The Sea Gypsies of Ngoguyon
Jonathon walked to the table. It was stained sky blue. Each side had two brown chairs. Each end had one chair.
Kiribourey came in. He carried a bowl of salad. The salad consisted of leaves from three local plants and two varieties of seaweed. He set the bowl on the table. He pointed at the chair furthest from the kitchen door. He said, “Jon, that is my chair.”
He put his hand on the chair near him and his chair. He said, “You will sit here.”
He switched to Sarginese, “Que, you sit next to him. Boupha and An, you two sit on the other side.”
Jonathon and Quenan sat in their assigned chairs. An-Toan Kim sat next to his father’s chair. Boupha-Kannitha sat next to her mother’s chair. The robot and Kiribourey walked into the kitchen.
Kiribourey, Sopheary and the robot entered with trays of food. They set the dishes on the table. Kiribourey and Sopheary sat in their chairs. The robot took the trays back to the kitchen. It came back with a pitcher of a red liquid. It poured the liquid into the glasses.
“This is a tea we like to drink. It is made from the leaves of a herb that grows on an island west of here. It will taste like nothing you’ve had yet.” Sopheary said.
Jonathon tried it when his glass was full. He said, “That is good. It is like nothing I have had before.”
The robot set the pitcher on the table and exited.
They ate their supper. Afterwards, Kiribourey disappeared. He came back with a blue bottle and three glasses. He said, “Jon, I hope you drink alcohol. This is a wine brewed from a berry grown on this island. This particular vintage is dry.”
Jonathon said, “I do drink alcohol.”
The adults picked up the glasses. Kiribourey kept the bottle. All six walked out on the porch. The robot cleared the table. It put up the left overs. It put dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
The children sat on the porch deck, legs crossed. They played a game. The adults sat in lounge chairs. Kiribourey set the bottle on the porch deck next to his chair. They drank the wine. A gentle cool breeze blew.
Jonathon looked to the east. The red sun was low to the horizon. He turned to look west. A full moon was peeping over the horizon. It grew dark. The porch lights came on. Jonathon looked east again. The sun was half way down under the horizon. Jonathon said, “On Earth, the sun rises in the east, not set. It sets in the west.”
“On Ngoguyon, the sun sets in the east and rises in the west. This planet spins in the opposite direction than Earth. That is what I read somewhere,” Kiribourey said.
The sun disappeared below the horizon. Jonathon and Kiribourey got up. They walked out to the southern porch edge. Jonathon looked down. He saw glints of light from the porch in the water. He looked west at the water. A rippled reflection of the moon was in the water. He looked up at the night sky over the ocean. He said, “This is amazing! Where I come from, there is so much light that you can see only the brightest stars. Here, you hardly have that problem. You can really see thousands of stars.”
“Can you see your sun from here,” Kiribourey asked.
“I can’t show you where it is. There are so many stars that it gets lost among them. I’m not even sure you can see it from here,” Jonathon replied.
“We’re miles from any major light sources. We’re off any sea lanes as well. I love it here,” Kiribourey said.
Jonathon returned to his seat. Kiribourey picked up the bottle from the porch where he had set it. He refilled their glasses. He set the bottle back down. He sat down.
The adults talked. Jonathon talked about his life on Earth. The children played on.
Late that night, Kiribourey spoke Sarginese, “Analin, I have let you stay up past your usual bedtime for Jonathon’s first night with us. Now, it is time for bed. Go in. Brsuh your teeth. Get ready. I’ll be in to check later.”
“Yes, Dad,” the children chorused in Sarginese. They stopped playing. They stood up. They entered the house. They walked into the bathroom. They grabbed their toothbrushes. They put their brushes under the toothpaste dispenser. It dispensed the paste on the brushes. They brushed their teeth. They went to bed.
Sopheary entered the house. Kiribourey and Jonathon stayed outside, talking. She walked to the children’s bedrooms and peered in. The ceilings glowed dimly, giving the ambience of nighttime. All three were in their own beds. They appeared to be asleep. She walked back outside. She rejoined the two men.
They finished the bottle of wine. Jonathon walked inside. He walked to his room. He prepared for bed. He went to bed and asleep.
Kiribourey and Sopheary took the bottle and glasses to the kitchen. They put them on the counter. They checked the kids together. They went to bed themselves.
Next morning, Kiribourey and Sopheary walked into the kitchen to cook breakfast. The bottle and glasses were gone.
After breakfast, Kiribourey continued the lessons on languages. He broke off for lunch. He gave them the afternoon off.
Quenan entered his bedroom. He walked to his desk. He sat in the chair before it. In front of him on the desk was a computer terminal. He spoke Sarginese, “Monitor on.”
The screen lit up. He gave commands vocally in Sarginese until he reached the game he wanted to play. He played the game with voice commands and hand movements.
The rest were out on the porch. An-Toan Kim and Boupha-Kannitha sat facing each other on the porch deck. Between them was a game console. They were playing a holographic game. Like Quenan, they used voice and hands to control the game. They spoke Sarginese.
It was a nice clear day. The yellow sun shined. A gentle breeze blew.
Jonathon and their parents sat in lounge chairs. They watched the children play.
Quenan finished his game. He said, “Monitor off.”
The screen became black.
He got up. He walked to his bed. He took his clothes off, laying them on the bed, until he was naked. He ran through the house. He burst out of the door. He said, “Nigai nalange?”
“Ianake!” the other two children said, one at a time, as they stripped naked. Boupha-Kannitha saved the game. An-Toan Kim turned the system off.
“I’ll be a moment. Go ahead. I’ll join you,” Kiribourey spoke Sarginese. He entered the house.
Jonathon looked quizzically at Sopheary. She said, “Que just asked who wanted to swim.”
“Naked,” Jonathon asked.
“Does it bother you,” she asked.
“Where I come from, it is frowned on,” he said.
“Well, we aren’t there. We are different here. We are in the middle of nowhere, any way. Are there any cultures that do the same on Earth?” she said.
The three naked children walked over to the hole without a boat. Quenan disappeared through the hole. He was followed by Boupha-Kannitha then An-Toan Kim.
Sopheary said, “Jon, there is a platform under the porch by that hole. We can jgo down to that platform, sit and watch them swim.”
“I’d like to do that very much,” Jonathon said.
They got up. They walked to the hole. Sopheary climbed down through the hole, followed by Jonathon. Jonathon looked down past Sopheary. The children were about ten steps below her. He looked left of the ladder. The clear platform was below Quenan, about six feet below the porch. Six chairs were on the platform. Quenan was the first to reach it. He stepped off onto it. Boupha-Kannitha and An-Toan Kim followed suit in that order. Sopheary reached it. She stepped off onto it. Jonathon followed. Sopheary sat in one of the chairs.
Jonathon stood, watching the children. They stood side by side on the southern edge. Jonathon walked toward them. He watched them dive off the platform one at a time. He reached the edge. He looked down. The children disappeared head first with a splash into the water. Their heads reappeared. They shook their heads, spraying each other, laughing. They went to swimming. Jonathon joined Sopheary and sat.
Kiribourey came down the ladder. He wore a pair of red swimming trunks and sandals. He walked to the southern edge. The children looked up, treading water, and saw him. They swam to a bare metal ladder going up to the platform. They grabbed it. They remained in the water and waited. They turned to watch their father. He took his sandals off. He dove head first into the water. He resurfaced. He shook his head spraying water. His children swam to him. The four of them swam together. They splashed each other, laughing. They played another version of Marco Polo.
“I did a dissertation on different Earth cultures. I found some cultures where nudity among children is normal. My master’s thesis was on some Southeastern Asians with a similar culture. Their children did the same thing. However, there is little literature on societies on this planet. So, I’m doing my thesis for my phd on yours,” Jonathon said.
“Our original ancestors came from Sulawesi of Earth. Every native to these islands are Sargis like us. Our children are fifteenth generation descendants. Based on what I know of our history, we are not much different than our ancestors. So, I have no idea why anyone would be interested in us.” Sopheary said.
“Little is known about your society. Each society is different from others. That’s true even if they’re similar. I am interested in what is different about yours.” Jonathon said.
“From what I’ve heard, we’re hardly any different than people in Southeast Asia.” she said.
“If so, my thesis will bear that out. You call yourselves Sargis and your language Sarginese. Where does that come from?” he said.
Our original ancestors were two different but similar people from Sulawesi. They were the Makassar and Bugis people. They spoke two different but similar languages. They migrated together on the same ship. They interbred and merged the languages. They became the Sargis by the time they colonized these islands.” she said.
“You call your archipelago Makassarbugis. Why wasn’t it shortened?” he said.
“I heard it is to remind us of our heritage, ancestry,” she said.
After about two hours of swimming, Kiribourey and the children climbed the ladder to the platform. Water ran off them as they exited the sea. Kiribourey got his sandals back on. They walked, dripping water, to the ladder going to the porch. An-Toan Kim was the first on the ladder. He was followed by Quenan and then Boupha-Kannitha. Kiribourey took the tail. They had stopped dripping. They climbed the ladder.
They reached the porch. Once they were on the porch, An-Toan Kim and Boupha-Kannitha picked up their clothes. Kiribourey picked up the game system. They entered the house.
Kiribourey put the game system away. An-Toan Kim and Boupha-Kannitha put their clothes on their beds. The four of them took showers. They washed and brushed their hair. Kiribourey dressed. The children stayed naked.
Sopheary and Jonathon climbed the ladder to the porch. They entered the house.