Hotel Ikhlas has a large screen television in its open-air lounge and last night I crashed in front of it to watch the evening news.

Even though it is in Indonesian and I barely understand a word, I was half-hoping to catch up on what happened in the world of soccer.  Being on the move, I hadn’t even heard if Barcelona won. An American interested in soccer – strange, I know.

I was barely paying attention until something flashed on the screen that nearly made me choke on my Nasi Campur.  I couldn’t understand what the reporter was saying, but the headline at the bottom read “Jayapura, Papua” and on the screen….

Guns.  Lots of them.  Guys holding the usual AKs, with the occasional badass holding a drum-fed crew-serve weapon with a bipod.  All were wearing different rag-tag uniforms so it obviously wasn’t the military.

Most didn’t look like happy campers either.

I have no idea what is going on near Jayapura, but considering that I plan to be there in the next two weeks, seeing a camera man running with a shaking camera for cover wasn’t very encouraging.  I guess I’ll find out when I get there, the authorities require you to get a travel permit from the police upon arrival, and if there’s a problem they won’t let me in….just like what happened to me in 2007 while waiting around in Chengdu trying to get the permit for Tibet.

On a positive note, I did make a new friend here. A 27 year old local guy named Ahmed.  He drives a motorocycle for a living and we saw each other enough that he invited me to his house to meet his family.  We sat for hours with his brothers, sister, and mother and did our best to communicate.  He was so proud to have a Western friend over that a few SMS text messages later there were a dozen of his friends coming over to join our little party.

I did the best I could, sitting in the hot seat with 15 curious eyes looking at me.  We practiced English and Bhasa (Indonesian) and talked about everything from politics to soccer to motorcycle racing. Some of the young guys participate in illegal/secret motorcycle drag races just outside of town. What a great story into a subculture, but when I told them I wanted to go, they told me the next race is in a week – too long to hand around here.

Ahmed’s older brother shyly told me that he likes George Bush because he “is tough and didn’t back down or change” – pretty damn strange to hear coming from a mostly Muslim family!  Everyone present all agreed that they love Oprah and never miss a show – the men included!

After Ahmed drove me around in endless loops showing me off, we spent a couple of hours at his university’s internet cafe. So far, it is the fastest access I have had in Indonesia and 2 hours cost me .50 cents!

Ende has been the best interaction that I have had with Indonesian’s not trying to sell me something, and it gave me better insight into the culture here in Flores.  Moments like this while vagabonding are few and far between, because every time you hope that someone is genuine, the end goal of their friendship is usually to get fingers into your wallet.  For once, that was not the case here.

Tomorrow morning I’m off to the tiny village of Moni which sits at the base of Kelimutu, a famous volcano in Indonesia with 3 colored lakes inside the crater.  Then…maybe then…I can get my feet back into some sand!