On Wednesday morning, I joined my cousin, Penny & her daughter, Kaitlyn on their visit to meet Nova, the young girl Penny is sponsoring & her Mum, Sayu, for the very first time. Penny began sponsoring Nova last December as a Christmas present to herself after hearing about it from a fellow teacher. It is organised by the owners, John & Susie, of the lovely hotel Melamun, where we stayed while in Lovina. Susie, who is currently in Australia, organises this sponsorship program for local families suffering from financial hardship. Penny planned her entire trip to Bali around meeting Nova & her family and I was thrilled that it was possible to join them.
We were collected at 10am from our hotel and driven to where Nova & her family live. It isn’t far from our hotel, only about 5 mins away, and also on the beach side of the main road. We drove down a long windy track past houses, a private university and rice fields to arrive at the area where Nova lives.
Carrying the many, many donations Penny & Kaitlyn had brought for Nova & her family,
we walked past an enormous black male pig and several beautiful, placid cows before arriving at a clearing where a large flat bamboo bench/table and a chair were positioned under a tree to welcome us. Surrounding the clearing were a collection of small houses built from salvaged materials.
The houses were all basic and very small.
We were greeted warmly by Sayu, Nova’s mother, who was absolutely delighted to meet Penny and enormously grateful for the money that Penny has been sending over monthly. This money not only pays for Nova’s school fees, books & uniforms, but also is enough to help put food on the table and cover other costs that a mother faces when raising a family. Nova’s father is a fisherman and her mother a ‘trader’. She is one of the many women you see on the beaches here, carrying their wares on their head, touting to tourists.
Penny was given the one and only chair in recognition of her status and their respect for her while all the young children piled onto the bamboo bench. Penny put her bags down on the bench and she was then handed a long cylindrical gift wrapped packet.
Penny explained that most of the donations were from her family however 2 of the bags were from her students. Everyone was in awe of the many bags Penny had given to Sayu! There were several bags of clothes which would be shared out amongst the cousins no doubt! There were many happy faces too when Penny opened a bag of lollypops and handed them around!
We were then given a tour of her house which didn’t take long. Within a few meters of the tide, Sayu lives with her mother in law, her husband and their 4 children. Their house consists of 2 buildings. One is the kitchen. This building has an earthen floor, contains a low bamboo bench on which is the gas stove and a container for water. Next to the bench is the dishes rack as is found in all kitchens here. The kitchen door either doesn’t shut or is rarely shut and while we stood looking, a young chicken casually strolled in and checked the floor for crumbs. Later I saw a small piglet do the same! Opposite the kitchen is another room which is about the size of the SSO room at PEPS. This room is their house. It is their bedroom during the night and during the day becomes all the other rooms you need in a house. Here is the view of their kitchen from the beach.
from where the family get all their water for both drinking and washing. I didn’t see a toilet or a bathroom and didn’t think to ask where it was.
While standing on the beach, i saw an elderly man mending his fishing nets.
I came back to Penny, Kaitlin & Sayu and realised that Penny had just asked Sayu for details about the rumour we had just heard. Apparently all the 10 families who lived in this particular area were being forced to move. Sayu confirmed it with tears in her eyes and clarified that while she hadn’t been told officially yet, she was confident it was true. Recently, one of the senior bosses from the hotel chain that owns the land, had visited the site to supervise the surveyors as they marked the boundaries. While there, he explained to all 10 families that as the building of their hotel was about to start, all the families would have to move. We asked Sayu what she was going to do and she burst into tears and confessed there were no plans. Apparently her husbands family have lived there for several generations and had been given verbal permission to do so however now that beach front land is valuable, the owners are finally building a beach front hotel and Sayu’s family are regarded as nothing more than squatters.
This week, a decision is going to be made on the location of an international airport near Lovina /Singaraja in Northern Bali. There has been talk of building this international airport for several years. It was shelved temporarily when the federal government built the international airport in Lombok thinking that would be sufficient. However it seems the business people who had invested in land up here continued to put pressure on the government for the need for a better international airport in Bali as as the current one, Ngurah Rai, can not be extended and consequently the larger planes, the A380’s can not land there.
Now that, the airport plans are looking more and more certain, business groups are trying to prepare for the tourist boom which is sure to follow. Lovina at the moment is remote, quiet and very similar to Kuta/Legian 40 years ago. However the development here happen much faster should an international airport be built and I can see Lovina ending up as a northern Kuta however lovals hope it will be more like a northern Sanur!
Sayu & the other families live on a beautiful piece of prime land and it is no wonder the hotel chain want to start building their hotel there.
The parcel of land has a beach at one end and at the other end are rice fields. It is the perfect spot to build a hotel. However as the families who currently live there have no written evidence of the permission given to live there, they must leave and will be given no financial assistance from the company.
The owners of Melamun, John & Susie, have joined a group of concerned citizens who have put their case to the local government who are keen to help but with the sudden skyrocketing land prices have stated they do not have the finances to provide them with land. So, John, Susie and the others (local & western) are currently searching for a small block of land that isn’t too expensive. It will definitely not be beach front, but they have decided that having somewhere to build a house is more important that being close to the sea. Their boats can be moored anywhere and they will just have to organise transport to and from their boats. While it is extremely traumatic for the families to be evicted, they have lived rent free for many years right on the beach which would have been very convenient for the fishing families.
As Sayu explained this to us all, it was very emotional and Penny & I were moved to tears. We 3 stood there talking with tears rolling down our faces. Penny asked Sayu for ideas on what she could do to help Sayu’s family. Sayu then explained that for her family, they were desperate because not only were they being forcibly evicted but their family boat was almost unseaworthy and as their main source of income relies on the sea, she was wondering whether Penny could raise some of the money needed to buy a new boat. Ideally they wanted one that could be used both for fishing and for taking tourists out fishing or looking at dolphins. Sayu explained that a second hand boat would cost RP 10 million (AUD$1000) and a brand new one would be RP 20 million (AUD$2000). Once we had translated the number into AUD, Penny told Sayu that she would be happy to help them buy a new boat on the condition that they named the boat “Penny”! Sayu again burst into tears and told me emotionally that she will give Penny the family kain (traditional hand woven length of material) that had been given to Sayu by her grandmother as an heirloom to use whenever and however they needed it should they ever face tough times. This conversation was all in Indonesian and I burst into tears upon hearing Sayu’s offer. Penny & Kaitlyn impatiently asked me what Sayu had said and then they too started crying once I translated Sayu’s generous offer. The ‘kain’ is the only thing of any value that Sayu has to show Penny just how grateful she is for Penny’s family generosity and support. Both Penny & I agreed that Sayu needs to hold onto the ‘kain’ just in case the family face another financial crisis.
We headed back to the hotel soon after organising for Sayu to drop by our hotel to say goodbye before Penny & Kate head off to Seminyak. It had been a very emotional yet extremely rewarding visit and one I was so fortunate to be involved with.
We booked out Friday morning and sat in the restaurant waiting for Sayu to arrive so that everyone could say their goodbyes before Penny & Kaitlyn headed south to Seminyak. While eating our breakfast, John told us that Sayu had popped by the day before while we were in Ubud to drop off some squid for Penny. We were just wondering how we were going to eat calamari before heading off, when Sayu arrived with 3 children and 2 lobsters!
So a quick call to Gede, our driver, let him know that our plans now included an early lunch before heading off!
The lobsters were taken to the kitchen while we sat and chatted with Sayu. Sayu’s children all arrived wearing clothes that Penny & Kaitlyn instantly reognised and they had also brought with them many of the the board books that had been given to them too. It wasn’t long before Nova and Penny were reading together. Penny would read it first and then Nova would repeat it or Nova would say the Indonesian and Penny would repeat it!
It is so old and moth eaten and full of holes but otherwise is in perfect condition. Apparently the motif dates back to the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia and represents how the Balinese in Singaraja cooperated and collaborated with the Dutch.
we sent word to the kitchen that it was time to start cooking lunch and before long a feast was set down before Kait & Penny! They couldn’t believe their eyes nor their taste buds when they began eating!