the prices for copra would increase again. I took great pains to try to assure them that I had no influence whatsoever on the price of copra, but then the would come back asking me to at least lower the taxes for them. At various points, my position threatened to become uncomfortable, and I was glad that I could at least oblige them with their request for Obat. [Included is a large map of the Sunda Islands with the caption:] The chain of Sunda Islands the author visited on his journey in a collapsible boat Abdulrahim had a great time. He pretended to be my protector and told everyone he was my best friend. As proof of this friendship, he dressed up in my clothes and marched up and down the village in them. He had all sorts of funny ideas about how to cheer me up. At one point he brought along a young man dressed up as a girl and who started to dance to the rhythms of a few gongs and string instruments. The women, who were watching the dance from outside the hut through [paper torn] cried out humorously from time to time, expressing their disdain for the dancer’s clumsiness. My sickness improved rapidly. Most of the time, the fever only started in the afternoon, and rarely climbed to above 39 degrees. The worst of it was that there was no space inside the hut that was sheltered from the constant sea breeze. That is how I caught influenza as well, and weeks later, when the Malaria had long disappeared, I still suffered quite badly from it. Once I even had a visitor from the village where the regional administration was. Some local officers, having heard of my sickness, appeared in order to ascertain what truth there was in the gossip about a sick European that had spread throughout the whole region. Abdulrahim had to maintain his dignity as a Kepala-Kapong and was forced to serve tea and biscuits to the officers. During these officers’ visit there was a crowd of people packed into the hut again. And this was when one of the onlookers knocked over a bottle filled with petrol. Abdulrahim immediately took the culprit to task, giving him a lecture. The culprit then started to suck up the petrol, which had collected in a hole in the floor, with his mouth, and to spit it back into the bottle. After reassuring the officers about my improved condition and informing them that I would move on soon, they departed. Abdulrahim became a bit difficult during the last two days. He was just too nosy, and every time I said something, he thought I was telling him to open my suitcases. I tried to take a photo of his daughter, a fifteen year old girl and a typical Buginese. But she resisted all my attempts to lure her in front of the camera. It was only when I stood behind Abdulrahim, challenging his pride as a father, that he curtly ordered her to get dressed for the photo. He would not allow her to have her “Potret” (an expression used in the Malay language for any type of photograph) taken dressed in every-day working clothes. I was then able to take a “Potret” of Abdulrahim and his family at the same time. But then he was most bitterly disappointed that I could not give him a photograph after the session, and he obviously regretted having made his daughter have her photograph taken. Therefore my stay in Abdulrahim’s huts ended up tainted by a whiff of distrust, and even the small gifts I gave them to show my gratitude could not displace this. To be continued…
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