As most of you are aware of, my dad is Indonesian. Coming from Kupang, West Timor, there are no surprises that he has a big family. Huge. I’m talking 7 siblings, all with an average of 5 children each, not counting the grand-kids. Yes, I have a big family. Unfortunately I don’t get to see them often, the last time being 7 years ago. Our visit was well overdue, so on a plane I got with my parents and brother and headed East.
Hello Kupang, it’s been a while but you’re still looking mighty fine! Kupang is still mainly dominated by thick forests, cleared only to make way for the winding roads and a small city closer to the coast. Flying in over the lush, dense, green canopy of trees below felt like I was landing in the middle of a jungle and camping out for the week.
The 2 hour drive to dad’s home town of Camplong came with no less hiccups than a punctured tyre, a very useless car jack that came with the rental car and a motorbike service shop across the road who didn’t have the tools to help. No worries, in Indonesia you can’t expect much more. After a helpful soul came to rescue us, we were on our way again.
There is nothing more grounding than to be welcomed back by your extended family, after 7 years, with tears of joy and love. Seeing my aunty fall to the ground in tears at the sight of our arrival was something my western background couldn’t fathom, yet the Indonesian part of me couldn’t find more respect for. And not just that, but on the same day, to be welcomed into the family as adults, alongside my brother, in their traditional way. I was blessed beyond words, and can’t express the appreciation I have for every member of my Indonesian tribe. To go 7 years without contact with your own family, and still be welcomed back in such a beautiful way. It was surreal.
Continuing the journey, we headed further east, in-land towards Oemofa, where I would reunite with yet another of my aunties. It is amazing how every place you end up while travelling can teach you something different. For me, Oemofa put things into serious perspective when I saw the facilities in a standard family house in this village and the ones surrounding. Aunty Mia lived in a 2 bedroom house no more than 7m squared. My own living room at home is bigger than that! Moreover, she had 2 tiny solar panels on her roof which powered all of her 4 lights, a small bar fridge and a 40 watt TV. Yet nothing could take the smile off her face and the joy in her voice when she saw us coming. Us westerners who live in the first world are blessed beyond blessed to have what we have, and while I think we should enjoy what we have, there is a definite point where we become greedy. I admit, I’m greedy. It’s hard not to be when you have everything at your fingertips. But when I see my own family who are content with what little things they are able to get, it brings everything back down to earth.
Our last stop took us to Basmuti, a village on a hill right in the middle of West Timor. And an adventure it was, just getting there. No road I have ever driven could compare to the state this one was in. So bad, in-fact, that at one point the car had to be pulled up a hill. Yes… Pulled! A collapsed bridge in rainy season meant we had to re-route and add another hour onto the 3 hour journey, but against all odds, we made it with a few bones left in our bodies and a few doors still attached to the skeleton of the car. Kidding, but it was an intense journey.
Here in Basmuti I reunited with even more of my extended family, shook hands and rubbed noses with about 10,000 people, drank 10,000 cups of tea with about the same ratio of sugar to tea as I put milo with milk (too much), met the king (yes I have royal ties and you can call me Prince) and smiled for 30,000 photos and 50,000 selfies. All in 2 days. Hecticcc.
And then what? Took the road from hell back to Kupang. This time though, our destination was an exceptionally cheap but impressive guesthouse, where, finally, I could indulge in an air-conditioned room AND a pool!
No matter how hot, dirty, tired and sick of being in a car I got, the 5 days I had seeing my family was like nothing else. Something I will always hold with me is the outpouring of love every member of my huge family lavished over me. For every time I could love them, they love me back ten times more. And as I looked back down onto the canopy of green below me from my plane window, I promised myself I would never leave it 7 years to see them again.
Kupang, you were good. Lombok, I’ll see you in a few hours!