Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An improvised Lonely Planet guide to Gorontalo

During the first week of my Writing IV classes, I had my students write about interesting things to see and do in Gorontalo. Modeled after something I was required to do at the community college I taught at in New York, I called this a “Writing Diagnostic” – a timed in-class essay that would tell me something about their writing level. I promised them that I would then use their writing to create a customized grammar activity for the next class, emphasizing important errors. What I didn’t tell them, but maybe they guessed, was that the activity had a third objective - namely to provide me with a free detailed guide to Gorontalo, something that is sorely missing from Lonely Planet Indonesia. Last weekend I got to go to Monano Beach, one of the many beaches in the area, and this past weekend I got a chance to visit a couple more places.

Pentadio Resort – This spot was mentioned again and again in the essays as a great place to go swimming. My students raved about warm water, a number of different pools, slides, toys for children, spa treatments, etc. I imagined a luxury resort hotel tucked away in the palm trees of the village of Talaga. Alexa, Sarah and I checked it out on Saturday morning and although it was a far cry from the luxury resort I had imagined, it was still a decent pool. The entrance was marked with an elaborate gate and towering statues, but, as is typical of many places around here, the paint had faded and peeled off, leaving the impression that the “resort” had long since experienced its heyday. To add to its mystic, I had heard from multiple sources that the pool is said to be haunted by those who have drowned in its waters. I was explicitly advised not to go there in the late afternoon or evening as this is when the ghosts are active.

Here’s a picture of the pool fringed by palm trees and looking anything but haunted:

Here’s a picture of Sarah and me in our appropriately conservative swimming costumes warming up for our swim:

Otanaha Fortress – Left behind by the Portuguese, this fortress sits atop a hill outside Limboto. Accompanied by Helena, a lecturer from UNG who lives nearby, I took a bentor up to the top and checked out the spectacular view of Limboto Lake, the mountains, and the surrounding villages. The site is actually made up of the ruins of three separate fortresses: Otanaha, Otahiya and Ulupahu. An interesting fact I learned from one of my students is that bird eggs were used as one of the building materials. Here’s a view from Otanaha looking down at one of the other two smaller fortresses:

And here’s me relaxing at the top with Helena:

After taking this photo we climbed down 420 steep steps to the bottom and my calves are still sore. (I personally would have elected to take the bentor back down the hill, but I guess using the stairs is part of the whole experience).

Limboto Lake – Multiple students recommended taking a boat to an island in the middle of the lake where you can catch your own fish and have it cooked at the island’s restaurant. When I asked Helena about this, she said she knew of no such restaurant. Hmm. In any case, it’s still the dry season so the water level of the lake is pretty low. Maybe the boat to the island only appears in the wet season, like the dry-docked pedalo boats we passed…

Here’s a picture of Helena and me by the lake:

There are many more places my students recommended. Top on my wish list are Olele Beach and Saronde Island, which are both supposed to be great for snorkeling and diving. There’s also Bolihutuo Beach, Libuo Beach, Bitila Island, Molotabu Beach, Exotic Beach, etc. And let’s not forget about the Lombongo hot springs and waterfall! It’s my goal to check out new places every weekend. And I’m very excited for the start of the Gorontalo dive season, which runs from November to April.


  1. I like the idea of having students produce content that will be useful. And it's fine if the person who first takes advantage of their essays is their teacher.

    It's also great that you're getting out and about even if there's that annoying problem of faded paint and angry ghosts.

    Would the students be interested in making Power Point or other multimedia presentations about these destinations? Still images would probably be easier to start with than video.

    This term here in Chicago, I'm having each student do a Cultural Outing in Chicago project. They have to find some way to show an aspect of their culture but do so in Chicago. Some obvious choices are restaurants, places of worship, markets. We've done this in several steps, with about 10-20 minutes in class for each stage. First, they just thought of something they like from their cultures. Then they chose a vague activity in Chicago connected with that. Third, they had to choose a specific place, date, and time.

    Then, last Friday, I had them play Devil's Advocate and interview each other and mention possible anxieties or doubts other students might have. This week, for the final version of the Outing, they have to add an FAQ in which these anxieties are described and allayed.

    This project has worked very well in my writing class, and well in speaking. It has not been very successful in my reading class, but whether that's due to the content area or to class lethargy, I'm not sure.

  2. Haha, what a clever writing assignment!

    Beautiful pool! Did you two have it all to yourselves? Did you go during the haunted time? I'm surprised so many pools have been long course!

    Your shirt looks nice too. :-) Is that one of your custom-made ones?

  3. William - yes, the assignment would lend itself well to all sorts of media presentations, but this isn't exactly a high tech place. Some teachers do use PowerPoints in their classrooms, but the problem with that is that not all classrooms have electrical outlets and even if they did, you can't always count on having electricity. Such is life in Indonesia!

    Banny - Yeah, pretty sneaky, huh? I got a lot of good advice about where to go. Interestingly, there are several big swimming pools around here and despite the hot weather they remain virtually empty! I've only been twice so far, but both times I've basically had the pool to myself. Can't complain :-)

    The shirt I'm wearing here I'm actually borrowing from Ibu Noni. But I have another one in a similar style that I had custom made.

  4. Wow! You're already WAY ahead of me in terms of sightseeing in Gorontalo: I got to Otanaha Fortress at the end of my stay there. ;) I also would highly recommend the floating restaurant on Limboto Lake. It most certainly does exist and it's wonderful. ;)

  5. Glad to hear the floating restaurant does exist! Is there anywhere else you recommend I go visit, Jonna? Something that's not listed here?