Sharing with you an amazing organisation started by my darling friends Paulie and Sal McMahon.


The vision of Mercy Huts is to establish eco friendly beachfront accommodation on beautiful Nemberala Beach, Rote Island, Indonesia. The purpose is to provide financial support, employment and training  for families of this area who are living in poverty.


The Thistlewaite family of 6 are still on the ground in Rote and Paulie and Sal are currently in Melbourne but continuing our road trip via the great ocean road and then North on the east coast to raise further awareness for the Mercy Huts project. See below what life is like for this wonderful couple on the Island.

Saddle up for a laugh…

We invite you to take a dive into the day-to-day hilarity of our Rote existence. A mix of cultural and environmental differences compel one to at times laugh hysterically and at other times, to cry with the same intensity. Walk in our shoes – more like thongs or bare feet – through these series of Rote tales and enjoy the attached collage of pics:

– The people of Rote live according to an unusual schedule…if you could call it a schedule at all. They rise at Rooster o’clock, around 5am declaring their days beginning with ‘doof-doof music’ and distinctly Indonesian hollas. As soon as the suns rays can be felt, the Rotenese go into a mild slumber which deepens in the afternoon. A curious byproduct of this daytime slumbering is a mass of ‘group hangs’ where locals sit in large groups, seldom speaking, intently watching every passer-by and often playing cards. At night the place comes alive once again.
-The locals currency of time is referred to here as ‘rubber time’ or ‘Jam Karet’ in Bahasah Indonesia. The locals little regard for time can be summed up in our experience whereby in the company of 20 Indonesians, NOT 1 could offer us the time! “The time, who needs the time?”. Time is no master here in Indonesia and we Westerners are left to navigate this apparent other ‘way of doing life’. Admittedly we’re not even close to figuring it out.
– One admirable trait of Village-like Nemberala is the peoples fostering of community, something quite contrasting with our primarily individualistic lives back in Oz. Everyone here lives together, hangs together, eats together and gets right up in each others ‘personal space’ (a term unlikely known here). It’s curious to us, sometimes endearing and other times claustrophobic.
A funny example of this was on Easter Sunday when Paul & I found a secluded beach, sighed in delight as we lay out our towel and opened our books for some relaxing. No sooner had we lied down when we were invaded by a crew sporting enthusiastic beetlenut smiles, machetes, a couple of spear guns, 3 fishermen fresh out of the water fishy-smelling and wearing only undies (beige at that), and then their wives joined us for a now 12-man ‘romantic picnic’. Learning the true meaning of ‘community’ is not always a voluntary exercise but it is a soul-warming one. It really isn’t hard making friends here!
– Even the farm animals and bugs feel the need to uphold this sense of ‘community’, always frolicking in our backyard and even our bedrooms – is anyone else shuddering. One rainy night a goat sought shelter under our eaves (aka bedroom) and another night a crab burrowed under my bottom while I slept. Our toothbrushes have been embraced by cockroaches, our food and peculiarly my bra nibbled by ants whilst sneaky bugs join us on the wrong side of our mossie net most nights! This is just the sweet price we pay for living under the eaves of a hut and in a wonderful culture where community is everything.
– One of our greatest desires here in Rote is to connect and learn from the locals. They have so many beautiful ways of living that we in the west have busied out of our lives. Learning the language is a thrill and hard work. We experience some really precious moments where neither party knows what the other is saying, yet we stand looking at each other willing for understanding with our stunted language. We have started learning Bahasa Della, the local dialect of Nemberala. ‘In a classroom’ you ask? Not quite. In a dark room of a family home with over 20 people crowded in, simultaneously volunteering us new words to repeat with their eruptions of laughter indicating we still have a long way to go. We are also teaching English to some local women who bring us vegetables.
– I don’t know about you but breakfast has always been a meal I delighted and indulged in. Here we have had a staple bfast of banana, papaya and a boiled egg for over 1 month. Recently Paul brought me home a blender from the markets and I literally cried…over a blender!!! ‘We can now make smoothies!’ I rejoiced…no ice or milk but still an exciting prospect. Making my 1st smoothie was a disaster! No petrol in the generator so no power, a mission to get petrol due to a post-Easter shortage in the village, my addition of satay (with disguised chillie) resulted in a coagulated mess that I fed to the goats. 2nd attempt was far from Boost-juice-worthy but still the familiarity warmed my heart…and belly.
Some other funny, weird and entertaining tales…
– Our entire crew of 8 have sported gruesome infections from open wounds that are stubborn to heal and have hung around for weeks! Our ailments are apparently pretty serious: ‘Heavy growth of Lancefield Streptococcus’ or ‘Cellulitis’ but are healing up which is a relief. The lumps are captured in the attached pics – we hope they don’t offend anyone.
– There is a bug here that we affectionately call a ‘Guinea pig with wings’- it’s huge! See Paul trying to catch it!
– Upon visiting a waterhole with the kids from the mercy home we had to giggle when they each received a sachet of shampoo to double the swim with a bath. Some great pics of that day, especially of 8yr old Abraham who has a pretty hard past but is a great kid with the best smile.
– We witnessed a house fire of a 2 story building where the ‘professional’ fireman met with a plethora of good Samaritans to take on the blaze. I had to go to great lengths to refrain from laughing out loud as the men and plants got more of a shower than the house. You know the snaking hose trick, well picture that, but on mass scale…all whilst the house burnt to the ground.
– the car finally got fixed 3 weeks after it first went to the Dr. BUT unfortunately it broke down 1hr from town and is now out of action with a damaged radiator. So far eggs, pepper and soap were applied to fix it hmmm!? We’re seriously a hilarious sight cruising around in ‘the bomb’. Think the locals like it as we’re not in the slightest bit pretentious, but it’s shaping up to be more of landscaping feature than a means of transport.

All in all, these cultural and environmental idiosyncrasies of Rote are all part of its appeal and will continue to bewilder us, grow us and make us laugh for a long time to come. We hope you’ve enjoyed sharing these stories whilst laughing with us!. For more laughs and pieces of the journey visit our Mercy Huts Blog (

Love hearing from you all and take care!

Sally and the Mercy Hutters (Matt, Nat, Jayden, Molly, Grace and Noah Thistlewaite plus Paul)
Follow all that is happening at and or drop us an email at
If you’d like to make a donation click here to find out how
‘Thank you for helping us to ‘help orphans and widows in their distress’ – Jame1:27


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