Monday, November 18, 2013

Opening Our Eyes. Wide. {Part 1}

While staying at Telunas Beach, Indonesia, we had the opportunity to learn a bit more about the neighboring islands and the people's lives there. This is what I have wanted for my children--to see, first-hand, some of the different ways that people around the world live.  It's fascinating.

{These notes/photos are taken from an excursion to the village of Jang. We still had some lingering haze so the photos are very monotone.}

As our boat approached the dock at Jang, we got a glimpse of this fishing village with its homes (well, some of the them) built on stilts over the water, stilts which had clearly weathered many a storm.  We had to wait a moment for the local transport boat to load up its passengers and pull out (like your local public bus . . . but on water). Once it was on its way, we nestled up as close as we could and walked over two other boats to get to the steep stairs leading up to street level. Our Telunas hostess, Ian, had spent some time here training for her job so she taught us a bit about life here as we walked down the main drag--AKA the one paved sidewalk/street in town.

{homes on stilts}

{bus station}

She told us that the village gets about 5 hours of electricity per day, in the evening hours. As we walked down the road several things caught our collective eye.  Motorcycles/mopeds with multiple riders, often driven by children the same ages as my older two.  Chickens and cats roaming around out in front of nearly every home. And finally, we noticed that we--specifically the 3 fair-skinned, blond-headed ones in our group--were a little bit of a freak show walking down the street. They don't get a lot of foreigners here, so when an adorable blond-headed 4-year-old doll comes down the lane, some grandmas just can't help themselves and they pour on the love, liberally and very "tactile"-ly. Like this lovely woman in a photo below.

{chickens everywhere made it fun--especially for the littlest}

 Main Street.
The girls LOVED our cheerful and patient Telunas Beach guide, Ian. So helpful.

You don't have to speak the same language to adore cute little cherubs like this one.

I am not very good at trying to set up great photographs while on trips like this. I have a tendency to try to blend into the woodwork and not impose on others, fearful that I will do something wrong or offend someone. I try to walk the line between capturing snapshots of cultural highlights and avoiding coming across as voyeuristic.  Some people are good at that balance. And I am grateful they are--it is through them that I can learn more about this stunning planet of ours. I personally struggle with that, so I often don't take very many pictures or I take pictures quickly and then they don't come out very well.

That said, here's a random smattering of photos with brief descriptions.

Example of up-cycling. Here is a child's swing fashioned from a woven (plastic?) dry goods bag.

 Where the boats get made.

And below are some of the homes we passed. 

Ian wanted to take us to visit the home and family that had hosted her for her 3-week stay in Jang. It was there that we took refuge from the rainstorm that had just started and enjoyed the hospitality of this family. They brought us tea and fish crackers and we tried to make simple conversation with Ian as our translator.

To supplement the family income the father makes and sells the flowers that you see against the back wall. Here he is showing us the supplies that he uses, sheets of plastic (similar weight as stiff plastic bags) and wire. I wanted to offer the family thanks for opening their home to us, so I asked if those particular flowers were for sale. Each child picked one and I chose one for myself, we paid him, thanked him, wished each other well and went on our way.

A shot of their home after we left.

{village mosque}

 {having fun with a "Shy Princess" plant--when you touch it, it folds up}

{local kids checking out what held our attention--nothing new to them}

{saw this on the way to the dock to pick up our boat--so much to see in this shot}

{down the steps and across another boat to reach our boat}

{littlest gets carried by a helpful local man}

{local kids watching the departing visitors--I love the look on that boy's face--such delightful mischief} 

I'm sure there are amazing stories in this village. Everywhere I go I realize that everyone has a great story to tell. I only wish I spoke the language. We have to settle with the internationally-understood language of smiling and waving.


The people living here are much more restricted in their options due to limited finances and limited access to higher education or vocational training. (Saying that, though, I must point out that this is not a statement about their happiness. Happiness is not determined by the number of zeroes in a bank account or lumps under your mattress.)

Though we saw evidence of creative re-using or up-cycling, the infrastructure for waste- and recycling-management was not as established as in other areas of the world and in other areas of Indonesia itself. So garbage is very much a part of the village landscape. One very real reason for that is simply the isolation of these villages and the relative youth of these homesteading communities that you find on the many, many islands of Indonesia.

On our return trip to the island of Batam (which connected with our ferry back to Singapore), we passed a local public-transport boat. It was standing-room-only, open to the elements, with 3 times the passenger load that it should carry.

And not a life jacket in sight.

It's not uncommon to hear about overloaded boats capsizing in Southeast Asia. The passengers are poor and the boat operators are eking out their living. Few know how to swim. As our boats passed each other I looked across the waters and noticed  men, women, and, yes, small children, making their way to their various destinations. Mothers holding tightly to their babies.

I turned back to look at my babies. We each could have had our own bench, there was so much room.

It was in that moment that I revised my definition of luxury.

Luxury is being able to afford life jackets for your children.


Anonymous said...

Sara, thank you for posting you experiences. I love reading them. What a blessed life you are giving your children. Keep posting..I want to read more! Travel safe sweetheart...

kelly burtenshaw said...

Sarah, seeing this village reminds me so much of life in cabo verde. Homes, trash and lots of sweet kids... Can't wait to hear more stories and see more pictures!

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