I am sitting here under the stars, reflecting and listening to the sounds of worship music drifting over from Pk Zacarias’ hut. He lives in a little shack on the beach just next to us and has returned home today after recovering from an illness. It’s been a tough season for him after recently losing all his piglets and his puppy to a mystery sickness and then he himself was thinking that he was on his own death bed. When Matt went to see him a few days ago he said that he was ready to go. His daughter was not happy with that and proclaimed “you are only 82… Grandma lived until 121 and her sister until 111.” We were humbled by Pk Zacarias’ response (translated) “if I die now i will say thankyou to God, and if I live I will say thankyou to God also.” Pk Zacarias is an amazing man and may not know that he is making a difference even whilst living the most simplest of existences! We were happy to see him come home today and have a new respect for this beautiful man. If you come to visit sometime in the next 40 years you may catch glimpses of him as he works his seaweed farm!
It’s May 2017 and we have just returned to our ‘Indonesian family’ on our beloved Rote Island.
As you may remember, we had our ‘soft opening’ last year and are now taking ‘word of mouth’ bookings. We plan to ‘officially open’ once we get a pool in and the surrounding landscaping completed. (Gotta raise the funds first! Click on the pool image below for more info)
Even with just taking bookings through ‘word of mouth’ we have had to hit the ground running as we had our first guests arrive only 1 day after us and then a quick 2 day turn-around before our next group arrived. The good news is that our bookings are quite solid for the entire season so, even though we are not officially open, we can really begin to focus more on training the locals in all things ‘hospitality,’ as well as looking into the surrounding areas for ways we can partner with the community…. Excited about that!
For somewhat of a different introduction to the season this year, rather than our usual hilarious tales of Kupang, I thought I would share with you part of Molly’s first ever blog to give you a glimpse into her world. Enjoy!
My English teacher laughed when I asked her for 6 months worth of work because I am going back to Rote, but then she came up with an idea… I should start a blog about my travels!
Hi its Molly! I am 15 years old and every year I go overseas to this small, remote island in Indonesia called Rote. This year will be my 6th time. It’s not really the normal schoolgirl life but I enjoy it. My parents are the founders of Mercy Huts, a not for profit surf retreat that gives back to the developing community. The reason my Mum and Dad do this is because they believe that its their calling in life, and, being their daughter, I am dragged along with them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally glad that I’m not normal! My family consists of 6 people; Mum and Dad, Jayden, Me, Grace and Noah. Sadly this year my elder brother, Jayden, wont be coming to Rote with us as he is doing his UNI degree in Jogjakarta. I am not sure of the things that this year holds, but each year always proves to be interesting. Stay tuned and I will keep you updated with with my adventures.”
This life we live is a life full of contrasts & contradictions.
One minute we are celebrating because we have achieved so much & taken so much ground this year & then the next minute we are hit with the reality of how much is still yet to be done! One minute we are creating a beautiful space for guests to come and enjoy, planning a menu (and then enjoying that menu with them!)…… the next minute we are faced with so much need!
Today was such a day…..
We had planned to go with Dr Annie to the village of Mbueain, about 40mins from here, as she had shared with us that this area was severely neglected & has not changed in the 10 years she has been visiting there.
On arrival at the Primary school we were shocked at the conditions in the classrooms. Huge holes in the floors… and the ceiling. Old broken desks, and not nearly enough to go around. There are 33-37 students in each class. The Government has supplied 30 chairs and desks for the whole school! (do the math)
The furniture they did have had been pushed together in order to squeeze as many children as possible on them!… The other children were sitting on the broken floor.
The purpose of Dr Annies yearly visits is to do a ‘health screening’ on the Year 1 students. She is to check each child individually & report back to the health department any children that are ‘unable to learn’ due to health issues or disabilities (such as hearing,vision etc) One child, who is now 11 years old,, is still in Yr 1 as he has been unable to progress. Last year Dr Annie recommended he go to the ‘special school’ in the main city as he would be unable to progress in a normal school. At first it was thought that this boy suffered from some sort of mental health issue but after further investigation it was put down to severe malnutrition. This boy is not just ‘another statistic’. He is a human being with a body that has needs, the same as ours, & due to a lack of these needs being met his little body is now unable to function properly! Heartbreaking! (It is unlikely that he will ever go to the ‘special’ school because of the costs attached) There wereanother two children in this class that had open sores and others with liquid coming from their ears that will need to visit the clinic here for further treatment and care.
The clinic is another story….
They have no oxygen, no anaesthetic and are mostly low on medicines. Funds are meant to come from the Government to supply these things but for the past few years the funding has not found it’s way there. (The staff at the clinic have been known to pay for these things themselves…. Most of them are volunteers) The dentist was recently given a brand new, very modern, dentist chair from Brazil but they are unable to use it because no-one will pay the money to connect the ‘spit bowl’ to a waste outlet making it sanitary to use. At this point they still have to send people off on a journey to the hospital in Ba’a to get a tooth pulled or even for a filling!
There is so much more I wanted to share with you…. so many more things I have learned in just 1 day…. but I will spare you the sad (and shocking) stories.
What to do? Where to from here?
The temptation is to crawl up in ball, overwhelmed, with the thinking… “how can we possibly make a difference?” (don’t get me wrong, I do give in to that at times!!)
But what I do truly believe, is that we CAN make a difference…. One day at a time…. each of us doing our bit and NEVER giving up…. I can’t say we know everything…. Indeed, we are learning as we go…. What I can say, is that we will do our best & give our best…..
We are OPEN for business!!! Mercy Huts (and 100% of it’s profits) will endeavour to work with these communities and these needs to provide the sustainable answer that is needed.
We hit the ground running in Bali, well Sydney really if you include Bunnings, Ikea, ILVE, kitchen warehouses etc. We had an extensive ‘to do’ list before getting on the plane to Kupang where the one and only highlight is ‘Ace Hardware’…. (let me tell you it truly IS a highlight when you have been around here a while!). With 60kg overweight from Bali, another 100kg being shipped, you can imagine just how ‘interesting’ our ferry crossing was to Rote!
Preparations for our Soft Opening
Our ’soft opening’ was set for June 24th with 13 extra guests arriving on the same day. We had less than 7 weeks to complete the kitchen fit-out, build another family-sized hut & the first of 2 couples treehouses… Plus training staff, planning a menu and PRACTISING the menu!!
To say that we were ‘racing the clock’ would be a gross understatement, though I cannot find the words to express this time of preparation adequately!! And here is the result…
Our first real guests
On the day of the arrival of our guests we were still without mattresses to sleep most of them as the truck which was meant to arrive 1 week earlier was still a ’no show’! Don’t ask me how…??!!! But somehow everything fell into place just in time! We felt like the newest competitors on ‘The Block’ as we finally unwrapped & hung the beautiful ‘custom-made’ mosquito nets, curtains, cushions & bedding from Bali. (Thank God their flight was late!)
Now here we find ourselves 4 weeks on and 1 week since our last guests have returned home. I’d like to tell you that it was a ‘breeze’ but I’d be lying! Nothing is easy when you step out & do something for the first time…. What I can say is that it was a huge success with everyone wanting to return… probably next year! How can you not fall in love with this place!!
People in Rote know whats important
Today we travelled to ‘the big smoke’ of Ba’a, the main town 1hrs drive from here, as we needed white cement. (Yes, back to building now) Supplies are very low at the moment as the ferry has not been running due to strong winds and huge swells. (Great for surfers, not so great for just about everything else!) Everything comes by ferry…Petrol, LPG, food and most supplies. Anyway, Noah wanted to try fishing from the wharf as he has noticed plenty of locals trying their luck there. As I sat and watched I was reminded of what an EXTRAORDINARY place this is. As he sat there with his lovely ’Shimano’ fishing rod from Australia waiting for bites with his bait of leftover bread, the man sitting near him with his rod made from bamboo & coke cans came over and GAVE Noah some nice fresh ‘fish’ bait to use. Not long later Noah got snagged and lost all his tackle. The man approached again and GAVE Noah one of his precious hooks. This IS the way life is here. Simple. Generous. People here seem to really know what is important.
I read something yesterday describing how we, in the western world, are ‘marketed’ to, with the aim being, dissatisfaction with ourselves….The more we have, the more we want. As I looked out at our neighbours farming seaweed, I saw our ‘friends’… They are, by far, the happiest people I have ever encountered. Their lives are simple… revolving around the tides… and what is important to them? Their family, their community, their faith.
This is why we are here!
I pray you would come…Yes, to benefit those in need…. but who is in need?? Come, let this place and this people help you re-discover who you are, the simple life, and what really is LIFE!
First up here’s a belated video farewell from the Thistlewaites
Below is a quick picture update of the progress…
We are in ‘full throttle’ pushing forward in order to be ready for all the guests arriving in late June. (Four families including us and the Beaufils family)
*Boat built in Kupang – 2 X Yamaha 40hp engines. Brought over by Matt with ‘captain’ from Villa Oenggaut. Goes really well. 7.6m X 1.8m. Centre console, power steering, 200L inboard tank. Centre seating and storage. Shade for driver plus Bimini from Oz. ‘Kura Kura’ means turtle in Indonesian and was affectionately named after our pet turtle.
*Finishing touches/aesthetics on family hut 2 – Looking really good. So happy with this single story design. This has been my life… 2nd to homeschooling. Painting, sanding, staining, oiling…. Worth it though!
*Family hut number 3 – Roof trusses went up today. A big deal! (Must buy a pig, pray together, work to put them up and then EAT together!)
*Couples treehouse – Piers and foundations in and set. Frame and roof next.
*Kitchen ‘fit out’ nearly complete! – Yay!!! Can’t wait to put everything away properly! We now have cupboards and a pretty impressive ‘island bench’ (considering it’s Rote!!!)
*New storage ‘Gudang’, carport attached and gutters for water catchment. We can now catch up to 3000L of rainwater (which was full the 1st week after it was done!)
That’s about it for all the building.. For now.
*Benny and Defi have been down with just some of the kids from the Childrens home… Love them to bits. Love the relationship we all have with one another. I think we all feel like we are a ‘support team’ for each other.
*Lots of good stuff happening down here in the local community. Continuing to build relationships.
Well that’s it for now… I could go on (and on… And on) but just wanted to give you the headlines.
Thanks for all your support and prayers. Appreciate you all more than you know!