September was our fifth month in Indonesia. Our tolerance for all things corrupt and nepotistic and filthy and half-finished and broken begins to wear thin — very thin — after about four months. So, you know. But, surprisingly, we had a great month. Dale surfed the best (and third best) day of the season. Willow and I surfed too, and we holidayed and ran errands (and had long, hot showers) in Penang and Medan.
PASSAGE: MENTAWAII ISLANDS TO NIAS
LIFE. “What’s the weather doing?” We ask this question at least twenty times a day, and the answer governs where we go and what we do, one hundred percent. At the end of August, the answer was this: the swell of the year was on the way, as were howling winds from the northwest. You might recall from an earlier post, that winds from the northwest usually (always) bring storms in these parts. And you’ll probably appreciate that the swell of the year is, well, THE-SWELL-OF-THE-YEAR. Where to go? What to do? We needed somewhere that holds a big swell. Nias. Somewhere that’s offshore in northwesterly winds. Nias. Somewhere that’s a safe anchorage in northwesterly winds. Nias. Somewhere that’s a safe anchorage in stormy weather. Nias. Somewhere that Willow and I would not be stuck on board Zinc while Dale surfed all day. Nias. So, two hundred nautical miles and thirty-eight hours later we arrived back at Nias.
…Back to Pappa Fran’s house.
…Back to the hammock.
…Back to the kids.
…Back to craft on the veranda.
…Back to life in the village.
SURFING. As the forecast promised, the weather was stormy and the swell was solid.
…On the “practise day” (i.e., the day before the big day), Dale broke a board.
…It was his second this season.
…He seemed confused about how it happened. “The man in the shop said that these Firewires with the carbon rods are unbreakable.”
…This is how it happened.
…The poor little carbon-rodded Firewire didn’t have a chance.
LIFE. The swell became so big that we couldn’t get Willow back to Zinc safely. For those of you who know Nias, this is the Keyhole. Surfers were entering the line-up bleeding, sliced on the reef before they’d caught their first wave.
…We had suspected this would be the case. We were prepared. Willow and I spent two nights on land. Someone was excited to sleep-over at Little Jenes and Alan’s house. (Hint: it wasn’t me.)
VILLAGE LIFE. A new house. The head builder gets $10 a day. The lacky gets $5 a day. And they get lunch and a cup of tea. Safety is a priority.
…A wedding. The dowry was US$15,000. The three-day party cost around the same. Everyone danced.
…Mrs Massage scrubbed-up great.
SURFING. The day of the year.
SURFING. Two days after the day of the year.
LIFE. Hey Justin; thanks for the lifestyle photo.
…But, hey Justin…
LIFE. Fifty cents a bag is the going rate.
BOAT KID. Dale is grooming Willow for a career as a surf caddy in the Mentawaiis. There’s some real money to be made we reckon, what with the number of surfers going up and the fitness levels of the surfers going down.
…Willow can almost “swim”, as I define the term. Finally. By the time we left Nias, she was close to making it from the Keyhole to the tender, with encouragement but without assistance.
…Book rotation. Four sets of twenty-five books are too many, and nowhere near enough, picture books on a boat.
LIFE. Towards the end of September, Willow and I jumped off Zinc for eight nights and tramped across Northern Sumatra and into Malaysia for a variety of reasons, one of which was to resupply Weetbix. Dale stayed with Zinc. Willow and I were excited to travel regular style; though, the novelty soon wore off.
TRAVEL KID. Willow was an amiable travel companion. I didn’t need to pull out the iPad; the world was sufficient entertainment.
…Naturally, there was that incident — which some might describe as a MEGA mega-tantrum — at the Thai Embassy in Penang, and that incident at immigration in Medan, and that incident at the shopping center in Medan. And she wasn’t happy with me after I convinced her to taste this serious spicy goodness.
But mostly, you know, she was pretty good.
…She was patient…
…But she wasn’t friendly to the one thousand people who pinched her—hard—on the face and who laughed at her and taunted her and tried to pinch her again when she cried. Man, I am sick of the pinching. I try to adopt a “relax / accept / toughen-up-a-bit” attitude toward Willow’s minor hurts, including her annoyances with people and surrounds. But this horrid pinching and taunting thing, which is most prevalent in rural Indonesia, but also occurs in metropolitan Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, crosses the line. On this trip, I succeeded in return pinching seven hundred people and I pre-emptive swatted another four hundred hands away from her face. I know, I know, two wrongs, behave how you want your kids to behave, setting a bad example, turn the other cheek etc. etc. But she’s only two and she becomes so distressed and so confused by the pinching and the taunting, and her saying, “Please don’t pinch me” doesn’t work (people just laugh and pinch her again). It makes me mad, and I just can’t help but fight for her. She’s my lion cub.
…And for all her good work, she received her first rose. It was from a little boy whom she was driving around at a shopping center arcade. Perhaps he thought she’d give up the wheel if she had a flower in her hand. Sucker.
SIGHTSEEING. Penang Hill: where colonials flee to escape the heat.
…Penang Butterfly Farm: where three gorgeous girls befriended Willow.
…Penang Tropical Fruit Farm: where we saw the girls again.
…Penang Toy Museum: where the toy-deprived boat kid was mesmerised.
…Rahmat International Wildlife Gallery: where six thousand real, albeit dead and stuffed, animals can be found.
…And where Miss Universes frequent — for some reason, I thought they were keen on animal rights and world peace and stuff, but perhaps that’s just the cliché.
…And where sitting on this statue is prohibited — clearly the least wrong thing happening under the roof, so ride away Willow, ride away.
HEALTH. I contracted a parasite in Indonesia. Again. This is the medication I’ll be taking for another six months.
…Three years ago I hosted a similar parasite. Surfing alleviated the symptoms.
…It is again. Note: the same rashie, the same wave, the same board. I do like to stay at the forefront of surf fashion, travel, and equipment.