In August our family had the opportunity to spend the weekend with a couple other MAF families in the village of Binuang, a location MAF flies to on a weekly basis. In August, Binuang hosted the Hari Merdekaan (Indonesian independence day) celebrations for the entire Krayan region. Among other things, this meant a soccer tournament! Myself and Paul College were invited to play, Paul for one of the Binuang teams (he has played for them in the past) and I played for the visiting village of Runang.
Both of our boys were given a chance to sit up front in the Kodiak as we travelled there and back, and Pilot Paul allowed them to even "fly" the plane a bit! (I think the most nervous person on the aircraft was their mother, as she realized her sons had their hands on the controls). They both did a great job, and I might need to do some convincing that fixing is as much fun as flying.
Visiting an interior village often means an amazing experience that leaves you a bit worn out when you get home. It is a definite part from the "norm". It combines the feeling of camping with the experience of being a guest in a home that is also a world away - culturally speaking. That said, this trip had a relaxed feel to it that we almost didn't expect. Along with the four College boys and a number of local kids, our kids played hard 12+ hours a day, running about causing havoc in a way only kids can do. Generally speaking us adults were able to just hang out; visit with folks when we wanted to, and take a break when we needed to.
I can't understate the importance for our families to have an opportunity like this. As a mechanic, both myself and my family spend 99.5% of our lives in Tarakan. We don't often rub shoulders with the people MAF is intentionally here to serve. To be able to just hang out with these people is awesome, as it connects us better with the people, culture, and faces that get on and off our aircraft regularly.
If I never had the opportunity to actually meet the people that we fly for, or visit a village like this, I don't think it would change how I did my job in the hangar. I would still know what we're here for is important, and that it is very much a need specific to this area. That said, I find it hard to describe what it is like to all of a sudden be around a people who both know intimately the need for aircraft here, and appreciate it deeply. In Tarakan, most people I might meet on the street know very little about MAF; I could be a tourist, or maybe a pilot temporarily stationed here from another commercial company. Often we're just a caucasian family looking a bit out of place. In the interior locations we fly, there is a good chance the first person you talk to may have a family member who at some point in the past had their life saved by a medivac flight. I visited with one guy who showed me his scars and told me his own personal story of survival, of how he got flown out when he thought he was going to die, and got all stitched back up at a hospital.
We felt like we were treated more as family than as guests. To be on the receiving end instead of the giving end was great. To "give give give" is not a healthy relationship. Despite what I would consider harsh living conditions, God gives back to our family through these awesome people in a way only they can.
Below, Reg and Paul help tighten up Pak Kalvin's (Kalvin is in the back ground) front brakes. We all stayed in Kalvin's home. Paul & Beth College have become especially close with Kalvin's family over the years.
Along with dirt bikes, there was actually the odd 4x4 vehicle in Binuang. This is because there is a road to Long Bawan (a larger village west in direction from Binuang), but it is only passable in the dry season. From Long Bawan, supplies are brought in off-road style from Malaysia. Thus, in dry season, it is actually possible to bring goods & services from Malaysia to here via road.
But as Kalvin's brother explained to me, this can quickly come to a halt. Sometimes blockades a put up on the road to Malaysia. And, as soon as the rain starts...forget about using roads! When this happens, the villages in this area become as isolated as they've always been.
To delight of the kids, there were three puppies nearby. They got treated a wee bit rough but received a whole lotta love from a lotta little hands!