I’m ecstatic to write about the utterly enchanting place I was fortunate enough to visit this past week for spring break. How am I going to adequately articulate the majesty of the place and people?
I’d like to be honest and acknowledge that I wasn’t 100% enthused about making the journey across the world. I know that sounds absolutely terrible but I was a bit overwhelmed knowing I was going so far away. Also, I always worry about my youngest daughter’s health. Being so far away from familiar health care access points gives me some anticipatory anxiety. My inner voice was questioning whether we really “needed” to travel across the world to soak up some sun and leisure? We had been invited to come and experience the resort owned by a friend of my husband’s. I had read the information about the resort and seen the pictures. But, I think I’m the type of person who has to appreciate things via experience rather than by simply reading about it. I have a new little theory. I believe that people who I consider true intellectuals are better able to synthesize and incorporate information via simply reading than people like me. (Side note, I admire and am fully intrigued by people who are genuinely interested and intellectually curious about unfamiliar places, subjects and people without having any exposure or direct experiences. Though I feel I am intellectually curious to some extent, I find I care about people, places and other subjects more if I have some real life experiential or reference point). I found a quote the other day that I believe describes how I tend to navigate/respond to much of my life:
“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced – even a proverb is not a proverb till your life has illustrated it.” – John Keats (He happens to be one of my favorite poets-wrote “Ode on a Grecian Urn” which I LOVE!)
Upon reflection I believe this rings true with the entire cancer and St. Jude journey as well. It’s so hard to explain any/all of it to anyone who hasn’t experienced it.
All that said, I hope to tell a little bit about this place with the hopes that some of you reading this (many of you are likely the intellectual types I wish I was!) can appreciate some its culture and glory just via reading this.
Here are four links that are more informative than anything I can summarize.
Firstly, is wikipedia’s summary of Sumba, the Indonesian Island. I was interested to learn that it is predominantly Christian/Catholic due to a history of Dutch Settlers:
Secondly, is a nice article summarizing the Nihiwatu Resort and its history and mission. I think the concept of going on vacation and also trying to give back is smart, meaningful and compelling:
Thirdly, here is the Nihiwatu Resort Link:
Incidentally, those reading this whose curiosity is peaked to know more about the individual who owns this resort may view a short video attached to the website entitled: BURCH CREATIVE CAPITAL. I believe he is a very good and generous man. What a legacy even owning this resort will be!
Finally, here is a link to the Sumba Foundation:
I don’t necessarily consider myself a global traveler. However, I have had the experience of being able to go to many places thanks to all the years I spent as a spouse of an executive who had travel obligations, and a CEO who encouraged spousal participation on some of those business trips. My favorite places that I have visited thus far had been Bangalore, India, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and South Africa. After some extensive travel experience, I find I now prefer the exotic over the expected.
When we finally arrived in Bali before we reached our final destination of Sumba, I “felt” that exotic quality that I love so very much. Bali “felt” very good to me. I thought perhaps the vacation could have ended there. Bali was different and tropical enough. But the next day we boarded a smaller jet and arrived in Sumba, approximately one hour later, to by far the most luxuriant, untainted, and breathtakingly beautiful world that I have ever seen.
Upon our arrival, as a family, we sat down and dined with the resort owner, Chris, for lunch. He and three of his children were visiting there as well so our time on the island overlapped for a few days. He asked us where our favorite spot was to vacation. My answer was the Caribbean. Without hesitation, he retorted: “After you’ve been here a week, this place will be your favorite! Everyone who has ever been here feels this way!” While at that moment I was unsure I would feel that way, he ended up predicting my future feelings. The experience far exceeded ALL of my expectations and MORE! Upon departure from the resort, I shed a few tears as I reluctantly boarded the vehicle taking us to the airport. How does one leave “Paradise Found”? Wistfully with wonderful, warm memories, in my case.
These are just a few of the stunning vistas (See my Facebook page and photos for more, as many as you care to see) I couldn’t stop myself from taking photos left and right. The edited photos I chose to place on Facebook (trust me even those are excessive) are edited down from thousands I took, giving you an idea how incredibly captivated I was.
I was mesmerized and thoroughly in love with the island by the first nights glorious sunset and each one of them thereafter. Here are just a few of the marvelous ones:
Per the Resort’s mission and Chris’ continuing philanthropic endeavors on the island we chose to go see both one of the Malaria clinics and feed the children at one of the local schools one day. We were so moved by the needs of the people (and the generosity of our friend and in honor of his upcoming Birthday) we decided to endow a new Malaria clinic in Chris’ name for a year. As a nurse, it’s astonishing to realize that people are still dying from malaria in Sumba. I became even more pensive in realizing that likely not one child or person with cancer here would have much chance to be a survivor. If I get a next trip, I would like to go see what a hospital is like there. I’m sure I would be equally astonished.
After seeing the malaria clinic, we went to the school whereupon we served lunch for over 200 malnourished children. According to the program director, this is the one nutritious meal these children receive throughout the day. It consisted of lentils (better known as mung beans in this region) and a mixture of corn and some other ingredients. The children bring their own bowls and spoons to school with them daily and they are served youngest to oldest. We wanted to bring some kind of special treat so the foundation arranged for us to give them a small sucker of some sort after serving the “lentil soup”. The Sumba Foundation feeds these and other children lunch every school day. (Monday-Saturday).
One of the other enjoyable things we did as a family was to paddle board down the Wanukaku River. I had never been on a paddle board and took a little getting used to especially in the beginning with some rapids. (Yes, I took a few BIG dips in the river not completely mastering the art of navigating in the first part of the over two hour adventure). Normally, I don’t consider myself much of an “adventure girl”. I had to channel my “Inner Survivor” (unlike a very close friend of mine who actually applied and was almost chosen to be on the show). I’m the woman who likes electric curlers, make-up and uses an eyelash separator after applying mascara. I actually found it challenging having to paddle constantly for over two hours. If I didn’t keep paddling, I could have potentially ended up in the river reeds, overturned and soaked yet AGAIN.
The staff had warned us about the “Penis Pirates” who clammer unto people’s paddle boats along the way. They are the local (generally little boys) from the villages who do this. Fortunately (for whatever reason, maybe they could see I was working really hard?) they left “the old lady” on her butt or knees alone while they gravitated towards my 17-year old son and overturned his board several times until we got further down the river.
Other highlights of the trip included a sunset horse riding experience which propelled me to get back on a horse after 23 years of avoidance. (After being thrown off of one 23 years ago, I wasn’t terribly enthused about getting back on one).
A half day experience at a newly developed spa a little ways away from the resort:
And a final night family dinner under the stars:
Upon arrival home after an over 34 hour journey (and very sleep deprived) I had a dream, ethereal in nature, of drifting down a river ensconced in resplendent, beauty. The colors of the landscapes were exquisitely brilliant. The sun was beaming warmly and radiantly. The water glittering gorgeously. The clouds were abundant and fluffy. Butterflies gently floated past me and birds sweetly chirped above me. The river journey was peaceful and heavenly. Surely, this must be what paradise is like? So until I arrive in God’s paradise, I will dream of being back again in the next best earthly place-SUMBA-my own Paradise Found!
If so inclined, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the paradise I found and/or describe any other paradises you have found in your life journeys!!! Thanks for reading my interpretation of a place that now holds tremendous meaning for me!