Arriving in the villages with our 250 pounds of gear caused quite a spectacle. When I pulled out my audio equipment and headphones, the kids broke into an excited frenzy. Some exclaimed that I had a bomb. When I handed them the headphones to listen, they giggled at the amplified sounds and voices, realizing it was only a strange looking microphone.
When we set up the camera for landscape shots, the village kids wanted to simultaneously be in front of the lens and behind it. They followed us in the streets and piled in the doorways of the houses we stayed in. Every moment we were in the villages, the kids watched and studied us as if we were something between celebrity and circus freak.
It wasn’t only our strange gear, but two of us had light skin, which caused even more commotion. Little girls starred at me while daring each other to touch my arm or pull my braids (and then within an hour, they were braiding their own hair). Babies cried when they saw me, I looked so strange to them.
Unlike wary westerners, people let us into their homes with refreshing ease. There was always fish and rice to eat and a floor to sleep on. They let us set up our crazy travel studio in their homes, were eager to converse about life or politics, and open to our interviews.
But all of this happened at a snail’s pace. Upon stepping foot in Raja Ampat, we had to let go of our impatient and spastic western ways. Often times we had to wait for days before making arrangements, whether we were trying to go out on a fishing boat or set up an interview with a village elder.
When we pressed for something to happen faster, the response we usually received was besok, which means “tomorrow.” Today there was ample time for sitting, smoking cigarettes and drinking too sweet coffee. While frustrating at times, we soon settled into this sluggish pace (minus the cigarettes) where our modern communications technology got us nowhere. I embraced it, knowing that too soon we would return to the chaos of our normal lives.