Village Life and People
Today, we got an early start after another plate of rice and noodles and headed out to scout the island of Arborek, which is about fifteen minutes away by speedboat. Arriving at the pier on this small island, we immediately began searching out specific sites for shots.
Arborek was immaculate. The dirt streets are swept daily and lined with flowers, and the brightly painted houses are well-maintained. As we walked through the town, we witnessed a montage of daily village life. We passed a woman weaving baskets and hats with palm fronds dyed bright colors. Behind a nearby church we saw a kitchen where women prepare feasts for their sasi celebrations. Sasi is the islanders’ local tradition of regularly closing certain reefs to fishing in order to give certain species time to replenish. It’s their way of living in balance with their natural surroundings. A little further on, a group of uniformed school children passed by our group, shouting “hello!” and posing for pictures.
We walked through mangroves newly planted by local women to protect their island from erosion. Saplings and larger trees were lined up in a row in a sand bar just offshore, obviously planted with a purpose. I was tempted to go for a swim, but after noticing all of the mosquitoes skimming the water, I decided to pass.
As we left the mangroves, we ran into a man who was nearly finished carving a dugout canoe. We watched him carve the fifteen-foot boat by hand, taking care in each movement. His four-year-old son mimicked his every move. Each time the father raised his hatchet, the son would take his knife, which looked extremely sharp, and carve out a small piece of wood. When the boy dropped his knife – almost nicking his foot - his mother simply handed it back to him.
Children here are raised to be resilient and self-sufficient at an early age. All throughout the village we saw kids younger than two, my nephew’s age, playing on their own right next to the water’s edge. It’s something you would never see at home. The children are taught to take care of each other and interact across age groups. We frequently saw girls no older than five or six taking care of their infant siblings, carrying them around on their hips like their mothers.
Not far away, a mother and her two daughters were grinding and shaving coconuts for coconut oil. The mother would put the coconuts into the grinder while her two-year-old scraped the shavings into a bucket. Her older daughter swept the floor with a broom made of several sticks. Each child participated in the household duties, as if it were a sort of game they were accustomed to playing.
On our way back to the pier after a long day of scouting, I saw something that amazed me. A young boy was walking down the street, pushing a primitive toy while carrying two freshly caught squid. I was amazed at the ease with which this child had apparently made his own toy—a triangular, rolling contraption made out of sticks—and caught his own food. He seemed childish and experienced at the same time, showing the early life lessons these children learn.
While we loaded our gear back onto the boat, we were entertained by several children leaping off the end of the pier into the crystal blue water. We shouted “satu, dua, tiga!” and they leapt into the water, showering us with laughter and smiles. I’ve quickly learned that these children are not only friendly, but they love to pose and have their picture taken.
Once back on Mansuar, I enjoyed a quick snorkeling session off the dock with my mom and dad. We saw plenty of angel fish, bright neon blue fish, thousands of anchovies, and one crocodile fish that blended perfectly into its surroundings. I also saw the three resident lionfish that swim and live beneath the pier. As it turns out, I am absolutely terrified of these fish. Lionfish are extremely poisonous and are known to be territorial, so although my mom tells me I will be just fine, I didn’t want to get too close! I was so scared I couldn’t even take a picture, although this is now one of my goals for this trip.
As soon as we got back on land, a huge storm rolled in which lasted for the next eight hours, isolating us to the lobby of the dive lodge where the production team hashed out the shooting schedule. As I sat there in the humid, open-air lobby, watching the rain pour down around us, it amazed me once again that I’m here in these incredible surroundings. This is an expedition to remember, one that I’m so fortunate to be able to experience with family. But the real work has yet to begin!