We arrive in Sampela after spending a few nights in western-style hotels, travel weary and excited to meet our final homestay families. Sampela is initially a very alien place; rickety wooden boardwalks wind through stilted houses, and the ocean surrounds the village entirely. The houses themselves concrete and brick, others are ramshackle bamboo and wood huts. Their inhabitants stare at us with a deep curiosity.
As the days progress, we get accustomed to the quiet manner of our families. They show us love through many many cups of hot tea and plates of delicious pisang goreng.
Our meals take place in a different home than our families’. Our spearfishing skills are far inferior than that of the locals. Many disconnects exist between us and the Bajau people, but it doesn’t stop us from forming bonds with our families, or from learning about their culture through everyday interaction and community panels.
Leaving is always hard. We leave behind many new friendships and family members. We miss them as soon as we depart the village for our ferry. We miss the little things. Getting humiliated on the pool table by strangers, throwing kids in the water at their own enthusiastic request, feeling the triumph of spearing a fish for the first time, these are the little things I think about as I board our flight from Wangi Wangi island towards the final leg of our long journey.