In Search of Kong

I visited Indonesia this week and was met at the airport by a staff member from our local office. While we were waiting for the driver to arrive, we talked about some of the things Indonesia is known for. I was surprised to learn that the legendary King Kong was supposed to have lived on one of the many islands of Indonesia, and I said, “Oh, I want to see King Kong! How cool would that be to tell my kids?”

I was kidding, of course. Just making conversation. If I had only known the chain of events that one comment would put into motion…

You need to know something about the Indonesian people…they are very gracious. Exorbitantly gracious. So gracious that if you express even casual interest in something, they will give it to you or buy it for you. I had experienced this on previous trips, but I had forgotten.

After I said that I wanted to see King Kong, that staff member must have passed it on to the country director. Since Kong died at the end of the movie, she decided that she would arrange for me to see the next best thing – the orangutans of Borneo. I was informed the next morning at breakfast that I was indeed going to be able to see really large apes on this trip.

“Uh, okay….well, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience you. I was just kidding about the Kong thing.”

But it was no use. I should have known there was no dissuading them from their hospitality. They delight in blessing their guests. We had a three-hour drive to get to where we were going for the day. Along the way, we took a detour to the Orangutan Reintroduction Project.

When we got there, one of the staff members stepped out of the car to talk with the security guards. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us in, because we didn’t have reservations 24-hours in advance. They told us that we could go to their administrative office and seek permission, so we did. But despite our team’s excellent negotiations, they wouldn’t let us in either.

I assured my hosts that it was perfectly fine. I hadn’t had my heart set on seeing the orangutans. I thought that was the end of it.

The next morning, I was informed at breakfast that I was indeed going to be able to see really large apes on this trip. We would be stopping by the zoo on our way to the airport.

“Uh, okay…you know, we don’t have to go out of our way. If the other guys would rather go straight to the airport…”

But again, it was no use. Forces more powerful than my protests were at work. So, we went to the zoo.

It was only thirty or so minutes out of the way. Unfortunately, when we got there, we were told that the zoo was closed on Fridays. Unbelievable!

But my friends were not deterred. Handing the security guard a small love offering, they convinced him to open the gate for us.

Then, we had the run of the park. There was no one else around, so I got a personal meet and greet with “orangutan” (which means incidentally, “man of the forest”).

At first, he wasn’t too interested in friendship with the “man of the suburbs,” but then….an olive branch!

And before you knew it, we were thumb wrestling…

He was much better than me (but he kinda cheated by always going after the cuticle and all).

So, I didn’t find Kong, but I made a friend with the man of the forest. And I learned a good lesson about being careful what I say in front of my very gracious Indonesian hosts. (Next time, I’m going to tell them how much I like their laptop.)


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