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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Passport (07/25/05)

TITLE: Nias Fiasco
By Karen Jimmy
07/27/05


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As if our journey hadn’t been arduous enough, we suddenly found ourselves smack up against yet another brick wall- and we hadn’t even begun the first leg of our mission! Such is the nature of travel through Indonesia.

There were eight of us, and all eight of our passports were now in the hands of a sneering, rifle-bearing customs official in the sleazy, west-Sumatran port town of Sibolga.

I was the only Aussie among three Scandinavians and four others from the U.S. Somehow these port official guys had gotten wind of my nationality, and they’d seized our passports to verify the rumour. It was only a few months after 9/11 had rocked the planet and apparently Aussies were now none-too-popular in Indonesia because of our Prime Minister’s support of President Bush.

We knew something was “sus” about these guys taking our passports (after all, we weren’t leaving the country, just going to another island). But what can you do in a foreign country when a scary crazy guy in uniform- carrying a gun, no less- demands something of you? Nothing, except exactly what he wants!

While we nervously waited, we heard rumours that freaked us out. Someone said that just one month previous, an Aussie trying to board a boat at this port had been doused with fuel and set alight.

Out for an eight-week mission trip that was set to encompass Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, our first stop was to be the island of Nias, off Sumatra’s west coast. By the time we would finally get there, we would have already been travelling almost a week. We hadn’t wanted to go through Sibolga, but were left with no other option when the only available airline (with the dubious name “SMAC”) wouldn’t take us. All the travel guide books referred to Sibolga as “the hell you have to pass through to get to heaven (Nias)”. Sitting at the port in the midst of our passport debacle, we were beginning to see why.

The gun-toting port thugs were standing outside our parked minivan in a sinister circle, perusing our passports and trying to decide what to do. Some of them started shouting for “the Australian” to get out of the vehicle, at which point I dropped whatever was left of my “brave leader” façade and burst into tears. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be a missionary anymore!

Eventually, after paying the right amount of bribe money (a big chunk of our team’s limited outreach funds), they gave our passports back and let us get on the boat. And I, “the Australian”, even got on the boat unscathed- at least physically! We were all more than a little emotionally overwrought, but upon finally reaching Nias, all our hassles back in Sibolga had faded into a dim dark memory upon discovery that this gem of an island truly was like a little slice of heaven…


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This article has been read 788 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth Muehlhausen08/01/05
Tense and moody. Favorite paragraph: "The gun-toting port thugs were standing outside our parked minivan in a sinister circle, perusing our passports and trying to decide what to do. Some of them started shouting for “the Australian” to get out of the vehicle, at which point I dropped whatever was left of my “brave leader” façade and burst into tears. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be a missionary anymore!"

Amy Michelle Wiley 08/01/05
ooo, scary! Very interesting story--well done.
Crista Darr08/02/05
Wonderfully well-told, action-packed story! Great work!
Nina Phillips08/02/05
Yes, very honest and emotional. Frankly, I would have been scared witless. Great discriptions. God bless ya, littlelight
Helga Doermer08/03/05
What a frightening encounter.
Pat Guy 08/04/05
I would love to hear about the other half of the story! Why it was worth it all! Great job!
Shari Armstrong 08/04/05
Very well written.
Julianne Jones08/05/05
After reading this tale, who would want to be a missionary? Thankfully you concluded that it has its rewards! A well-written snapshot of a frightening ordeal. You built the tension well throughout the story. Loved it. Thank you!
Dixie Phillips 08/05/05
My insides are still trembling! Great job at making us feel what you were writing!
Maxx .08/05/05
This is a great scene. A lot of potential for drama. My only problem is that you "told" us the whole thing. I would have much preferred to read an account that had me living it. Use dialogue and action to let the piece grow on its own.
Cyndie Odya-Weis08/05/05
What an ordeal- I would have liked a bit more dialogue, descriptive words... maybe a bit slower in approach-
Debra Brand08/06/05
Exciting situation! I never watch movies that has the heroine opens the door where the danger lurks. Reminds me of this story. Guess I wouldn't make it as a missionary in a dangerous place!
Val Clark08/06/05
Yes, what a fiasco! Honest, spell binding story. Was really there with you. Well done. (Agree with Maxx on how you could imporove it for the reader though.)
Sandra Petersen 08/07/05
Wow! What an experience! There seems a little symbolism of our passage through life in this piece. Did you have to pass through the same port to leave? Very good!