Monday, June 30, 2014

white roads to nowhere

Since gaining autonomy, our local island government receives an annual budget from Uncle Jakarta that they can play with however they see fit. In a country rife with corruption, transparency is murky at best, and coupled with our minimal understanding of the political wormholes, it is impossible to know how funding is channelled.  What is evident are new white gravel roads through uninhabited and rugged inland areas, that end in a swamp or at the foot of a cliff.  Many are built along former goat tracks, and do little but provide easier access for trucks to infiltrate the interior and pillage free rocks. No doubt the mayor's brother owns a truck or two and our local member happens to be in possession of earth moving equipment that can be contracted out at a handsome daily fee. 

Many of these roads are built in the wet season while we are away, so upon our return I am met with many exploring opportunities. We are fortunate to be babysitting a Yamaha trail bike that skips along the back tracks. Fuel has been scarce, as high winds have prevented the ferry crossing from the mainland, so long distance outings have to be timed with a full tank. 

Our village is relatively affluent since the introduction of seaweed farming as a profitable cash crop, and as a result almost all of the traditional houses have been replaced with brick hot boxes of mosquito infestation. For people in the interior, life is very basic and subsistent, and houses are still made from materials gathered in nearby bushland. Thanks to juice from the lontar palm, caloric intake is sufficient and stable, without an annual period of famine that effects other regions.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

it's the time, and it's slow

String out your hammock, wax up your quiver, the season is well underway. We have been back on our island home for almost three months, arriving in mid March after two months of summer in Western Australia and one month travelling in Sri Lanka (you may have seen the photos on my other blog). Nothing happens fast on island time; our days are a gentle wash of tides, watching the breath, watching the mind, watching the waves.

It is officially winter in the southern hemisphere, and while the temperature barely dips below 26 degrees, the signs of the changing season are evident. The occasional black cloud dissipates without a drop and the green tinge of the wet season has already withered to brown. Trade winds blow with persistence, and the cold fronts pushing through WA are bringing us consistent swell. It’s been a solid start to the surf year, and Aquaman has notched his share of barrels on the bedhead. 

If the exasperating internet service will allow, I will begin to fill in the past and keep up with the present.  I am actively posting photos on Instagram @sallymaymills, and my Facebook page , but blogging is difficult given a connection that gets slower every year. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

away for the wet

You may have wondered where we are: have we disappeared down the crab hole of tropical torpor or into the heart of a deep green barrel, never to return from the bliss of the present moment? Fear not, we are in our summer residence in Western Australia, frolicking under days of cloudless blue skies while our island home sleeps through the wet season. The presence of Cyclone Christine last month whipped up a few waves and strong winds, but other than a couple of broken light bulbs we believe the house is at ease. The garden will be doing its wild wet season thing, and hopefully we will return to a six foot mango tree and fruiting papaya. More likely a tangle of creepers, weeds and a few goat eaten sticks. 

We are leaving Australia in less than a month for a long anticipated trip to Sri Lanka, then back to Indonesia for the barefoot season of 2014. There are some big plans and crazy ideas coming up this year; I hope you can paddle in for the ride.  Thanks for being patient with the infrequent posts; with the lack of internet connection last year, it was difficult to sustain a continuous online presence.

A happy new year to everyone, I declare it is still ok to wish this throughout January. Some of us take a while to warm up.

Monday, November 18, 2013

beach reverie

While the pace of western life accelerates in a flurry of infernal busyness, and the time stress tightens like a corset as Christmas draws near, I tend to get slower as the torrid wet season approaches. After eight months on rubber time it can be hard to muster up enough motivation to move anywhere - under stimulation being a converse problem to overload. Each day begins as a blank page, challenging me to be mindful and quiet, while the inner being never shuts up. It can be confronting when the distractions of the typical modern life are stripped away and you realise the commotion is in the mind as it fights with reality. 

See what pondering your navel does? In between times there is always the wind, surf and tides to consider.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

a visa run around

There was a plan and it was good. Then there was a most unexpected incident and the itinerary went spiralling into oblivion, washed away by my tears. I had to dig very deep to accept the reality of the present and release my attachment to the outcome I had envisaged. Our highly anticipated trip to Yunnan province in China was foiled by a single sentence from the smiling immigration secretary at the Chinese embassy in Jakarta.
Do you have your KITAS? (a working visa for Indonesia). 
With a surprised stare we answered no. No KITAS, no Chinese visa. Next please.
The embassy had recently changed the rule, and we were going by the email I had received earlier when a passport and driver's license was all one required. No visa, no China, do not pass go…
In shock, we laughed, I cried and we regrouped with a strong coffee and discussed our options. We had to leave Indonesia the following day as our visa stipulated, so would take the booked flight to Kuala Lumpur. From there we had no plan.

Our Air Asia flights to China were non-rerouteable and non-refundable, a generous donation to their profit, and to book a last minute flight from KL to Bali was cost prohibitive. We are both averse to cities, traffic and noise - the very essence of our time in Jakarta - so were not about to immerse ourselves in the agony of central KL. I had visited Melaka, in the south-west of Malaysia, as a backpacker in 1997 and remembered it fondly. The old town has been UNESCO World Heritage Listed,and with a direct bus link from the airport, we had ourselves a destination.  With a large Chinese population, traditional shophouse architecture and green tea, we could squint and pretend we were in Yunnan, minus the mountains, yaks and snow, but with the added bonus of authentic and ridiculously cheap Indian food. 

One week after leaving our island home we were back, our unused thermals still in the bottom of the bag. We both picked up a horrid flu from excessive exposure to open mouthed coughs and snorts on every mode of transport. My birthday was spent in bed rather than at the foot of a glacier in a Tibetan home stay, and my surprise dinner postponed. Aquaman took it all in his gentle stride, proving he is just that little bit more enlightened than most (or at least me).

Yunnan, you will keep. I have a well thought out itinerary for anyone interested. Wherever you go, there you are.

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