March 1, 2010
Borneo - Behind Closed Doors

I don't get sick on the road very often. So when a pressing stomach ache woke me in the middle of Friday night, I knew then that the cook-it-yourself, spicy seafood buffet the night before was a mistake. By dawn I was throbbing from full-blown food poisoning....


Saturday was the main flying day so I determined to rough it out and head for the beach. My fever broke during the bus ride, but the queasiness never left.

I popped up a few kites and tried to rest in the kiter's shelter. Iced wet towels suppled by the organizer helped. But finally the time came when I knew I needed to find a toilet.

Relief facilities at the beach consisted of a number of 3 by 3 foot wooden shacks. I opened the first door and looked inside. There was a bucket of water, a cup, and nothing else. It took me a moment to realize that you were supposed to go on the floor, and then "flush" the water out under the back wall. This was not what I was looking for.

I checked four other doors and finally found a traditional gravity-fed squat commode. Thank goodness! I climbed inside, latched the door, and then awkwardly positioned myself over the hole. No light, no paper, and nothing to hang onto. It was hot, dirty, smelly, and I was nauseous and dizzy. I focused on what I was doing so it would end up in the toilet and not in my pants. Although I must tell you that the iced towel came in very handy.

Meanwhile, the attendant outside took a break. And being a responsible guy, he dutifully locked all the doors before leaving.


Five minutes of yelling and banging finally got me out of the toilet shack. So that's the story of me getting locked inside an Indonesian toilet. It wasn't the worst thing about this recent trip. But there was a moment when I wasn't sure if I would live to tell the tale.

Traditional Dancers Kite Kids Local Police

Two months ago, Kevin Sanders and I had been asked to serve as "technical advisors" to this first international kite festival in Balikpapan. The event was intended to promote a relationship between kiting and climate change issues. There was a desire to generate visibility for this area of Indonesia And organizers hoped to involve as many local children as possible.

Asghar Lihua and Yang Bas Keith Rafa and Juan Miguel Ralf Kevin Robert

A goal of forty visiting nations proved ambitious. The guest list eventually included Bas from Holland, Keith from Cape Town, the Molina Brothers from Spain, Ralf Maserski from Germany, Yang and Lihua from China, Asghar from India, Robert VanWeers and Stefan Cook from New Zealand, and Peter Stauffer from Australia.

A strong local team from Indonesia delivered an impressive variety of traditional and contemporary kites.

Borneo Kites Borneo Kites Borneo Kites Borneo Kites Borneo Kites Borneo Kites Borneo Kites

On Saturday, we flew for the public. And then on Sunday, mid-afternoon, the beach was opened to thousands of local school kinds who were provided with paper and bamboo fighters. The Update last week showed just a fraction of the happy result.


As the sun set, the thousands of spectators left the festival to go home...and caused a traffic jam lasting 2 hours. It was dark and desolate when the bus arrived to take us back Sunday night. The drivers wanted to take us directly to the farewell dinner. But we fliers insisted on a shower and clean clothing before meeting the mayor and sponsors. There were speeches, dancing, and singing. Then we headed back to one last comfortable night sleep before departure for the airport and long trips home.

Everyone we met in Balikpapan was friendly and enthused. City officials were sincerely happy to have us.The media loved the event. Volunteers were great!! And I've never been asked to have my picture taken with so many people!

The catch? We never received the promised travel reimbursements. And this created a fair amount of tension among the fliers. Eventually, we had to leave for the airport and everyone flew home without getting paid first. And that, friends, was the worst part about this trip.

It has been a week now. We've been told that payment will be wired to everyone. We're waiting. And patience is wearing thin. My next call will be to the Vice Mayor whom I was asked to sit with at the farewell dinner. Because you can be sure that Kevin and I won't rest until our friends are reimbursed as promised.

Susan and I always say that you should never spend more on a trip than you can afford to lose. But in twenty years of kite travel, I've never been stiffed. So like I said last week, we don't yet know how this story ends....

Snake Trio

A tube tail is basically a big shaft of fabric. And since we got shafted in Balipapan, we're putting all our Tube Tails on sale for ten days.

Order two or more and get 20% off the list price. Any size or color. Payment up front please.... ;)

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