Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Still Here....

Let’s begin with my sincere apologies for the unannounced hiatus.  It was my intention to write (and post) all about our return to the states, Colby and I’s stay in Ohio, and our journey back to RI.  Clearly none of this happened.  What can I say.... the TV was too interesting to peel myself away.  Having not seen one in nearly a year and those that I had seen not broadcast anything other Asian or Indian programs, I had an enormous amount of Law and Order to catch up on.  We won’t even discuss how much GLEE I missed.  Good lord what was I thinking leaving the country!!!

Anyways, now that I am thoroughly convinced the hardworking detectives and prosecutors on TNT are still keeping the streets of New York free from murders and child molesters and that broadway showtunes are still keeping drama alive in the halls of McKinley High, I can return to “normal”. 

Here are the highlights from the past few weeks (not Law and Order or Glee....you know...the Nomadic Nixons):
-       Colby and I successfully made our trans-global journey sans Chris.  I am down a few of my nine lives, but every adventure comes with a price. 
-       Baby #2 (flavor undetermined) is growing right along with my midsection. 
-       Colby has learned to ride/drive a tricycle, a bike with training wheels, a scooter, a powerwheels fire engine, and various tractors.  He is now eyeing the 61’ Buick in Your Ol’ Dad’s (aka Grandpa Nixon’s) driveway. 
-       My Mom, cousin Heather, and I made chocolate-covered Easter eggs and sold them as a fundraiser for SYI.  Click here to read about the success and the madness. 
-       In a craptastic attempt to rescue Colby from a mud puddle, I broke my nose.
-       Chris has returned to the States and has almost adjusted to the time change.
-       Unfortunately, he tells me surfing will never be the same now. 
-       We have no idea where any of our belongings are.  Well, that’s not quite true.  They are in boxes.

As soon as I find my camera, I will post pictures!

Right now, Chris, Colby and I are staying in Chatham.   We hope to move back in to our house next week.  In the meantime, Chris and Colby are catching sea creatures and playing in stranded boats, and I am working as a Math/Science teacher on the set of a new movie being filmed in RI.  Nothing dull around here!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Saying Goodbye

 In light of recent discoveries (i.e. a new Nixon in the incubator), Chris and I think it is best if my Indonesia adventure is cut short.  So I am saying goodbye this week.  Colby, and I are flying to San Francisco on the 28th (via Japan) and then on to Ohio to spend some time with my family.  Chris will stay in Sumba for about another month to finish a census of a second study site.  The rest of our work can be done anywhere there is a good internet connect.... which ironically eliminates Sumba! 

Whirlwind preparations have occurred over the past couple of weeks.  I have done my best to wrap things up and make arrangements for projects to carry on without me.  For instance, my friend Pelipus (aka Om Lipu) will be taking over Operation Dig at the orphanage.  He already has construction underway. 

(I intend on posting on the SYI blog in the next few days with a more extensive update.  Much has been happening at the orphanage and I haven't quite got it all summarized!)

I have given Om Lipu the official title of On-Site Manager.  I am confident that he will do an excellent job and will be invaluable if SYI is to have a future. 

I have sorted through our clothes and given most of them away along with most of Colby’s toys.  Contacts have been solidified and farewells handed out.  It is at once sad and exciting.  I always feel a bit of remorse at the close of one chapter.  Think of all the things I couldn’t do, of all the projects left undone.  Along with this ruefulness, I also feel elated about what has been accomplished.  It truly has been a good year.  I have learned more than I thought possible in one year and I have met some of the most interesting, intelligent, and kindhearted people who call this hemisphere home.  

Looking ahead...
Colby, and I have a long journey ahead of us next week.  We will be stopping in San Francisco for 2 days to gather our wits, wash our smelly selves, and try and adjust to the rapid time change.  We will then make our way to Ohio on the 30th of March.  I am looking forward to some much needed family time with my...um... “interesting” relatives.  (Oh!  Don’t look at me like that!  You all know you’re crazy!  I wouldn’t want you to be any other way J!)   Once Chris joins us in Ohio, we will head back to New England in early May.  It will be wonderful to spend some time with his parents in the Cape!  We always have such a wonderful time there!!  We will move back into our house in RI sometime around the 1st of June. 

Okay, that catches everyone up on the immediate travel plans.  If we will be in your part of the world and you want to see us, give me a shout and I will do what I can to make it happen. 

So what’s next?  Is this the end of Nomadic Nixons??  NO WAY!!!  I have had an absolute blast writing about our comings and goings.  (I hope you have enjoyed reading them.)  Besides, I have a backlog of posts about our Sumba adventure, AND I highly doubt this Nixon tribe has given up its nomadic ways.  I think we have only just begun.....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pantai Oro

Chris, Colby, and I enjoyed a delicious Sunday afternoon at a local beach.  This beach is somewhat difficult to get to and therefore, not frequented by locals.  The property adjacent to this beach is also owned by some friends of ours, Lukas and Franceska.  Lukas is from Germany and Franceska is from Flores.  They have two beautiful girls Noni and Elsa.  The recently finished constructing a beautiful house on this property and are in the process of building 12 bungalows and a restaurant.  They have picked a fantastic location to build a hotel.  I hope they can convince enough traffic to visit Sumba to support their endeavor! 

After a brief visit with Franceska and the girls, we headed down to the beach for a little R&R.  We really had a fantastic afternoon.  There is no need for me to tell you about it.  I’ll just let you take a peek at the pics.  I bet you want to visit Lukas and Francheska too!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Randomness from over here

·         I saw a man covered in rubber bands -around his feet, hands, and across his eyes so they couldn’t open all the way.  Weird.  I could only think about my grandmother using rubber bands to castrate cats. 

·         I think Starbucks is the most wonderfully delicious example of impending world domination, but they aren’t working fast enough.

·         Even though it has been several months since I saw a man riding a horse down the main road in Waitabula with motorbikes zooming past him and his face completely covered by a black knit cap (including his eyes), I still wonder if he made it to his destination. (Did he even have a physical destination or perhaps only a death wish?)

·         Just a few days ago, I saw a boy of about 10 years walking down the main road with black tape across his eyes.  All I could think was perhaps he knows the horse guy.

·         Random Sumbanese person: Hello Mister!  Where are you going?  Where you come from?
Me: My name is not mister.  I am going somewhere and I came from over there.

·         I am amazed at how many people I have met with absolutely nothing, but the largest smiles I have ever seen.  Do they really need anything else?

·         Question: How many people can you fit in a bemo bus? 
Answer: It depends on how many people you put on top and how many can hang off       
the rack.

·         Justin Bieber has successfully infiltrated Indonesia - to my dismay, more successfully than Starbucks.    

·         I can’t figure out why everyone here always ties a rope around a pig’s leg to take to the market and then seem annoyed the now hopping pig is not going fast enough.  I can’t walk very fast with one leg being yanked along either.

·         Pigs don’t like to ride on the tops of bemos.  They try to jump off, but since one foot is tied they only ever manage to dangle.    

·         I didn’t know there were so many ways to make your own toys.  Really, there is no reason to buy plastic, mostly-disposable toys when there are tires and sticks, rope, and old cans and bottles to make play things with.  Seriously creative!

·         A woman can get pregnant in Sumba faster than a teenager in the back of her boyfriend’s car. 


Friday, March 4, 2011


Chris and I ventured to one of the many Pasola festivals that take place in Sumba.  They are traditional war re-enactments (so we left the short guy at home).  These festivals are part of the ancient Marapu religion found only on the island of Sumba.  They are performed each year to ensure a good harvest and a prosperous year.  The ceremony starts in the morning around 5am at the coast.  Everyone gathers to watch the village shaman take stock of a type of sea worm mating on the shore.  Somehow, the shaman gleans valuable information about the upcoming year from the undulating worms. 

Following the morning’s voyeuristic activities, the crowd then moves to the Pasola field.  Every village has one.  They are centrally located and consist of a large clearly with perhaps a few bleachers made out of stone slabs or concrete. This field is the Wanokaka Pasola field where Chris and I witnessed our first Pasola.

Only a few years ago, these re-enactments were more like planned, sanctioned battles.  Real spears were thrown at one another by opposing tribes.  Participants were inevitably injured and some even died.  The spilling of blood is part of many Marapu ceremonies.  Not many of these ceremonies involve humans, though.  Pasola is one of the exceptions.  It was/is believed that the offering of blood is necessary to guarantee a bountiful harvest. 

Today, Pasola re-enactments take place using blunted spears made only of wood.  Riders take turns lobbing these large sticks at one another in an attempt to joust an opposing rider from his horse.  A score is somehow determined for each attempt by village elders acting as referees.  It is an honor to be chosen by your tribe to participate as a warrior in the Pasola.  With this honor, though, comes the risk of shame should the rider be knocked from his horse.  Even though rules have been put in place to minimize the risk to the riders, injuries do occur and occasionally there is still a death.   

You can guarantee a Pasola festival will eventually deteriorate into a true skirmish.  The level of the fervor in the skirmish depends on the history between the two tribes participating in the re-enactment. We attended the Pasola in Wanokaka for two reasons: it was on a day we had free, and it is the safest.  Regardless of the proclaimed safety, it too turned into a bunch of men throwing rocks at one another.  The security forces in attendance to guard local political figures intervened.


The aforementioned dignitaries, like the man who insisted on having his picture taken with me, quickly departed.

And so another Pasola festival ended.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Poverty gives rise to the most interesting forms of resourcefulness. Or perhaps more accurately, wealth makes people dependent on commercially available products.  For instance, you need to clean out your gutters, but you can’t reach the gutters.  What do you do?  Well, you hop in your car and you drive to the nearest Lowe’s or Home Depot and you buy a ladder.   In the U.S., you would be a Do-It-Yourself-er.  After all, you didn’t hire someone to clean out your gutters.  What if you don’t have money for a ladder and even if you could scrape together enough cash there isn’t any ladders for sale?  Here, you would walk out into the woods, cut down a couple of bamboo stalks and make your own ladder.  Now, I know this ladder does not meet OSHA health and safety standards, but it will get you up to the gutters (though, it might bring you to the ground a little more quickly than you would like). 

How about a rake?  Target?  Wal-mart?  Why not use a piece of an old flip-flop and poke sticks through it.  When the sticks break off, you can use them to light fires (like your kerosene cooking burner or the fire for burning your trash). 

Need a funnel?  Why not cut the top off of a plastic bottle, take the cap off, and turn it upside down.  You can use the bottom of the bottle as a scoop to water your plants. 

Is the grass getting long?  You can just use scissors or a machete. 

Need a rolling pin to make your own flour tortilla, because your craving for a breakfast burrito is so strong you might hop on a plane and fly to the nearest McDonalds for imitation egg and sausage off the $1 menu?  A large beer bottle works really well.  So does a piece of bamboo.

Does your loose change and your wedding ring long for a nice place to rest while you sleep or wash your dishes by hand?  Seashells make lovely change holders.  One tip, though: Be sure to clean them thoroughly.  Any lingering fishy smell will drive your Sumbanese puppy wild and she will steal your lovely change holder – change, wedding ring, and all. 

Check out the guy who comes by once a day to sell us fresh tempe and tofu.  He made his own cart with scrap metal, bamboo slats, old bike parts.

I am not saying that the conveniences we have become accustom to in the Western world don’t have their good points.  Seriously, a can opener is a thing of beauty.  Unlike the lone sailor who had to abandon his trip across the Atlantic because of a misplaced can opener, people here seem to open cans without them.  I will admit that I am more than a little concerned about Novi’s digits while she is banging that knife into the top of Colby’s canned chocolate milk.  We have since started purchasing powdered chocolate milk in a box.  This way we do not have to worry about tetanus, amputation, or the fact that the metal can doesn’t burn in our trash fire.

How do you fix a clogged drain if there is no plumber (human or liquid) available?  Why not use a ridiculously long vine to snake the pipes with?   It did the trick for Esti when are shower drain became clogged.

Purchasing clean water is mahal sekali (expensive) here.  Like many other families here, Esti and Novi rigged a plastic gutter to catch the rain water and funnel it into our water tank.  When it isn't being used for this purpose, it becomes an ultra-fast race track!

Chris even made us a floor lamp out of a rice bag, two tire rims and bamboo.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Kupang: Not a tourist destination

I had heard Kupang was not the best place to visit.  “It’s dirty and it’s loud,” they said.  A trip to this city was not on my “to see” list, but it couldn’t be avoided.  We are helping Novi and Esti get passports.  In Indonesia, everyone who wants a passport must personally visit the main office for the province they live in.  For Nusa Tenggara Timor (where we live), that office is located in West Timor in the city of Kupang

So.... Novi, Esti, Colby, and I ventured to Timor.  We rented a room at a hotel on the beach. 

I was thinking “ocean views”.  Fun!  Unfortunately, you can not see the ocean do to the concrete walls “protecting” the rooms.  And the TV you see in the above photo – it was only there to tease.  It didn’t actually work.  Nor did the hot water.  There was a real toilet, but no real toilet paper.  Beggars can’t be choosers, right?

Kupang is a large city that sprawls.  Walking is not recommended due to the distances between attractions (and I use the word loosely) and due to the widespread drug problem.  Absolutely everywhere we went had a sign reminding visitors that the use of narcotics is not permitted.  Seriously....everywhere. 

We ventured to the mall via bemo.  A bemo is a mini-bus that doubles as a discotech regardless of the time of day.  Here Colby demonstrates how to “stay cool” on the mobile dance club.

Here he shows his true colors. 

Warning:  If you do venture to Kupang and decide to utilize bemos (as they are cheap and relatively efficient), beware they are the only place I did not see the No Narcotics Signs.  This lack of the ubiquitous reminder was sometimes evident in the bloodshot eyes of the bemo driver.

The mall had an escalator and a KFC with a playground – a step in the right direction for someone missing modern conveniences.   

We had planned to check out Gua Monyet (Monkey Cave), but were advised not to by the hotel staff, a waitress, and a bemo driver.  Apparently in addition to monkeys in the cave and a large traditional gong, Gua Monyet is a popular spot for drug and sex trafficking. 

The more we learned about Kupang, the more I realized it was not the best place for a “family” outing.  It became clear that we would be traveling only to the passport office and staying close to the hotel until time to return to Sumba.  Fortunately, there was a decent beach spot not a 20 yards from the hotel. 

Colby is now an excellent fisherman.  He caught many little fish in the tidepools.  He “befriended” one little fish. 

Poor thing.  Can you see it? Here, let me help.

He continued to dump water on this little fish washing back into the tidepool and recatch it.  It did not live long.  It might even be dead already in the picture above.  He wanted to bring it back with us.  I know they had become good friends and all, but a dead fish a good pet does not make. 

The girls successfully got their passports and we RAN to the airport, which does boast a few statues

I don’t think we will be returning to Kupang anytime soon, unless it is only to stop over on our way somewhere else.