What’s “normal” anyway?

MATT: “How is your dog Yos?”
YOS: “Which one?”
MATT: “The one that your cat used to feed from its nipples every day.
YOS: “Oh yes, yes… No, he is no longer with us… We ate him… Last month we invite all the family around and have a big bbq for my wife’s birthday. A great day. The dog fed everybody”
MATT: “What about bats? Do you eat bats?”
YOS: “Yes. We eat bats… But you must be very careful because bats hang upside down and poo and wee all over themselves”
MATT: “What about rats?
YOS: “Yes. Here in Kupang, not so much. In the village sometimes. In Rote they like the rats… The ones in the fields are very good for eating…”

You may think this is a very strange conversation but the funniest thing about it is that it seemed completely normal! What has happened to us! Ha ha ha. At some point Molly and I slowly looked at each other with a gentle smile… Knowing what the other was thinking… “What if someone from home could hear this conversation right now?!”

Having to spend so much time in Kupang on this trip has made me realise how much we have ‘adapted’ over the past few years. These types of things and more have just become part of our every day life here.

What’s ‘normal’ anyway?
*Eating BBQ chicken and rice off a plate? Or out of brown paper that’s been sealed with staples?
*Eating with cutlery or with your fingers?
*Buying your meat from a supermarket or getting it still alive!

‘Normal’ is what you get used to!

On another note… ‘rumble in the jungle’, as we call it, has made its way past us. The new road is coming through… Things are slowly changing. ‘Normal’ is going to be different here in the future!image

In the meantime, Noah has been earning the big $$ (if you ask him) as he has enthusiastically thrown himself into farming seaweed. His biggest taking was about AUD$3.50 so, on the side, he decided to start up a shop with Grace out front! (mostly lollies, along with anything else they found or made) Our little budding entrepreneurs!image

During the ‘roller coaster’ of a time we have had here this year, we were delighted to host two amazing families here at Mercy Huts. The ‘Youngs’ and the ‘Beaufils’ who, of course, loved the place, but who also continue to bless us and this beautifully unique community we have here. The ‘Young’ family came bearing gifts for the village children and for the children of the Mercy Home. Mama Chi threw them completely in the deep end (as she does) and got them to teach a children’s song in English during ‘kids church!’ We were very impressed with Aaron’s singing voice!image
The kitchen is functioning, the 2nd ‘family beach hut’ will be up and running next year… Just putting the finishing touches on the new bathroom. imageWe have also said goodbye today to what we have always endearingly called ‘the bomb!’ Happy to see her go to a family that has the time to restore her and use her well. God knows, She needs work!

The bomb

The bomb

Don’t worry… Yes, Yos did say the field mice were good here….but we decided to take a ‘rain check’ on that one (and the bats for now)and stick with what’s NORMAL.

See you soon Sydney town.

The Thistlewaites

How to find the hospital!

In my last blog, I referred to the things we take for granted in Australia. Things like access to Doctors and good overall medical care. Ironically, just a couple of days after writing this, I got to experience this reality first hand, after falling from a height… No, not from a motorbike, (Which would at least give me a good story) but embarrassingly, from a bed…whilst attempting to clean the top of a mosquito net!!! Anyway… Landing with my arm up and hearing a CRACK, I screamed out in pain for all the village to hear… Silence…For the first time in the history of our time here, there was no-one nearby! After composing myself (very slowly, and not so gracefully) I realised that everyone that lives in a radius of at least 5km’s, including the rest of my family, were attending a ‘Pesta’ in preparation for an upcoming wedding. Again, a good story would go along the lines of a ‘Bear Grylls’ or ‘Survivor’ episode… Close! NOT!! After realising no-one was around, I cried… Not elegantly…But LOUD!

I did eventually get myself up and, as those of you who read the last blog “Dreaming” would understand, I dreamt and prayed for a miracle. I remember thinking “I may just wake up tomorrow morning and be okay.” Long story short, I wasn’t! The next day was Sunday…no hope of doing anything here, so on Monday I took the painful 1.5hr trip to ‘Ba’a’ hospital where there is an x-ray machine.Hospitals, Ba'a and Kupang


There I was informed that I had dislocation and fracture of my shoulder and needed to travel to Kupang to a better equipped medical facility for an operation! Yay!! Just what you need when you are on a timeline! After nearly a week in Kupang, x-rays, scans and receiving specialist advice from Australia, we finally returned to Rote. (we continue to travel to Kupang for scans to confirm that I will not need an op)

On a beautiful note, Delphiana, Nenek and Fiwi followed us to Kupang, a little upset that we had not let them know… “We are family” they said….Ouch! Another beautiful moment in a small village that shows what really is most important… People!!!

They came to Kupang to visit

They came to Kupang to visit

We are very happy to say, that in spite of a challenging few weeks, progress is remaining steady and we are stoked at how the new hut is coming along as well as the kitchen/dining/training area. One thing that this time has has enabled me to do is to sit back, take a breath and be ‘wowed’ by what has been achieved over the past few years. We have come so far… I think I missed that in the, “we still have so much to do.” imageThank you my friends, my family. Thank you for believing that we really can make a difference! We love you. We miss you. We are eternally grateful for you. And we will always continue to BELIEVE!

Building Progress: Check out where your funds are going

Pozible Outcome

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead.

We did it!!! Blowing the target out of the water with $11,260 raised through our recent crowdfunding campaign. THANK YOU to all of you who have shared the vision, lent your voice and contributed funds. We appreciate you all so much! Take a look at what you’ve helped create…


KITCHEN + HUT #2 Progress: 
The kitchen is near-complete and the next hut is underway.

Kitchen Progress MontageFollow Mercy Huts Facebook page for regular progress updates on the Surf Retreat.

Again a big THANK YOU to each of you who have helped support responsible tourism in Rote Island. We couldn’t do it without you.

A grateful Mercy Huts Team


Pic 1: Delayed take-off due to storms Pic 2: Grace & Noah watching the storm from our impromptu home for the night. Pic 3: Trying to check our 25kg BBQ in at Bali airport

Here we are again. It’s May 2015 and we’re back to our beloved Rote.

We got off to a slow start this year… I mean literally… We couldn’t even get off the ground in Sydney! After 1 cancelled flight and miraculous provision of the last available hotel room in Sydney (which happened to be right at the airport) we were re-booked onto a Garuda flight the next day, which also had difficulty due to the HUGE Sydney storms. Eventually we were off the ground and on our way. Exciting…. To say the least!

Call us dreamers, but this year we have way more to do in a lot less time. We have a kitchen/dining room/training pavilion to complete and fit-out. Plus we have the goal to build our next family-sized hut… Remembering that things move slower here as most all the work is done by hand. And we have less than 4 months to do it all!

We hit the ground running in Bali and were excited to get hold of a quality, all stainless BBQ to bring across with us for the kitchen…. Here is a picture of us being denied checking it in… Can’t understand why? It was only 52kg! Yes… dreaming again! It was worth a try! We have it here now, along with our truck load of required building materials and timber brought across by ferry from Kupang.

Horse Feast montage

We were all so excited to arrive in Rote. Matt was especially enthusiastic, accidentally kissing one of the local guys when he put his face up to Matts to welcome him back! You need to understand, culture here is to rub or touch noses, kind of like having a ‘sniff’… but definitely NOT lips to skin ha ha ha. Pakistan . Matt got so carried away he forgot which country he was in!

Progress is moving steadily despite a number of ‘holidays’ where basically the whole village shuts down and no one works. There are lots of ‘holidays’ here and various days of celebration, but one of these was extremely sad. Just 1 week after we arrived, the family that lives just across the road from us, lost their 1 month old baby. Unfortunately it happens all too often here in Rote.

The things we take for granted in Oz! We have strong, healthy bodies that fight sickness and disease plus access to doctors and good medical care… most of the world does not have this privilege!

We love this place, we love the people and we are so happy to be back here, doing what we love most! Oh, to make a difference! Our dream!

Bye for now.
From the ‘family of dreamers!’ (Thistlewaites)