In a village in the island of Flores, the villagers’ religious faith and the strength of their beliefs have much greater influence on their life than the impact of the difficult environment brings to them.
The villagers support each other with their optimistic personality in overcoming the challenge of water scarcity.
The name Flores is derived from the Portuguese for ‘flowers.’
Like other places where uneven development exists, there are villages in Flores that seem to have been forgotten and are offered no solutions to sanitation and water supply problems.
I stayed at Moni, close to the three Kelimutu crater lakes, a well-known tourist attraction.
Moni is a highland where the temperature stayed around 23℃ during my visit.
However, the temperature in most areas around the foot of the mountain is very hot.
Local residents wear sarongs, a traditional long length of cloth wrapped around waist.
The buses here look like minivans.
If too many people are taking a bus, some even ride on top of it.
These residents, adults and children, sit on top of their family tombs playing and chatting.
What surprised me was that in the rural areas and villages almost every household has a tomb lying in front of the house.
The tombs are mostly rectangular, and are built of concrete and decorated with tiles as if they were a part of the home.
Despite my poor Indonesian, I managed to converse with the local residents and learnt that people began burying their ancestors in front of their homes because they found the public cemetery inconvenient, and over time, a cultural custom of burying loved ones’ remains by their homes was established.
Apparently, this is a common practice in Eastern Indonesia.
Unlike in Chinese culture, Indonesians don’t have taboos regarding the dead, and they even welcomed me to sit with them on the tombs.
They told me that this is also one of the ways they stay connected with their loved ones who have passed on.
Monika (a pseudonym) is a happy, optimistic lady.
She is a faithful Catholic from Indonesia’s Bandung Province.
The first thing she said to me was,
Thank you for coming to help us solve our water supply problems.
She then pointed at a water cistern, which people were urgently trying to fix, and asked,
What’s wrong with the water cistern? I still need to cook tonight.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I tried my best to talk to her in my limited Indonesian.
The cistern is very far away from the village. What are you doing here?
I’m here to help move stones and to prepare food for everyone,
I looked at her in surprise and began chatting with her.
Monika believes her arrival in the village is entirely God’s will.
Although the village is very different from the city that she hails from, Monika has happily accepted her life here because, she says, no one knows what the future will bring, and she believes that God has a bigger plan for her.
Although her story is simple, every word she speaks sparkles with optimism and confidence.
I hope she’ll always be as optimistic and confident and she is now.
The pretty girl in the middle had just finished choir practice.
The choir had been practicing in a shabby chapel.
She approached me and asked if I could take a photo of them.
I had forgotten to bring my Polaroid instant camera with me on this trip, or I would have been able to give her a printed photo.
I asked her,
Today is not Sunday. Why are you at church?
It turned out that they were celebrating the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
I hope that one day she will have a chance to explore outside of her village, although I am not entirely certain it would be a good thing for this honest country girl.
Half of the people of Flores are Catholic, and the other half are Muslim.
There are small numbers of Christian Protestants and people of other religions.
The children here are not afraid to strangers.
They saw me carrying different types of cameras and smiled and made the peace sign, asking me to take photos of them.
Although they are not well-off in material terms, they can play happily all day long with their simple, homemade toys.
One thing that should not go unmentioned is that the villagers are very welcoming and hospitable towards guests.
Although I was there as a member of a volunteer group, they often tried to take over the work that I was doing, since, as one of the villagers said, we were guests and should be taken care of.
Whenever we took a break, we were treated to homemade wine, hot-roasted bananas and corn, and a vegetable dish whose name I don’t know that tasted a bit hot because it was prepared with chili peppers.
During my stay in the village, I had a chance to experience first-hand the villagers’ support network, their division of labor, and their contentment with their lives.
Their material living conditions could still use a lot of improvement, but I believe that their religious faith and the strength of their beliefs will help them overcome challenges.
Their attitude towards life is very different from that of the fragile, younger generation living in cities, isn’t it?
This volunteer project was initiated by World Vision and sponsored by Jebsen & Jessen (Southeast Asia) Pte, Ltd.
Its primary aim is to establish clean water and piping systems for rural villages and also includes childhood education.
World Vision not only provides the technology but also hires local workers to form a support team and trains local residents to achieve self-sufficiency in maintaining a clean water supply.
A project of this scale typically takes up to 15 years.
Education sponsored by World Vision International
Volunteers from Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) work with local villagers.
The island of Flores is part of East Nusa Tenggara province.
Its airport is located in the Ende Regency.
Flores is close to Komodo Island, named for its famous Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on Earth;
Flores itself is home to the renowned Kelimutu National Park.
Kelimutu is popular for its three crater lakes of different colors.
It is said that the color of each lake periodically changes, although I was not able to see this.
It isn’t easy to get to Kelimutu.
We flew from Bali with a stopover at Labuan Bajo before finally landing in Kelimutu, not an easy trip.
Victor Tai | Freedom is a Right
- LocationFlores, Indonesia
- CameraCanon F1 / FD 24mm S.S.C
Kodak Potra 400
Canon EOS 3 / EF 70-200MM F2.8L IS USM
- Other Language繁体中文