Today we had a fun day with the locals on Pulau Karimata. Hut (pronounced hoot), who came to visit as soon as we dropped anchor, & whom we understood to be the mayor of the village of 200, 1000, or 1400 people (never got a clear answer) came to get us in his tippy little hand-hewn canoe so we didn't hafta launch Plover. It was fun going to shore via local transport, but the boat was so small that we had to go one at a time, with Hut paddling. It was challenging to maintain balance while kneeling in the very narrow canoe, & BB almost went for a swim, tipping the canoe so far that the boat nearly flooded. A little more water didn't matter though, since it was already a bit damp in the rain.
Hut took us to his house for tea that had so much sugar in it that it tasted like candy. About half a dozen adults & 9 little girls dressed in pajamas sat in a row before us just looking looking looking at us until I got out the colored pens & paper & temporary tattoos, which were a hit. Even the adults went out in the rain to apply the tattoos!
When he came to the boat, Hut had asked us for malaria drugs, which we gave him in addition to ibuprofen & some other medicines. His English is limited, so we tried to make it clear the directions for use. He then showed us their form of vitamins -- a jar full of maggots & little black bugs which he proceeded to eat exactly 7 of, one by one.
We were relieved to see that they don't eat the maggots. They only eat the bugs, grinding the living, squirming little black things between their teeth, chewing them carefully so as to get the full benefit of whatever they think they provide, then chasing with water, cuz they no doubt taste nasty (we didn't try them). The jar contains some flourlike substance on which the maggots feed to grow into bugs.
When he brought the jar out, I thought it was infested rice that he was serving us, perhaps not having noticed that it was crawling with maggots & black bugs. Then he proceeded to extract the bugs & put them on a plate, so I thought he was removing the bugs before serving the rice. Little did we suspect that he would then pop the bugs into his mouth! It wasn't totally clear what they think the benefit is... Something about vitamins, strength, vitality.... We were mostly communicating via Google Translate (Hut would type in whole sentences, so some strange words came up in the translation, but we could generally get the gist of what he was trying to tell usÖ.)
After the bug snack (of which we chose not to partake), we began asking questions about the island. in very broken English & with the help of the translator on his phone, Hut told us that he goes out about 7 miles offshore every day in his fishing boat, just he & his friend, to dive on his fish traps, which he called 'boo-boos'. He has a hose attached to a compressor, & he dives to over 60 feet for about an hour at a time, about 7 times in a day. That's a sure recipe for the bends. We tried to explain to him how dangerous this is, & that he needs to follow the dive tables & monitor his time at depth, but he said, via translation, that 'the ingredients of my father prevent him disaster', meaning (we suppose) that he has strong genes & is therefore resistant to the bends. And so maybe those little black bugs really are doing something! Because the generally accepted limit worldwide is no more than 3 dives a day.
BB asked if we could buy bananas, which resulted in a motorbike adventure on a very bumpy sidewalk far into the jungle. Fortunately, it had stopped raining for this outing. We found pepper plants, chilis, & unripe bananas, but no eating bananas. But we didn't mind, cuz it was beautiful back in the interior & a fun & exciting ride.
Afterwards, we spent a good deal of time hanging out on the porch of the local shop, which seems to be what they do -- watch people come to shop. We were politely introduced to each individual, even the children.
Clearly there isnít much to do on Karimata, but the people seem happy & healthy, & we felt very welcome there.