Many of our adventures in villages in the heart of Borneo. included rides in canoes

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“I went to the Village with my husband.”

I’ve written these words before, I thought, after I had scribbled the sentence in my journal a few weeks ago. Only when I wrote it before, it was with a lower-case “v” in village.

Flying into a village in Indonesia with David was always a special occasion for me. For him, it was his everyday work, piloting a small single-engine plane into remote and challenging airstrips. For me, it was a chance to escape my ordinary routine and fly over jungles and mountains into some isolated corner of a tropical island.

If I was flying along with David for a day, we would usually fly into a handful of villages. Often the whole village that would gather at the airstrip to see what the airplane brought that day. We were usually on the ground long enough for me to shake dozens of hands and walk around a little bit before cargo and passengers were loaded and we were off to the next village.

One time David was training another pilot and I got dropped off in a village while they practiced landings and takeoffs. A local man took it upon himself to be my tour guide and we walked all over the village, met just about everyone. We ended the tour with a ride in a dugout canoe.

Sometimes our whole family got to go in for overnight trips to a village. Our kids could run free and have some adventures, playing with the local kids, exploring the jungle and swimming in the river. Once we hiked deep into the rainforest to a research station, crossing questionable bridges and attracting a few leeches along the way, which was all part of the fun.

Usually at some point during these village trips, I would pause and consider what a National Geographic kind of moment we were having. To be able to fly into these places and hike through jungles that were home to creatures like the clouded leopard, orangutan, reticulated python and sun bear, was like something out of a documentary.

In the village, we got to observe another way of life, which was so different from ours. We saw how they carried their babies, how they grew their rice or sweet potatoes, how they did church and how they treated guests, which they did so well.

Our hosts fed us continually, meals and snacks consisting of rice in every conceivable form, along with local produce like cucumbers and ferns, snails and fish from the river, bananas and the sweetest pineapples in the world. If it were a special occasional like Christmas, we would partake in a feast of pig and once, a water buffalo (if you’re curious as to how that tasted, take off your shoe and chew it for a little while and that’s pretty much how water buffalo tastes).

We were never alone in a village. There was always a gaggle of children following us around, usually with a few holding our hands, laughing at whatever we said or did.

Many villagers talked to us about how grateful they were for the MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) plane, how it was their lifeline for medical emergencies, or for their kids go to school, or for them to get the supplies they needed. They showered us with gifts of pineapples, baskets, blowguns and chickens.

We’d go home from these village trips smelling of the smoke from the cookfires, feeling a little bleary-eyed from not enough sleep, but with enough National Geographic moments to last a lifetime. We also came home with a dose of perspective, with a renewed gratitude for what we had, but also an appreciation for the beauty and simplicity of village life.

Now when I go to the village, it’s the Village with a capital V.

At the Village in Meridian, I’ve traded the National Geographic experience for a Disney World kind of experience. If you’ve ever been to one of the Disney parks, you know they have a special area called Disney Springs in Florida and Downtown Disney in California. These areas have shopping, food and entertainment, with a certain celebratory, carnival atmosphere, which I feel at the Village.

I love going to the Village. True, it doesn’t feel like I’m in a nature documentary, and I don’t have to fly in a small plane to get there. But there are people to watch, fun foods to consume and beautiful stores to peruse. A trip to the village, or Village, may be worlds apart, but both are welcome respites for me.

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