Time travel in Sumba


The clucking of a rooster rummaging around under our traditional Sumbanese house wakes me up. It’s still pitch dark outside. I guess it must be something like 4 AM. Probably I have already gotten enough sleep. I’m hoping that the rooster won’t crow right below our bed again like it frequently does. I don’t want Amidala to be woken by the sudden, loud sound. I feel her little body in the dark, I check if she is covered up. Of course she isn’t… As soon as she feels something covering her, she kicks it off. She can’t stand being covered…, but at night it gets cold in this house with walls of woven bamboo panels. I use two covers not only one, while she sleeps without any. I stroke her chest and belly, her cold limbs and I wonder how on earth did these 3,5 years, since she has come into our lives, pass so quickly.

The rooster has moved on, but now I can hear some horses grazing some distance away. They can’t be far because I can hear the clasping of their teeth. I love this sound, I love that I’m so close to them. I breath in the fresh air that gently comes through the walls.

Traditional sumbanese house with high peaked roof

Our house on Palakahembi beach

I fall asleep again and only wake up when the first sun lights penetrate the woven bamboo walls and casts light spots over Amidala’s face. I have time to admire her beauty and be awed by her existence.

I get up at 6 AM. When I leave the bed, I make sure to close the mosquito net properly. Mosquitoes are most active during sunset and sunrise. In Sumba they potentially carry Malaria and Dengue fever, but thank God we’ve never had any problems so far.

There is no vaccination against any of the mentioned viruses, however the locals cure themselves by consuming food made of papaya flower or make juice from papaya leaf.

a dish made of papaya and banana flowers,served in banana petal, with white rice

Bunga Papaya dan Jantung pisang

I quickly make a muffin mixture with chocolate chips & candied orange peel. I don’t have an oven here, therefore I steam them for 10 minutes in their silicone muffin cups. I love these muffin cups, it’s a pity that my darling husband likes leaving them on the terrace and the dog chews them to bits in the hopes of getting some form of nutrition from the leftover muffin smell. I must say that this is not our dog; it’s the neighbor’s dog, but she spends much of her time around us.

While the muffins are getting steamed, I do a bit of washing up in the plastic bowls I have designated for this purpose. We don’t have the luxury of running water in this house, therefore I use drinking water from the 20 liter bottles that we can refill near here.

water filter

I hand wash our laundry, which takes at least an hour a day for me. We don’t use toilet paper, you see. We try to eliminate products from our lives that create waste. When Amidala was born, I bought washable bamboo baby wipes for her instead of the fragranced disposable ones. For over 3 years we’ve been toilet paper free. These wipes do a great job. In order to save water, I recycle as much as possible. I keep the rinsing water each time I do laundry and use it for washing the next batch of clothes.

clothes drying on a twisted line drying clothes

We use 1 gallon of water a day. That’s 20 liters. It’s amazing that 20 liters of water is enough for doing laundry, washing up, cooking, bathing and flushing the toilet. Of course this would not be possible if we didn’t reuse water constantly. The water I’m using for steaming the muffins, will stay perfectly clean, therefore I can boil some noodles in it for lunch this afternoon to make Noodle Margarita.

Bath water is used for flushing the toilet. The rinsing water after the washing up is still clean enough to wash vegetables in it for cooking, then use it for washing the dishes later. By the time I finish the washing up, the muffins are ready.

They come out perfect:

steamed chocolate muffins in silicone cups

After breakfast we get ready for pre-school. It’s Friday, therefore Amidala has to wear her sports uniform.

school ride

On Monday and Tuesday kids wear an orange uniform, Wednesday and Thursday batik, while on Friday and Saturday they wear sports uniform. Yes, there is school on Saturday too…

The school is only 2 minutes away by motorbike. It’s Asia! Everyone rides here. Amidala was 4 months old when she first rode with me on the busy streets of Bali. Sumba is different: no traffic here, so I don’t mind it when the teachers load my bike with some extra kids to take home at the end of the school day. I occasionally wonder how Amidala will fit in, if we move back to Europe. I’m sure that this level of freedom she will not experience anywhere else.

From 7 to 10 AM Amidala is at pre-school where they play, pray and learn. Every month they have different themes to work with. This month is transportation month for example. Each week they analyze one means of transport: Water / Land / Road

After School, we go home, play with our pet chicken, who believes we are its family. In the evening for example, when it’s time to go to sleep,it comes to find any of us, climbs in our laps or shoulders and falls asleep.

Little girl with a little chick

playing with chippy

We go down to the beach, play a little bit and ask the fisherman what the catch was like today. If they have some prawns we buy them to prepare for dinner.Good catch today

Little girl folding a batch of fresh king prawns Little girl enjoying her meal of fried king prawn

Roughly 1 hour before sunset, it’s time to start making dinner, because we don’t have electricity and dinner must be ready before sunset, otherwise I won’t see much of what I’m cooking.

During bathing we use a chargeable light to give us sufficient light. I warm up some water on the stove, to at least enjoy the warmth of the water if there is no luxury of water abundance.

I remember the first 3 days on the beach, when we didn’t have gas yet. Those 3 days we had cold baths and had prepared meals outside on a fireplace.

curry on open fire

I routinely spray the area around the bed, to get rid of any crawlies, while the water is warming up on the stove.

Before I get Amidala out of the plastic baby bath tub, I thoroughly check her towel to make sure there is no unwanted creature in it. Only a few days ago, she’d looked at her hanging towel, prepared for her to be wrapped in after her bath, and asked me what that thing was inside it. Well, at my utmost surprise and astonishment, it was a scorpion.

A scorpion on a white bath towel

After taking a picture of it, I flicked it off with the use of my phone. I was ready to step on it, when it slipped through the gap between the bamboo flooring.

Amidala watches Peppa Pig while I have my turn for having a bath; in the same water as she had used of course, then daddy follows.

We read stories or play with her favorite educational game at the light of the chargeable light.

At 8PM we are ready to sleep.

* We charge our devices in Waingapu every other day at Villa Amidala.

What I enjoy most about life at the moment is the complete dependence on nature. We follow what nature dictates, we rise with the sun and we go down with the sun. We don’t override it like before by staying up until 2AM and sleeping in our darkened rooms until 10AM… We feel more healthy, relaxed and happy and more connected to nature.










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