A Week at the Bali House

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12/16 - 12/23
Samantha woke up feeling even worse this morning. She could barely move her knees and wrists. We decided to stay for a week at Laurel's guest house so that she can recover in relative comfort. We were wondering if it's dengue fever, but our research leads us to believe it's just a virus that presents as a lot of joint pain. If she's not feeling better tomorrow we'll see who can give us a ride to the clinic. We're very fortunate that even though we're in a pretty remote location, we still have access to resources, and it's quite ironic that way out here we have such a great internet connection. So we can take a break from surviving in the jungle and use the week to get caught up on a lot of computer work that needs to get done. I also would like to spend some time reflecting on our experience out here so far.

The next few days were focused mostly on computer work while Samantha healed. We took one trip to our block and foraged for food on the way back. I dug up some cassava, which is a little tricky as it involves trekking into head high bushes on a criss-cross mesh of overlapping stems so high that you can't tell where the ground is. It takes a bit of work pulling out the roots. But cassava has quickly become one of our favorite potato substitutes. There happen to be many great starchy foods here. 

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I finished my Christmas song! I don't believe there's been one written for those in the southern hemisphere where the holiday season happens in the summer or on tropical islands where there is no winter. I may be biased, but I think this one could end up being a classic if I can get it out into the world. 

On our fifth day at Laural's Samantha was feeling up to a trip to the village. Laural recently got her little boat running and she wanted to try taking it to the village, which saves time carrying things an extra 20 minutes via the road. 

It was a nice walk down. Lilly introduced us to Mr. Eel, who has a truck and carries Lilly on her trips.  They also showed us a cut-short that goes through the forest to the resort. It cuts off about half a km from the walk.

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We said hello to everyone at the resort and headed out in the boat. Laural took us over the pier near Marlen's house to see the giant clams she's been breeding. They are amazing, each of them is a different color and they are about a meter wide! We saw lots of beautiful fish, coral, and the deep purple starfish that live in the Koro sea. 

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Laural was a little nervous about taking the boat around to the village because it was really windy and she didn't like the sound of the boat motor, but we decided to give it a try. We had to go very slowly and carefully to avoid hitting the coral in the shallow reef but we made it. 

Getting supplies at the village shop was another exercise in patience. It's a small shop and everything is behind the counter, so you have to request each thing you need. We asked for cinnamon and the response was “Wassit?” The village chief, who owns and runs the shop, kept taking phone calls while we were putting in our order. We had to wait 20 minutes here and 5 minutes there while he talked on the phone. The process of buying about 10 things each took about an hour. It took another 30 minutes for Laural to get some fuel she needed. We entertained a group of local children while she took care of that.
The chief was so distracted by the phone that he mixed the wrong fuel in her tank causing even more frustration. But, that's Koro and you've just got to recognize that fact and roll with it. It was really no big deal. 

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The next day Laural took us to find some starts for us to plant on our block. The first spot we went had lots of passion fruit and an extremely dilapidated bure that had been abandoned several years ago. It also has a hive of wasps that attacked Laural. We got out of there pretty fast! 

Next we went to another vacant house that had bunches of coffee plants and vanilla growing in the front yard. I've heard that vanilla is hard to grow but it seems to grow like a weed here. There were chocolate trees there, which we'll figure also figure out how to plant. We discovered a clump of bamboo growing in back. We got a ton of seedlings of coffee, vanilla cuttings, bamboo and planned to go and plant them after lunch. For lunch Mike fried some breadfruit that he'd gotten at the village the day before. Another free food that grows like crazy near the coast. It was really tasty, better than french fries actually. Mmmmm. We decided we have to get some saplings to plant as growing from seeds can take an extra 5-7 years for full production. 

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We headed off to the block to plant what we'd collected.
We chose a sloped area between a few ivi trees to start our coffee grove. It's not too far into the land on an area that is a little too sloped to do anything else with. We got about 18 plants in the ground. We chose to nestle the vanilla in the roots of a couple of ivi trees. Vanilla needs a place to climb and the trees should be a great place for them. We planted two, but plan to get enough to plant on all of the ivi trees on our land. 

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We put some small bamboo cuttings in the ground on the spot where we'd been camping because it has a lot of sun. We aren't sure they will take, we read that the best way to plant bamboo is to use the rhizomes, but they had been too hard to pull out of the ground without a good spade. It's an experiment, we'll see what happens. We also added another 10 or so pineapples to the plot. 

We are feeling a bit impatient to get moving on some building. When we talked to Lewai about it he thinks it'll only take a couple of weeks. We keep asking him to set up a meeting with his brother the builder but nothing has come of it so far. We're worried that he doesn't have the time but doesn't want to say no to us, so he's putting us off. It is Christmas and he was finishing up some projects so we're hoping something can happen soon. The real rain begins around February so it seems necessary to get the building project completed before then. What we need is a permanent water catchment, a composting toilet system, and a secure storage unit that can double as a storm shelter. With a small cook stove, basin, solar shower and cots, it's enough to live in relative comfort until we can get a real kitchen, bedroom and living room built as some point in the future. 

In the meantime we've decided to stay at Laural's for a while longer. It is so much easier for us to get things done on the computer, and we're trying to make more contacts and pursue music opportunities. He is making plans to create a larger release and a traveling show so we need to find a place and a way to make that happen. 

Today we plan to get caught up on this blog! Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we have a few things going on for the holiday. First we'll head to Joelli's village to visit him and his family. We'll also do the sevu-sevu with the village chief and Mike will perform. We've put it off for a while and we don't want him to think we lack respect. After that there's a party at the resort for the Waisali village folks. On Christmas we're having lunch with Catherine, a really cool woman who up until now we've only chatted with on Facebook. Then there's a potluck for dinner. We'll be able to meet a lot of the people we haven't run into yet. Should be a fun and busy couple of days.

-Mike

Samantha Chappell