Lesson #7: “Memories and past achievements are the biggest sources of subtle worries: we tend to believe to outperform them. In fact, they’re there, in the past.” 

When talking to Pak Pongky, Pak Caesar, and even Pak Dipi – all were Banda residents – I got the feeling that they badly missed their past glories. 

VOC Deputy Governor residence, next to Istana Mini. Ten years ago, this place was under heavy renovation. Today, it was on its way to becoming (again) ruin.

The glories of tourism in Banda soon after the late Des Alwi re-introduced it to the world as a tourism destination. 

The glories of biodiversity in the archipelago especially the marine and bird that attracted scientists and enthusiasts alike. 

And the glories of Banda as a geopolitical spot, both as to where spices spurred the global politics of trade and the invention of Indonesia as a diverse nation. 

Achievers are prone to worries

In two similarly breezy afternoons of my last two days in Banda, I enjoyed talking with them. Or, to be more precise, listening to their memories and stories. 

Pak Dipi arrived in Banda just when tourism has scaled up from scientists and enthusiasts into more, but not too, mass tourism. He has seen certain months where he had to out his guests in neighbor houses as rooms came short. He has hired additional manpower to cover errands during busy festival weeks. He also understood the pandemic hit severely other destinations. But he doubted that tourism in Banda will ever be the same. 

The reason? Going to Banda, he thought, has become a luxury getaway for the masses. The cost is significantly higher compared to the experience it promised. 

Pak Caesar never missed a rare bird name in his sentences but felt missing the times he enthusiastically share their name with his bird-watching groups. 

He still felt enthusiastic, but less so when talking about birds for tourists. Of course, this special interest in tourism is not for everyone. But he missed the tines when monthly guests would pop up in his email inbox, asking about itineraries. 

Pak Pongky once hesitated to talk about what happened in 1999 as it, quoting directly from him, “it hurts too much.” He lost his mother and two siblings in the riot, had to flee and refuge in Jakarta for one year, before gathering his guts to return to his beloved hometown. 

Eventually, he didn’t feel what he used to. No more neighbors helping each other in religious festivities, no more dinner-table discussion on what mattered other than religion. 

I listened to these three middle-aged gentlemen with a lot of respect. Partly, because I’m about to enter their age group. About.

They earned respect for what others didn’t do: creating access for tourists to easily enjoy Banda. But I also listened to a glimpse of worries that the past would never return. 

Hauntingly glorious past

Romanticism – memories, failures, and achievements – is a sure way to start a wide smile and end with lip-biting worries. 

And I remember those ruins that I found scattered in Banda Naira. Why don’t these seem to matter anymore to the local people?  Exactly. Because they belong to the people in the past.

For achievers like these three gentlemen, glorious past haunted them like a bar they need to both pass and raise. And this easily turned into unnecessary worries.