A Welcome to Remember!
The Governor of North Sulawesi and the Mayor of Bitung, Indonesia really know a thing or two about hospitality. It’s been more than 48 hours since the ‘Welcoming Ceremony’ for the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and onboard personnel ended, but we are still practically speechless.
Many of us have done a fair bit of traveling around the world. We’ve been fortunate enough to experience the generosity of strangers on numerous occasions. We also know to expect the unexpected. Yet, I don’t think anyone associated with INDEX-SATAL 2010 was at all prepared for what happened on Wednesday.
To really understand the evolution of events, we have to start back at 1200 on Tuesday, June 22nd. At that point, ship and mission personnel planned to provide one 'low-key' ship tour the following day for key US Embassy-Jakarta personnel, the Governor of North Sulawesi, and the Mayor of Bitung. Less than one hour later, Embassy staff and ship personnel realized that our local Indonesian hosts had additional plans. We just didn't know what those plans were. We were simply told to be ready at about 1000 the next morning. But, be ready for what?
On the morning of June 23rd, the ship and crew were officially welcomed to North Sulawesi. Music played by a bamboo-instrument band was our cue to walk down the ship’s gangway and join our hosts. Traditional dancers leaped and swayed as we paraded past and local dignitaries as well as US Ambassador Cameron Hume provided remarks. For the grand finale, local dancers pulled a number of the ship’s officers up on stage to show off a bit of fancy footwork.
That evening more than a few of us sat down and reflected on what had transpired. The hospitality, generosity and sincerity of our hosts were significant reminders that this expedition is about even more than the important information to be collected with the multibeam system, CTD, and ROV. It is about the impact that that information has on the lives and livelihoods of the people that live here. As the Ambassador reminded all of us, it is also about making a significant connection between the people of two incredible countries.The event served as more than just a great send-off. It was also an important reminder. Everyone has expended a huge amount of energy and effort to get us this far. Now it’s time for the real work to begin. It is time to deliver!
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