On the island live a group of sea gypsies called “Bajau,” a group of nearly 10,000 indigenous locals that have been on the indonesian islands since before they had countries or borders. Because they have always been a nomadic group, none of the surrounding countries thought it necessary to give them citizenship, and so their freedom became a curse. Without citizenship the Bajau had no place to land, whether they wanted to or not, and so they floated, endlessly, between unwelcoming harbors becoming slowly unrecognizeable as technology and healthcare modernized them. They became farther and farther separated from the Indonesians, Malaysians, ad Philipinos, speaking only their ancestral language and losing touch with the local cultures.
On Samporna island, their village looks like a temporary stop on a long and endless journey. A collection of wooden shacks, set on stilts and riddled with holes and salt-stains, litters the beach. parked off the coast are 20–30 long and narrow boats, with long bows that jut out in front like warships, and with small huts built onto the back. The tribesmen defecate into holes in the sand, or swim out to their boats and relive themselves in the salty sea. On the beach, children play underneath the huts. Younger children throw sand at one another, rolling naked in the dirt. The older kids learn how to gamble and sit in small circles playing for money and toys. Parents are busy fishing and have no time to tend to them.
Every day, strangers walk through their small village from the resort on the other side of the island. They are wearing fashionable clothing and have intentional tans. They speak in English and Mandarin and give the locals money or food that comes in silver packaging. They make jokes and laugh loudly, aliens from a capital city that long since forgot about them.