In 1969-1970, when I was a graduate student at Cornell University in the USA, I had the opportunity to travel on a cargo ship from New York to Palembang. This was the start of my lifelong engagement with Indonesia. This is the story of that fateful voyage as told through my shipboard diary.  


In mid-February 1970, I travelled to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras celebrations and went to the wharf to watch the Mississippi paddle steamers plying their tourist trade. As we neared the harbour, I saw a huge sign on the dockside which read “DJAKARTA LLOYD”. The notice awoke a wanderlust  in me and I determined then and there that I would travel on a Djakarta Lloyd boat to Jakarta. With the help of my Cornell professor, who knew the local agent for Djakarta Lloyd in New York from his days as a war correspondent in Yogyakarta in 1948-1949, I was able to take passage on an Indonesian cargo ship, the M.V. Sam Ratulangie , sailing from New York to Jakarta. It was built in Stettin (Poland) in 1961 as a gift from Nikita Khrushchev to Indonesia’s first President, Soekarno (in office 1945-1966). This was a big ship which displaced nearly 10,000 tonnes.

Absolutely delighted to be leaving New York, I boarded the ship one late May evening in 1970, my Cornell friends were waving me goodbye as I stood like a latter-day Lord Jim in tweed cap and raincoat looking down at the rundown Staten Island dockside. As night was falling, the ship passed under the Verrazano Narrows bridge for a voyage of nearly six weeks via Dakar (Senegal), Jeddah and Djibouti.

This was an amazing journey for me because the Sam Ratulangie was like a floating Indonesia in miniature with nearly every ethnicity in the vast archipelago represented on board. There was a misogynist Minangkabau captain whose wife preferred him at sea than making her life hell at home in Jakarta, a diminutive Javanese chief engineer from central Java whom I assisted in the cleaning of the pistons of his diesel-fired engines, and an Ambonese second officer with an Indo-Dutch wife and numerous children, a real Surabaya Johnny, whose marriage seemed no bar to the proverbial seafarer’s life of a woman in every port. Amongst my particular friends were a worldly wise Chinese-Indonesian fourth officer, source of much sound advice, and a peranakan (mixed blood Sundanese-Chinese) second engineer, whom I attempted to teach French and who would reward me with a magnificent Chinese meal when we arrived in our first Indonesian port, Teluk Betung (now Bandar Lampung), where my near death experience began.

I ate with the midshipmen rather than the senior officers, which was a blessing given the captain’s ornery character. Amongst these middle-ranking crew members were a number of Batak Christians whose Sunday hymn singing reminded me of the muscular Christianity of my school days at Winchester. I will never forget their kindnesses to me when I ended up as a distressed sailor in Palembang on 14 July six weeks later.  


Route: New York – Dakar

Wednesday, 27 May

Position: North Atlantic off New York setting course east-south-east for Dakar

Weather: Some wind

Sea:  Moderate to heavy swell


I awoke at 9 a.m. to a heavy Atlantic swell with our ship corkscrewing. Weather forecast as mist and thunderstorms, waves between 8-16 feet high. I found Augustinus, our Surabaya Johnny Ambonese Second Officer at breakfast and visited the bridge to learn about radar and compass positioning. We chatted together about Indonesian and American politics, Augustinus seemingly happy with the events which occurred after the 30 September 1965 ‘coup’ attempt. The men [officers] are very helpful and understanding, but I feel it would be better to eat with the crew as they are my age and I find it easier to talk to them. Saw my first dolphin and also many birds of all descriptions following in our wake. A beautiful greenish coloured bird settled on the shrouds in front of the wheelhouse. But the crew made no attempt to capture it, telling me tersely: “Tidak makan, tidak minum, mati besok! [‘no food, no drink, tomorrow it will be dead’]”. This was their attitude – an hostility to animals or just disregard?

I experienced a slight culture shock at dinner when the bizarreness of my situation began to dawn on me, the only westerner on an entirely Indonesian cargo ship. How would my shipmates understand my broken Bahasa and western notions?

After dinner two grinning individuals emerged from the smoke-stack funnel: one a Chaplinesque figure with white waistcoat tucked into baggy trousers – black as pitch [with a] Homburg hat. It transpired they had been mending the whistle and had climbed up inside the funnel – very stifling and dirty. The foreman of the work group was an interesting character, scathing in his remarks about “Communists”. He castigated our ship as ‘Polish’ built in Stettin (1961) “waktu Sukarno teman-teman dengan Kommunis [when Sukarno was all buddies with the Communists]”. I wandered back downstairs to the crew mess to play chess and poker in a more relaxed atmosphere. The chief electrician invited me to his cabin for a chat. He said he wanted to work in Malaysian Borneo before returning to seafaring. I suddenly felt really tired. As I closed my eyes, the tremendous cosmopolitanism of the seamen here struck me. It is probably only skin-deep but there is nevertheless a kind of sophistication about them.


Route: New York – Dakar

Thursday, 28 May

Position: North Atlantic on east-south-east course for Dakar

Weather: light rain [drizzle], overclouded

Sea: Slight


I awoke rather late at half past seven. I had forgotten to put my clock back [we were sailing east across the Atlantic] and so was far later than usual. Went downstairs to a very fine breakfast of rice and gula Melaka [molasses] served with great pride. Went up on deck again around 11.30 and went up to the bridge. My friend the Ambonese Second Officer, Augustinus, was still on duty. We had an amusing chat about the merits of marijuana. He is obviously a very well-travelled person, but I feel there is some mental block with him, perhaps because he has a Dutch father-in-law and resents me because I represent something he cannot attain – a fully-fledged European. However, perhaps this is all nonsense and in fact he feels himself quite at ease in my company. I hope so.  One of the sea-cadets on the bridge was teased mercilessly about his lack of prowess in finding girls in ports. It is obviously a very frustrating life for those who are slightly timid about their sexual conquests and there is also perhaps the idea that Islam acts as something of a brake on the libido. Cigarettes are plentiful, for example, but I have not seen a drop of liquor since I have come on board apart from secretive bottles stashed away in the purser’s cabin.

I had an interesting talk at lunchtime with the purser and chief electrician about ‘culture shock’, Indonesian Communism and the Middle East.

I had an interesting talk at lunchtime with the purser and chief electrician about ‘culture shock’, Indonesian Communism and the Middle East. The chief electrician’s family is from Amoy in southern China and he is Sino-Indonesian. [He] studied for some time in Holland and seems very knowledgeable about the world and differing social milieu. He seemed particularly interested that my father was Irish. The chief purser is a very different person, very fat [and] easy-going. Comes from Ambon and is known as “boy” in English even by the ordinary crew members. One of the crew comes by to invite me to make good my resolution to work in the afternoons. It is obviously looked upon as ‘a good thing’ by the crew that I should work on deck though I sometimes feel that the officers are slightly peeved about it.

During the afternoon, I work on No.4 deck. It was raining slightly but there was only a light swell. My job was to clean out the empty oil cans and repaint them. I also chip rusted paint under the poop deck. Already met the foreman, an interesting fellow: not much education but very knowledgeable about the world and [has] already visited Europe. The fact that I was honouring my promise to work was greeted with great delight. [After work], I had tea with the crew and then off to shower and work before dinner at six o’clock.

Dinner is always a bit dull because the Chief Steward is the only one there and not talkative. However, Augustinus turned up, but not in very good humour. Return to my cabin to be met by the two engineering students who work in the engine room. Both very young looking but it appears they are 25 and 27! Some talk about Jeddah and Arab attitudes. Future Indonesian Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas’s, father comes in, but I do not feel capable of entertaining him, so I slip downstairs on the pretext of finding something to drink. Play chess with the crew member with flowered [batik-pattern] shirts and a very humorous face. Long drawn-out chess game with him until midnight. I was straight to bed dog-tired.


Route: New York – Dakar

Friday, 29 May

Position: North Atlantic on east-south-east course for Dakar

Weather: clear, sunny, cool

Sea: slight


Once again slightly late getting up – [all that] sea air probably! I had my breakfast by half past eight and at work early. I am gradually beginning to order my day – work on my Dutch and Indonesian from 08.00-11.00, and then take a stroll around the deck until midday. Then lunch and after lunch work until tea-time around four o’clock. This morning there was a lot of sun, so I went up on deck in the morning to read and found a quiet place on the top deck just opposite the funnel.

I think if I am to go to Indonesia, I must stay there for at least a year and then return to write up my thesis either in London or in Cornell. If I can make a start on Javanese whilst in Yogya that would be a marvelous opportunity to make a start and then everything could open up for me. However, there is always the fear at the back of my mind that if I am to do this I would be encroaching on an Indonesian prerogative to write their own history – who knows? A year will perhaps tell. At any rate, I must get down to writing some letters and perhaps I could type them if the purser allows me to use his heavy stand-up typewriter for, with the movement of the boat, my handwriting becomes ever more illegible!

I have taken the decision only to read Dutch and Indonesian until I reach Indonesia.

I have taken the decision only to read Dutch and Indonesian until I reach Indonesia. Another thirty days at sea should put me in rather good shape for this.

I worked without a shirt during the afternoon chipping [rusted] paint [off the deck and holds] rather silly considering that the sun was so hot. I had put some sun-cream on my shoulders but my skin burnt terribly quickly. I am now in agony [with] a burnt back. How I envy the smooth brown skins of the rest of the crew who do not have to worry about sun-burn. Still I have [told] them that by the time I reach Indonesia I will be just as brown as they!

Talk to Alatas after dinner about East-West meeting, all rather dramatic with the sun sinking on the horizon: ‘Oh! East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet’ I wonder? It would take years of patient understanding to improve [on] this. Work during the evening [night].


Route: New York – Dakar

Saturday, 30 May

Position: mid-North Atlantic on east-south-east course for Dakar

Weather: morning overclouded, evening late afternoon rain

Sea: slight


Once again, morning spent working although slightly tired having got up at the phenomenally early time of seven thirty! Dutch very slow, but Indonesian improving rapidly! I have started on one page of De Graaf’s History of Indonesia every day, afterwards improving to two pages or one chapter hopefully later. By the time I reach Indonesia, I hope to speak with some fluency at least. Much interesting talk with the chief electrician and purser; the former on his high horse about Mongols being the chief race in the world! ‘All Indonesians descended from Mongols’ he says gleefully pointing to his own high cheek-bones which are unique amongst the crew.

‘Lopisch’, the purser’s name, obviously comes from the Portuguese ‘Lopez’. He is a very round man slightly like a lump of jelly which is in the process of setting. I can imagine that after another few years of sea life and good food, he will be as round as a butter ball. Drank brandy and Cinzano. Chief Engineer [a Javanese] talks about Bahasa Jawa, and different levels of speech [kromo, ngoko and madyo] to me. A very gangly man [with] long thin lips and arms, [he is] noticeable for the contraction of neck muscles when he speaks in Dutch. Obviously, he is more refined [halus] than the rest of the others but nevertheless fully able to mix with the crew. I have seen him the most of all the officers in the crew section at teatime. On deck in the afternoon [at] four o’clock Augustinus’s watch with [crew member] Pieter from Celebes [Sulawesi], a hard tough-looking chap, very gruff when he speaks but with a slow charm and consideration [for others]. Very rugged face with short-cropped springy black hair. A sea cadet is also there, whose name I forget, came round to talk last night. Very round face [and] hair cropped almost bald. Once again jibes from the others on the bridge about lack of sexual prowess. Augustinus, like some great landed whale, is obviously very ‘kasar’ but the most Europeanized unfortunately.

Tea with the crew and afterwards work at Dutch until dinner time.

Tea with the crew and afterwards work at Dutch until dinner time. Play football after dinner and then coffee with Alatas and take a walk on deck. Later visit Crewman Hans from Celebes with his long face and rather mocking eyes: pictures of girlfriends, children and wives on the walls. Slight aura of cheap lace and plastic as I have noticed many times before in crew quarters. Agus drops in for a few minutes, amused and slightly bored. Bogas, a sea cadet, perhaps the most intelligent of them all, is rather shy, and weak face, but interesting to talk to about the various merits of [different] political systems. It is very painful from my sun burn [but] treated with a certain amount of skepticism by Mantri Kesehatan (Ship’s Medical Orderly).


Route: New York – Dakar

Monday, 31 May

Position: mid-North Atlantic on east-south-east course for Dakar

Weather: fine, some clouds towards evening

Sea: slight to moderate, no wind


Get up rather early and begin work at eight – Dutch and Indonesian. I fear that my literary and grammatical knowledge of Indonesian will lag behind my conversational Djakarta-based speech. There are so many opportunities to speak with the crew that it is almost embarrassing to refuse. On the bridge later in the morning: political talk with the third officer (mualim tiga) about the upcoming British general election [the June 1970 election which brought the Conservative Government of Edward Heath to power]. Sea is a very deep blue with the waves breaking into rainbows of spray at the bows. Flying fishes and a Russian ship from Cuba. A few clouds massed on the horizon but apart from this nothing. [Getting] hotter though and I find it much harder to get to sleep at night because of the prickly heat on my back. I have sworn not to go into the sun again without a considerable amount of circumspection!

Wait until we arrive in Dakar before taking any more.

Haircut from Agus after lunch – fat and tattooed and in his bathing costume – hair flying in the cool breeze. Take some photographs, but must prevent them looking too posed! Wait until we arrive in Dakar before taking any more. Beer in the afternoon with work mates in a crew cabin. Clouds were scudding outside a port hole. Talk of England and Europe, which seem so close and the world so small now. My world view is changing by the day. Time going [by] terribly quickly, the ordered days I suppose, but it really seems to fly by. It is so difficult to make myself work, but some Dutch reading in the afternoon. Fried rice, chicken and ice-cream for lunch – what luxury! I cannot wait to get to Dakar to order a real French meal again – I can take so much rice, but no more! Dine late and then attend religious service with Batak Pentecostal minister who obviously takes his duties very seriously. It seems so sad that these cheerful people should have become so hung up about religion. It has obviously made serious inroads! Have a drink with Hans and meet his work mate from the engine room – Sundanese [Bandung] also with a nice open face. He speaks very slowly. I feel more in command of my Indonesian, but this constant search for vocabulary annoys me greatly. Will ever be as fluent as my French? That is my aim. Work at my Indonesian and then start E.H. Carr’s History of the Russian Revolution – which I realise I may have to jettison as subversive Communist literature before I reach Djakarta! Get to be at one in the morning, but don’t get to sleep until three because of the discomfort of my back. The cabin seems awfully hot.


Route: New York – Dakar

Tuesday, 1 June

Position: Mid-North Atlantic on east-south-east course for Dakar

Weather: fine and sunny

Sea: very slight


Wake up rather late and have a long talk about the political situation in Vietnam with Alatas and the first officer. I never know how far to go in these sorts of situation, but I urged them not to take their fears of Communist conspiracy too seriously and also to try and wipe out American neo-colonialism in Southeast Asia. Talk about China and its ‘achievements’. Morning spent on my Dutch, but rather tired because of a lack of sleep the previous night owing to prickly heat. On bridge before lunch as usual and long talk about political situation to Third Officer, a Sumatran urging him to go into politics. A beautiful day with just a few clouds on the distant horizon towards Africa; flying fish and cresting waves cascading into rainbow-coloured spray. Talk to the Chief Electrician [in his] wonderful cool cabin about the various ships he had served on and whether his wife should go to America in September. Go to the medical orderly [Mantri Kesehatan] but find him sleeping – he awakens with a start, small pig-like eyes staring at me, but otherwise kind and helpful. I never know how much he really understands, but he bustles around my back and thrust some medicine in my pocket!

Work on deck in the afternoon, painting and wire brushing off rust – a rather satisfying job in a way, but also trying in the hot afternoon sun. We cross the Tropic of Cancer – white spiraling cumulus cloud on the horizon, a sparkling sea and fresh wind – so this is the tropics! We had pleasant cup of coffee after work and chat about Djakarta, pedicabs (becak) and bargaining. ‘Lu, Bukan orang asing [lagi], sudah orang Indonesia! [You are no longer a foreigner, you are an Indonesian now!’. Pleasant compliments make me feel very warm. I wonder really how much I am accepted or just greeted as an interesting phenomenon.

Write a letter to post in Dakar and then called over by John ‘Squarey’ from Djakarta and ‘Celebes’ Pieter, to have a beer.

Write a letter to post in Dakar and then called over by John ‘Squarey’ from Djakarta and ‘Celebes’ Pieter, to have a beer. I am questioned about the Black Panthers and American politics. I feel very well, so I immediately launch into a vociferous denunciation of American imperialism and racism, a demand for a national socialism in Indonesia based on the specific needs of Indonesia rather than the self-serving needs of foreign firms. I seem to get through to them OK. Pieter is very gruff – the spitting image of a Communist cadre – unquestioning and tough. I have been reading too much about Lenin in Carr’s Russian Revolution, and it makes me romanticize the Revolution.

Go up for a very good European-style dinner – steak pomme frites [French fries], a nice change from rice. Feel on good form and talk to Augustinus about the delights awaiting us in Dakar: French ‘virgins’ and Senegalese belly dancers! Thirteen dollars an hour. They are too expensive. And what about my girlfriend, Stephanie, what would she think? Slightly sad that every conversation at meals revolves around sex – conversation headed, of course, by the purser and Ambonese second officer, our very own ‘Surabaya Johnny’. Talk to Augustinus in the evening about my plans. I really feel I would like to give up graduate school. It is such a thin intellectual way of life. But exchange it for what? Politics, I hope! But am I ever going to pluck up the courage, when will I ever have the experience? I must be successful in my life. Read and work until midnight. Then out like a light.


Route: New York – Dakar

Wednesday, 2 June

Position: Mid-North Atlantic approaching West Africa on east-south-east course for Dakar

Weather: sunny (24-26 Celsius) – a beautiful sunset

Sea: slight but wind moderate to strong


I was up at eight. Have breakfast and start work in the morning. Very bored by reading materials for English so suggest new book on Southeast Asian history [Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, Volume III: A Century of Advance. Book 3: Southeast Asia] for tomorrow. I hope that I do not appear too bored, but these American stories used by Alatas for teaching me Indonesian are really infantile. Sunbathe on deck until midday. Down to lunch, a good lunch but don’t feel too hungry. Once again to the medical orderly [Mantri Kesehatan] for my back but [it’s] already much better. Work in the afternoon on No.4 deck: a beautiful cool afternoon especially in the sheltered passageways leading to the front deck. Tea at four o’clock, but it is difficult to know where to sit. Very like the Trinity Junior Common Room (JCR), except that I feel like a JCR member who has escaped! Talk to the Chief Electrician, but feel that it causes bad feelings if I only talk to the officers in the presence of the crew.

Beer with Squarey and the nice Sundanese from Bandung – sensible politics but rather tired and go up to my room to write until six o’clock. Finish all my letters for Dakar. It gives me a good feeling that I am well in touch with the outside world, as though my bridges have been secured behind me. But, on the other hand, it is annoying that even as a so-called ‘academic’, I have to report to so many people! How I wish I could live my life entirely for myself or at least for other people, the way I would like it without society constantly pressurizing me one way or the other. I feel very like a factory-produced product – plopping off one conveyor belt from Oxford, straight onto another – even worse one – at Cornell. Graduate school is a thankless business. I am gradually thinking more about going into politics.

Long talk in the evening with Mongke about his plans in America next year, sexual relations in Indonesia and hippies.

Long talk in the evening with Mongke about his plans in America next year, sexual relations in Indonesia and hippies. Also show him some photographs about myself last year after my harvest work in August 1969 at my parent’s home in Surrey before I left for America. Feel sad to see myself so unfit compared with how I was this time last year. Take the decision to give up graduate school, become a part-time historian and go into politics. A large farm in the country – socialism at home, involvement in Europe abroad. I am thinking a lot about England now – incredible perspectives opening up. Would like a small cottage in the Dordogne region of France so I could retire and write occasionally when life gets me down. Think a lot about my home in Surrey home between Reigate and Dorking my parents bought after returning from Burma in 1956, and the golden days we had when summer was there. I must go back to England. I feel I am doing no good in America. It will only end up frustrating me: I can take no active part in politics there. Sleep on deck until four o’clock in the morning and then feel very sick. Must be careful about what I eat today!


Route: New York – Dakar

Wednesday, 3 June

Position: mid-North Atlantic crossing the Tropic of Cancer on east-south-east course for Dakar

Weather: Fine and sunny but cloudy towards evening

Sea: moderate in the morning but becoming a heavier swell towards evening – little movement of the ship


Wake up late at 08.30 after a rather disturbed night owing to [my] sickness. I worked well in the morning until 11.00 when I go up on deck to exercise. Very tired, but feel considerably better than I have for a long time. Talk at lunch about problems of ethnic minorities – Scotland, Ireland etc. Pass Tropic of Cancer in the afternoon. Work hard and get into a rhythm: paint a whole panel on number5 deck with a long – rather gangling fellow – from Djakarta, exercising English swear-words. Somehow all these characters I meet are ‘faces’ which [I seem] to have met before somewhere. I suppose people’s sense of humour is the same the world over. Felt better over tea. Discussion about ‘dualism’ in Javanese government with the chief engineer. This diminutive Javanese, the chief electrician [Mongke] and the third engineer are the only people I see regularly down in the crew mess. Maybe they like the attention they are given? Anyway, it’s a pleasant way to talk with them. I think I should spend longer down there in the evenings for conversational purposes. In the evening make a start on Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly. Find it quite interesting, but find his way of writing rather stylized. Anyway, it is bad for me to read too many English books and must start to read more in Indonesian and Dutch. There is no one around to talk to, so to bed just after midnight. Feel slightly fed up in the evening and looking forward to Dakar. Chief Engineer a very interesting fellow – my mental picture of what a Javanese should look like! Very halus – with fine thin arms and hands, turned down mouth and a wicked smile. Inscrutable face, but I think he is a kindly sort of fellow. Born 1923, so must already be nearing fifty. Notable for contraction of neck muscles when speaking of the Dutch.


Route: New York – Dakar

Thursday, 4 June

Position: approaching West African coast bearing east-south-east for Dakar

Weather: slightly cloudy, warm, wind 14-15 knots

Sea: moderate in the morning, increasing to heavy swell during the evening and night


Wake up at 08.30, rather late. Heavy swell already beginning. Good breakfast. Work until 11.00, then exercise on deck until 12.00 (midday). Start on [Donald Lach’s] World of Southeast Asia for reading. I must do more with my Indonesian. [Need to] finish reading English books and concentrate on easier reading materials in Indonesian. Talk after lunch with chief electrician, first officer [and] chief steward about Djakartanese slang etc., quite interesting. [Get] to work [on deck] at 13.00, but feel quite tired so do not put too much effort into it. I was feeling much fitter though. Spray coming over the front deck, ship plunging a little [into the waves] [and] listing slightly to port but otherwise quite steady. It always horrifies me [to see] how close the sea looks [when you are on deck]. Sometimes I feel we are as low in the water as those barges on the Seine loaded to the gunwales with coal. One large wave and we would roll over like a wounded turtle and sink like a stone. “All Hands Lost on Indonesian Freighter”, one can just imagine the newspaper headlines. One can feel the [ship’s massive diesel] engine straining as we plunge from one wave to another, wallowing slightly. Cape Verde islands too far away unfortunately, but only 15 nautical miles distance to the north. Heat haze and some tropical rain. Relaxation at a tea-time [break]. Rather tired [but] feel less of a ‘phenomenon’ and more accepted as just [plain] ordinary [by the crew]. I want to ask some of the others up for a drink, but feel that this is not perhaps the moment. [maybe] after Dakar? Blend in with watching a game of chess. I find when I have sat quietly for some time, it is much easier to talk about different [Indonesian] accents. It was usual recurring theme owing to lack of vocabulary. Read in Indonesian until five thirty in the afternoon and then go down to listen to the six o’clock BBC news – new [general] election news: Enoch Powell and Tony Wedgwood Benn on racism. It should be an interesting fight. If the Conservatives are splitting, as I believe they are, over the racial issue, then the Labour Party will sweep the board. [Edward] Heath [the Conservative leader] is too much of a nonentity to keep order in his party. Good super – makanan Eropa [European food] – steak, potatoes and cauliflower cheese. Very good. Play football and talk with the second officer (mualim dua): ‘dua-puluh hari lagi di laut sampai Jeddah [twenty days more at sea and we will be in Jeddah]’. It is an awful long way, but should be interesting as we follow the [African] coast most of the way. Work hard at my Dutch. I am on bridge at one o’clock to see the ship battling forward under the stars – forelight shining upwards – mini aurora borealis [northern lights] around it.


~~~To Be Continued~~~

On Friday, 6 June in the late afternoon/early evening, the SS Sam Ratulangie docked in Dakar for six hours to take on bunkering fuel for the next leg of our journey from Dakar to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. There was much ribaldry on the part of the Ambonese second officer (mualim dua) about the incompetence of the African dock workers tasked with securing the boat with the mooring lines (steel hausers): ‘mabok merdeka [they are all drunk on freedom/independence].

Once we were safely secure, we (myself, the second officer, chief electrician, and others) went ashore in a taxi. I accompanied them to two bars (brothels) where all the prostitutes – young women in their twenties wearing short skirts – were French provincials from places like Nevers and Marseilles. Sat at the bar in both places and just watched the scene. Very interesting: at the second bar one of the girls obviously had a thing going with one of the young French soldiers. They were chatting animatedly, but the Madame came up and told her to stop chatting and have a session with him, or move on to the next client.

I ended up in a third bar where all the working girls were Senegalese. Sat and chatted at the bar with one of them. The Second Officer warned me that all the Senegalese prostitutes have VD. The Chief Electrician is obviously a romantic at heart because he made small presents of lighters and other items to all the girls we met. A lot of alcohol was consumed. We returned to the ship towards midnight and sailed in the early hours.

Peter Carey
Peter Carey, yang lahir di Myanmar 30 April 1948, adalah Fellow Emeritus Trinity College, Oxford, dan Adjunct Profesor FIB-UI (Fakultas Ilmu Pengetahuan Budaya, Universitas Indonesia). Karya yang lahir dari sentuhan tangannya antara lain : Burma: The Challenge of Change in a Divided Society (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997); The Power of Prophecy; Prince Dipanagara and the End of an Old Order in Java, 1785-1855. Leiden: KITLV Press, 2007 (terjemahan dalam Bahasa Indonesia, Kuasa Ramalan; Pangeran Diponegoro dan Akhir Tatanan Lama di Jawa, 1785-1855. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 2012); The British in Java, 1811-1816. A Javanese Account. Oxford: OUP Press, 1992. Terjemahan Inggris di Jawa. Jakarta: PBK, 2017). Kemudian beberapa ulasan mengenai dirinya antara lain : buku Urip iku Urub; 40 Tahun Sarjana Lelono di Negara Leluhur. Tulisan yang dipersembahkan kepada Peter Carey untuk HUT ke-70. FX Domini BB Hera (peny.). Jakarta: PBK, Oktober 2018.