Home Asia East Indonesian Day Dream: A Photo Essay

East Indonesian Day Dream: A Photo Essay

by Emma May 11, 2015 2 comments

A year ago, I had the pleasure of working on a remote island in East Indonesia. Nestled in the East Nusa Tenggara province of the Lesser Sunda Islands, Rote is a white sand day-dream. After a few days travel, the island is like an oasis from the hustle and bustle from more touristy areas in Indonesia. Its beaches evoke what I call “postcard bliss”. Palm trees dot the shoreline, white sand leads down to a varying array of turquoise blues and greens. I can write and overuse well-known clichés all day long, nothing does the place justice quite like photography.

Sunset from Malole

The sunsets were the type you see pictures of and convince yourself they are photoshopped. I, however, do not know how to use photoshop.

A small bay demonstrates the variance in blues of the ocean here. The plastic bottles sticking out of the water mark where seaweed farmers are cultivating one of their most precious forms of income.

Mom and son
Goats and beach pigs rule the landscape on the island. It feels like they outnumber humans most of the time.

Pigs and Palms
Beach pig extravaganza. I obsessed over these little guys, digging in the sand with their snouts and grunting to each other. Nowhere else in the world had I seen pigs thrive on beaches, let alone live on them.


Sunset and piglets
Piglets and sunsets. The stuff of dreams.

Fishing village
Traditional fishing practices, including carving your own boat out of Lontar Palm and Teak trees, are still in use on many of the outer islands.

Seaweed farmers house
Huts built right on the water’s edge do double duty: storage for their seaweed crop, hang out spot in the heat of the day, and sometimes it is the main house for the family as well.


Sunset farmer
Seaweed cultivation takes place at low tide, and on either side of low, when the crops are reached easily. The tides here are massive, exposing over a mile of reef and seaweed at its lowest. The farmers dig trenches on either side of their respective crops, allowing them to pull a boat in the water that collects there, while they harvest the seaweed. This process takes hours and is seemingly endless. When the seaweed is pulled up to dry sand, it is laid out on bamboo drying racks to lay in the sun for a few days before being sold off.

Some neighborhood boys caught a large sea snake to play with. Not my favorite choice for a toy, but apparently the snakes migrate nightly to an uninhabited island just north of us. Night swimming? No thank you.

If there is one thing I learned about Indonesia, on the whole, it’s that the people are incredibly adept at making anything work. Need to transport three beds and their frames? No problem, we’ve got a motorcycle! Better yet, they tackle the biggest problems with the biggest smiles.

Visiting an island like Rote is much like visiting a time in the past, where our lives haven’t been propelled into success driven warp speed. Electricity is not a necessity. Family, community and appreciation of the little things are values close to the Indonesian credo. I learned very quickly that Indonesians tend to refer to Westerners as “clock watchers”.

While many Indonesians work very hard, whether they are in tourism or more traditional industries like farming and textiles, they always make time for family, community, prayer and relaxation. Young children’s football games can cause entire villages to shut down for days, festivals can last for weeks; there are not enough hours in the day to celebrate life.

This is why travel is important. To see how others see. To live how others live. To make a connection. Not to take these photographs, or tell these stories, or to convince you to go too, but to learn how to live more fully.. one day at a time.


Did ya dig it?


Rebecca S. Stevens May 12, 2015 at 12:45 am

So interesting! Such a beautiful spot!

Emma May 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Thanks Aunt Becky! It was such a gorgeous island.


Want to join the discussion?