Life in Kupang is never dull. Everything is new to us here…the climate, the culture, the people, the food, and not to mention, the local transport system. There are 3 main methods of public transport here: taxi, ocek or bemo. A taxi is self-explanatory. An ocek (pronounced `ojek`) is a motorbike/moped where you pay a price to sit as passenger to go to where you want to. Peter has used this method on one occasion. However, quite often our whole family is asked if we would like to sit on an ocek. We find this funny, yet there are at times 2 adults and 2 children riding around on one motorbike. The parents may have helmets on, the children very rarely do.
These are the method of transport where you experience the most. They are like a minibus, but with seating on the sides. You pay 2000 rupiah (1 NOK or 10pence) and you can travel as far as you like on the route for that price. The cash is given to the boy who travels with the bemo. He is very rarely the driver, and is around 13 to 16 years old. He does not sit in the bemo, but hangs out the door shouting out the bemo`s destination to anyone that is on the street. Inside, in the front, will be the driver. He is much older, and will usually be around 17 years of age. As you go to sit on the bemo, there will probably be around 7 to 8 people already seated in the minibus. So you have to work your way in to find a seat. These bemos were obviously built for the local population, whose average height is probably around 1.5m. So, Peter finds it a challenge to get in at times.
However the biggest thing that will hit you as you are on a bemo is the music. Extremely very intensive loud thumping music. Quite often it is techno music, like from the 90s. But that is not the worst of it…at times they even play Boyzone, or even worse Westlife at FULL VOLUME! Your whole being shakes with the beat. This is not surprising, as you discover that you are actually sitting right on top of the loudspeakers! We have used these bemos quite a lot here. They are actually quite fun to sit in, and we at times ask them to turn the music down for the sake of the children (and our ears). The other passengers will be delighted to have us sit with them, so it`s been ok to use them, but not always practical to get to where we want to. The children really like taking these minibuses, and Erik actually said that when he grows up, he would like to work as a bemo boy hanging out of the doorway 🙂
All of the vehicles here drive on the left-hand side of the road, like in the UK, Ireland, Japan etc. Well, that is the theory at least. Fans of Formula One often complain about the lack of overtaking in the races nowadays. All they need to do is come to Kupang. Everyone overtakes everyone all the time. The horn is used as a signal to indicate, `watch out, I am driving here`, and never in anger. To watch people drive here is not for the faint hearted, but we are yet to see any road rage or crashes, thankfully.
Today, we bought a used car here in Kupang. Peter was as nervous as a kitten, before we went to collect the car. We got the car, and off we went. Out into the river flow that is the traffic here (that is how one friend described it). Peter was a bit tense, and quite sweaty, but managed to do ok…apart from driving up a one way street (there was no sign), with bemos, bikes and taxis bearing down on us. Not to worry, as no scrapes or crashes occurred. It went quite well actually, as everyone drives pretty slowly here.
It is very good to have a car, as probably this weekend we are moving into our house. Now we have to start finding furniture. In just over a week, the boys will begin school and kindergarten. We may not have internet connection for some while when we have moved in, but we hope to be online as soon as possible.