Descending toward Manado, the northern-most city on the island Sulawesi, the plane passed by volcanic Mount Soputan. Having erupted a day earlier, the mountain continued to spill thick, black smoke and ash. The debris draped the horizon and smudged a sinking sun. Science explains these events as natural and difficult to predict expressions of ever-shifting tectonic plates and surging volcanic pressures. It is hard to regard the riled sky, though, and read of the exploding cone, flowing lava and fleeing villagers, without considering the animist’s view.
We spent a night in Manado in a hotel with a fifth floor view of the city’s sea-cured, hardscrabble port. A thousand years of edge-of-the-world commercial and political intrigue: a vital northern gateway to the storied Spice Islands. The broad-bellied, high-prow wooden ships carried rattan and copra, bamboo and swallows’ nests, and most certainly concealed illicit cargo. Their sun-burnished crews filled quay cafes with spiced tobacco smoke and bets on mah-jong, with sailors’ appetites tucking into plates piled with Manado’s incendiary seasoned fishes and its gamey forest meats traded down from the Minahasa highlands, with in-port-for-a-night grins at waitresses whose faces radiated tropical secrets and whose memories a historical record of Chinese traders, Portuguese missionaries, Bugis marauders, English empire-builders, Dayak head-hunters, and Dutch dominionists.
And it seemed that every act in Manado that required or favored taking a seat, occurred in this style of chair.
19 W x 18 D x 42 H, With a 3-slat or 5-slat back