English | Dutch
Going home
Rantepao (Indonesia) to Bay of Bengal, Sep-28-08 / Oct-09-08

After fourteen month of travelling, the time arrived. We are going home for the first time after we left Europe in June 2007. The Airbus A330 of the German airline LTU accelerates and we leave Thailand for our journey to Düsseldorf in Germany. The first fifteen minutes are not so comfortable because of the turbulence, but after this short inconvenience, we can start enjoying the idea that we are almost back home.

The last couple of weeks were mainly characterized by our journey back home. We travelled from Rantepao in southern Sulawesi to the city of Makassar for the flight to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). The southern part of Sulawesi is mainly an Islamic area, which means that for the first time we witnessed the effects of the Ramadan. Many shops were closed, the restaurants were almost empty during daylight hours and getting a beer in most bars was impossible during this period. We were lucky to be in Makassar at the end of the Ramadan. At the moment that the end of the Ramadan was officially announced on the television, many pickup’s and small trucks with miniature mosques on the back, appeared in the streets. ‘Armed’ with stereo-equipment whose volume was maximised, they drove honking through the streets of the city. The convoy was followed by hundreds of motorcycles on where enthusiastic Indonesians, mainly men, were celebrating the end of the fasting period. The next day around noon, we stepped in a taxi for the ride to the airport. The streets of Makassar were completely deserted. And that is unusual around this time of the day. But the Ramadan has ended, so the holiday started. Here and there we saw the first motorcycles, with complete families on it (up to 6 people including children), on the way to the villages of their family. It is namely a tradition in the Islamic world that families bring a visit to their home towns in the days after Ramadan. This is also the time of year that the public transport is very crowded.

Edwin wants to look great when he arrives at home
But as soon as we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, we didn’t notice the end of the Ramadan anymore. And that is strange, because also Malaysia is mainly an Islamic country. It probably has to do with the fact that many entrepreneurs in Malaysia are from the huge Chinese and Indian communities. Kuala Lumpur was also the city where we had an dinner appointment with Sybille. We met Sybille last month on the diving island of Bunaken, in the very north of Sulawesi. She was staying at the same dive resort as we did. Sybille is a very entertaining lady with a load of diving experience. We met her in Kuala Lumpur while she was on her way to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. We flew the next day to Bangkok in Thailand. And like Kuala Lumpur, we like Bangkok a lot. These are great cities to use as a hub while travelling through South East Asia. By now we know the cities quite well, so we can easily find our way around. The day after our arrival in Bangkok, we went to the Dutch consulate to apply for a new passport. Because we are no Dutch residents anymore, we can not go to a local Dutch government to apply for a passport. For that reason, we had to go to a Dutch consulate overseas. We already made some sets of passport pictures in Kuala Lumpur. But we were still not convinced that the passport pictures would pass the ‘check’ of the consulate. The Dutch government makes a lot of demands on the pictures. There are regulations about the colour of the background, size of the head, impression on the face, and many other aspects. That’s why we decided to make an additional set of pictures in Bangkok, at a photo studio that specifically advertised with the fact that they make passport pictures in conformance with the Dutch regulations. The price is higher than the normal price, because they said they had to do some extra editing.
Edwin and Ivonne on the airport of Makassar, Indonesia

Armed with three sets of passport pictures each, we went to the Dutch consulate. We gave all sets to the lady behind the counter and said that she should decide which photos are acceptable. After matching and measuring the pictures with a mould, she concluded that one set of Ivonne was acceptable, but that Edwin’s pictures did not pass the test. She said that there was no problem because there is a visa agency across the street that makes acceptable passport pictures. So we crossed the street and entered the small office. The lady took Edwin to a small kitchen where some family members where having breakfast. The lady put a stool before a white wall and grabbed a compact camera from a drawer. She gave some last instruction about how to sit on the stool before she made the pictures. Afterwards she took the memory card out of the camera and put it in a simple colour printer. We looked at each other and thought: “is this really acceptable for the Dutch consulate?”. The doubt increased when we saw the photo appear on the paper. Edwin’s head was significantly distorted; it was rounder than ever before. But ok, the consulate promised us that the pictures would be acceptable, and as promised, they did. So, for the coming five years, Edwin is portrayed with a rounder face in his passport. But who cares … we are on the way to home! We are presently flying above the Bay of Bengal, south of the Indian city of Kolkatta, and less than 7800 kilometres from our destination. Slowly we become more and more nervous, because within ten hours we will see our parents again.


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