Monday, July 11th
I spent yesterday afternoon with Dato, a Sumbanese man who has worked for Nihiwatu since it has opened. Dato is like the mayor of the West side of Sumba. He owns the reef on the Nihiwatu shore. Dato took me to his beautiful village where the children are healthy, clean and happy. There was a significant difference in Dato’s village where the SF has helped them for several years. I even found a young teenage girl wearing an Irvine Laser’s Soccer jersey, which is the team I played for in 7th and 8th grade! What are the chances!!! Dato was proud to take a picture in front of the bright yellow SF water tank sporting his usual Sumbanese warrior attire. I have forgotten to mention that all the Sumbanese men carry “Sumbanese guns” (machetes) around their waist 24/7. I’ve become so accustomed to this that I forgot to mention it! The swords are used for all sorts of daily activities–slicing coconut, opening up betel nut, chopping trees, and slicing the neck of animals during sacrifices. During all funerals, the Sumbanese sacrifice their animals–water buffalos, pigs, goats–which are all very sacred to them. Imelda (SF staff) was telling me Rudy’s (SF staff) grandfather passed away and the Sumbanese sacrificed 14 water buffalos at his funeral. The more animals signifies his importance in the district. Rudy’s grandpa was a leader who fought for and won the land in the valley which is luscious and green. Today was an ominous day: we drove 3 hours to a village and saw about 3 funerals which buffalo lying dead on the ground. It was quite a scene. The families then take home buffalo to eat. Just so you are aware, the water buffalo are the most sacred and important animals on the island. They can cost up to 65 million Rupiah. They are often given as dowry to the wife’s family when a man wants to marry a woman. However, I have met many Sumbanese who do not like this tradition because a) they are almost buying women b) the water buffalos are worth the most money. The animals are a Sumbanese’s bank account. Dato and I then went to Wagoli village which is atop a mountain. Gorgeous view! The famous Sumba Foundation symbol rock is there. The men there also showed us the headstick pole. The Sumbanese men used to be head hunters and would post the skulls on the pole. Insane culture and tradition. At Wagoli, we went into a hut where a 55-year-old woman lay moaning by the fire. She looked like a pregnant 80-year-old. It was awful. Her feet and ankles were swollen, her stomach as big as a balloon, and her frail arms and legs lying there. This woman hasn’t moved for two weeks because it would be impossible to get her to the hospital or SF clinic. I am going to bring Dr. David (SF doctor) to Wagoli, hopefully tomorrow. She was thankful for us.
Today was overwhelming. 6 of us journeyed over to the Kodi District which is about 3 hours away from Nihiwatu. On the way, I met Celestiana; a young girl who was saved by the SF last year. She was bone-thin, hours from death after contracting cerebral malaria. Celestiana couldn’t have been cuter–she immediately jumped on me and I carried her around for 15 minutes. Although she can’t talk much, Celestiana was happy and playful. Yalawatu village in Kodi was very hard to see. Sumba Foundation doesn’t help Yalawatu because it is too far. The village has nothing–no water, harvest has failed for two years now, no income, the kids don’t visit the doctor when sick (too far) and they only eat cassava. They eat once a day at lunchtime and not before or else they will go hungry the rest of the day. There are 20 people in one house. Compared to the villages I have already interviewed, Yalawatu is in the worst shape. It was so tough because we spent yesterday looking into the village, researching their lifestyle and surveying them. However, we did not bring anything to help them. Hopefully in the future, SF can put a system in place where one person from Yalawatu can come to West Sumba every month to pick up milk powder and other foods. We also met a young 20-year-old man who looked like he was 5. He got cerebral malaria when he was 5 and wasn’t treated soon enough. His growth is completely stunted and mentally, he is not there. Rainy told me that Kodi only receives money every 6 months from the government whereas the villages in West Sumba receive money every 3 months. There is definitely a large separation between rich and poor. The system makes no sense. Apparently, the district leader of Kodi is not as forward or forceful when asking for welfare from the government. As a result, the Kodi villages suffer. There is a ton of land near the river where Kodi gets its water and I asked Rainy why the villages don’t move there. I guess the land is owned by someone else.
It has definitely been hard to research in a perfectly scientific manner. It is difficult to know whether I survey all of the moms or some are gone during the day–farming, getting water, etc. It is also tough to make sure every mother understands the questions thoroughly. It seems like some copy what their friends say when they don’t know how to answer.
We stopped for a picnic on Perro beach (perfectly untouched and beautiful) on the way home.
Yesterday during malnutrition clinic at Deke, the government was there also. As soon as the government found out SF started the malnutrition program, so did the government. We pass out 7 eggs per week and the government passes out 1 egg per month! I can’t even believe that! That is so pointless and definitely will not reduce the malnutrition rates.
Thanks for reading,