Many of you may remember, Martina. She is from the island of Sumba, Indonesia and she helped us through a very difficult time in our lives, not to mention the fact, she saved my Dad’s life.
Martina grew up in Sumba which although a hour plane trip from Bali and still in the country of Indonesia could really be a million miles away from our island. Sumba is dry unlike wet, tropical Bali. Instead of Hindus, most Sumbans are now Catholic overlaid over Sumba’s own local religion and adat (customary practices). For more about Sumba, see Elizabeth Pisani’s book, Indonesia, Etc.
Because she is very smart and has a huge heart, Martina attracted the attention of a Sumban teacher who knew our friend Ibu Gedong from Ashram Gandhi, Candi Dasa. Martina spent 1.5 years at the ashram. When Ibu Gedong found out that our oldest son Lucas had been diagnosed with diabetes, she knew we needed help and Martina was just the right person for the job. She contacted Martina in Sumba, who returned to Bali for her visa and passport and a week later on her first airplane trip landed in Berkeley. Max never had it so good. He was 18 months, and never cried again until Martina left three years later. Martina helped us through those very challenging months where we were learning to manage Luke’s diabetes while trying to hold down jobs and deal with a new baby. We could never have managed without her.
We not only fell in love with Martina. Both of our families did as well. She saved my Dad’s life one night in Rocklin when she alerted the household when he was having a heart attack.
In addition, Max and Martina were the most popular duo at Berkeley’s kid parks. Everywhere we went every family with young kids knew Martina and Max.
Martina returned to Indonesia more than 17 years ago. She married Jek Wara, a wonderful man from Flores and has lived there since returning. She and Jek have four children of their own (Nick 14, Ike 11, Julian 8 and their baby of 2.5 years) But they also generously have invited another six family members in need to live with them in their beautiful blue house in Maumere, Flores.
Felicity and Max visited Martina four-years ago, but I hadn’t seen her for 17 years. It was a tearful reunion, but wonderful to find she is still the same Martina with a very big heart an infectious laugh and willing to serve her family and friends.
For the past several years, Jek has worked afar first in eastern Flores and then in West Timor. He does development work which means building essential services like schools and hospitals. He told me many stories about the trials and tribulations of weaving through the inevitable local politics that occur in his job. More about that in a different post. Fortunately, he’s been transferred back to Maumere where he can live with his family full-time.
Even though Jek is a college graduate and has a government job and Martina runs a small shop out of her house and raises pigs, chickens, etc. they live very simply compared to a US family. It’s not at all unusual to raise your siblings kids or to take care of an Auntie in this culture.
Once their shyness wore off, their kids loved playing Frisbee. I treated them to a day at the hotel I stayed at, and they never got out of the pool except to drink the sodas they were served.
One night we attended the wedding of Jek’s cousin in the village where Jek was raised. The bride and groom wore traditional dress, and we ate some delicious pig intestine soup. But it was a little culturally dissonant when they turned on the dance music and Shania Twain blared out. We also visited Jek’s father who is 84 years-old, but still farms. He raised 12 kids and sent a few of them like Jek to University.
On the last day, we went to see Nick who is their oldest child. He lives in a Catholic ashram in Maumere. They send him there because it provides a very good education. He lives in dormitory with one room that houses 77 ninth graders. They live a very disciplined life with early morning prayers, chores, classes, study and evening prayers. Similar to our ashram.
It’s expensive for him to attend which is why Martina is raising the pigs and running a shop in her front room. But they think it is worth it. Nick was quite shy when I met him, but warmed up. Very smart and nice kid. Would expect nothing less.
Want more information about Martina? Let me know: