This entry will backtrack a couple of weeks because once we left Thailand, we were pretty much out of range of internet connections. That was not a bad thing, because it let us experience island life in a fuller way, detached from our normal communications. After 6 weeks of life in busy Asian cities, we were ready for a close look at rural village life.
Our launching point to the islands took place from Singapore. A company that specializes in island visits, known as ethnotours, arranged a couple days’ worth of orientation and language learning for us. We learned how to introduce ourselves in a local language and tell a bit about ourselves, and use various different greetings and other survival terms. After being language teachers for the previous month, it gave us insight to have the shoes on the other feet.
We stayed on two different islands, three nights at each place. Home stays had been pre-arranged, as well as some simple work projects. Try to picture a small island with about 2-300 people, most of the houses built over the water on wooden or concrete posts. It took less than 10 minutes to walk around the first island. Electricity came only by generators, for a few hours at night. We ate what the islanders ate, which consisted of a variety of rice and seafood dishes for three meals each day, plus some other tasty dishes. It was surprising to see how many ways shrimp, squid, and small fish could be prepared (and eaten with fingers). We slept on mats on the floor with the host families and bathed with buckets and dippers with the only drainage being the splits in the floorboards emptying into the ocean. On the second island the ladies on our team all experienced bathing at the public wells! Discreetly of course, and with lots of laughter.
It was so special to get to know the families who hosted us, and their children. They were very welcoming to us as foreigners. Each island had had only had minimal visits in the past from outsiders. We communicated mostly through Indonesian translators, who were assigned to each of the houses where we stayed. We were free to ask them questions about their ways of life, and vice versa. We saw how funerals and weddings were handled communally. We visited a little primary school and taught some impromptu English lessons. Our Northwestern students were natural magnets to the children of the village, and it was hard to find a time where their hands were not being held by little kids. Simple hand games were a hit.
We agreed that the highlight was a “closing” ceremony at the first island stay. An active arts and dance troupe performed on an outdoor stage for us. But not only that, they invited us to rehearse and take part in it ourselves! The men joined one group, and the women joined another group. We were all dressed in traditional clothing, and our girls made up beautifully. Our women’s dance told a story about different aspects of village life – the ocean and paddling canoes and other women’s activities.
Life in the villages was both hard and good. We contended with some discomforts like mosquitoes and spiders and cockroaches and not using TP. We were perhaps stretched in new ways, being wearied from previous weeks of travel. But that was overshadowed by learning to know people and a way of life that was so different from ours. It was like getting to be part of a living cultural anthropology textbook. Spiritual insights were gained as well, and some of our students expressed lessons God was teaching them about themselves and about Him and prayer and dependence on Him.
Our lovely ladies are in blue
|Our guys in green|