As darkness hastily falls on the heart of Madura Island, uniquely shaped traditional wooden houses and hamlets begin to throw long shadows in an eastward direction. Traffic, which during the day is extremely light by Indonesian standards, is now ceasing entirely. Just a few noisy scooters remain on the road, avoiding the poor peasants slowly dragging their tired feet home from the fields.
Almost no one here speaks Bahasa Indonesia– the official language that was supposed to unite this sprawling archipelago, during and after the declaration of independence from the ruthless Dutch colonial rulers. The local languages and dialects are unfortunately unintelligible to all three of us – occupants of the car. Even our driver, a native from Surabaya, the second largest Indonesian city which is spreading its suburbs on the opposite shore right across the narrow strait, and only a few minutes ferry ride from Madura, understands close to nothing when the natives speak.