Posted by: patriciamar | September 10, 2009

Proselytizing Ojek Drivers

When it comes to ojek drivers, I always get the talkative ones.  You would think, on a thirty minute (or more) drive on a motorcycle taxi, that talking wouldn’t be all that enjoyable.

Well, of course you would be correct, it is not very enjoyable and mostly just leads to a longer, slower ride, with more swerving- as they are trying to turn their head and look at me- as they are talking.  Possibly something to do with my blonde hair.

Well, on one particular day, Matt and I hailed two ojeks to bring us from Kalabahi to Alor Kecil.  Of course, he got on and headed out, while I was quickly prompted for my name, country of origin, how long I had been staying on Alor, how long I had been in Indonesia, as well as a variety of other questions equally or more personal in nature.

Throughout the trip, Matt’s ojek driver actually had to stop on the side of the road and wait for us to catch up.  I hate to say that this was not all that infrequent of an occurence…

Two thirds of the way through the ride, I get the question that you never really want to be asked, wherever you are:

Are you a Christian?

Mostly, this is just a nerve-racking question because you would rather not ruffle any feathers when you are on a small island on the equator.  It is especially unnerving when you are in a country that is mostly Muslim, but on an island that is mostly Christian, studying a language that is spoken mostly by Muslims, where neighboring islands are both Muslim, Christian, and Catholic, and where there is a strong history of Hindu culture.  Plus, their past isn’t exactly free from religious prosecution or terrorism (fueled by religion).

So, I am sitting on the back of a motorcycle, trying to figure out what to say, travelling at a fairly good speed, approximately 15 feet from the edge of the road, which immediately drops 50 meters of a cliff into the ocean.

Well, I remembered that he introduced himself at the beginning of the ride, and although I don’t remember his name, I remember not recognizing it, which is fairly important because most Christians on the island seem to have Christian names, Amos, Jon, etc.

He is also wearing kind of an ugly looking knitted sweater.  This normally wouldn’t matter much, except that I feel it looks a little more western.

So, I give it a go and say, yes.

Great! He says, Me too.


He then goes on to explain some things, probably about Christianity, that were quite difficult to understand in half English/half Indonesian.

Following this explanation, he turns back to me again and says, You know Michael Smith?

Now, I think I know which Michael Smith he is talking about, but I am not quite sure, so I wait it out a bit.  And here it comes…

My ojek soon begins to sing, and I confirm that we are thinking of the same Michael (W.) Smith.

I tell him yes, I know of this Michael W. Smith, and he is exceedingly happy.

He helps me to live! he says.

Yes, he has very good music, I agree.

Then, another dreaded question: Will you do something for me?

This type of a thing could mean anything, but I am only in Alor for a few more days, so I give a hesitant, yes.

When you go back to Belanda (Holland), you buy Michael W. Smith cd and listen to it… It will change your life too.

Phew, again…  nothing too extreme.  But wait, there is always more when you are riding on the back of an ojek and the ride isn’t yet over.  He points to the ojek in front of us and asks,

He is your brother?

No, I said, my husband.

Oh! he says, You are married?

Yes, I responded.

Not admitting defeat, he says, ahh, Patricia, this is a nice name.  When I have child, I name them Patricia.

…I guess if you can’t get an ojek driver that just drives, you can’t ask for much more than them promising to name their first-born child after you…

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