I had an opportunity to meet Mike and Irene Boylson-Perbal from Mokelumne Hill. Irene offered a gourmet Indonesian dinner, and since I have a connection to Indonesia, I was delighted to have such an opportunity. I’ll explain our connection, briefly. My student, Linda Djamaludin stayed with our family for a year in 1986. She is Muslim. Anytime you connect with another culture, you learn something; it changes your perspective and changes you.
My friend, Carol Gordon accompanied me and I must apologize for my out of focus pictures. My little “purse” camera does not do well without a flash-my error to have turned it off. Anyway, Carol hosted a student from South Africa the same year Linda lived with my family.
Meeting Mike and Irene for the first time, and getting to know each other, over the course of the evening, made me realize, we evolve. I’m not the same person I was in 1986. We live several lifetimes, we go out into the world, and change. We change each other and hopefully change our world to be a little better than what we found. I found that true of Mike and Irene and Carol, too. Kind of a Buddhism concept, before the afterlife.
We covered so many subjects, travel, books, politics, cultures, military, solar cooking, poverty in America and developing countries, it was an invigorating evening. Mike is a serious and avid reader of politics and history, and philosophy. He is retired military with a varied and applied life through two wars, WWII and Korea. He spent gobs of time in France and speaks some French and enjoyed a stellar career.
Irene is Dutch, and most of her family is from Indonesia and Belgium. As a child, her family secretly protected Jews and her father was hauled off to a Nazi prison camp and never seen again. A world traveler, she speaks many languages and her major project is spreading the word about solar cooking. She is active with Jackson Rotary and won for them the prize awarded by Rotary International for the best International Project with her solar cooking demonstrations and teachings.
While our wonderful Indonesian dinner of Nasi Goreng, Ajam Ketjap, Sajoer Lodeh and Boeboer Mango, (colored rice, Chicken in soy, beans in coconut milk, mango custard) and plain old American wine was the focus of the evening, we were all over the world instead.
Mike and Irene have hammocks from countries that grow colored cotton. This orangey-pink hammock is not dyed.
Jewelry made from all natural products, including the tagua nut which is hard and beautiful and carveable. It is called vegetable ivory. I had never heard of it before.
But I was most fascinated with Irene’s work with solar. She has traveled to other countries and demonstrated solar cookers. I love my solar oven and little hot-pot. I’ve gotten others to use solar ovens locally. But Irene does this in a big way.
The question she is asked most often, is: What do you do when the sun doesn’t shine?” She introduces them to the hay basket and the rocket stove. I knew that countries like India, African countries, Guatemala, South American countries that have pockets of deep poverty, where propane is expensive and wood becoming scarce and water in need of pasteurization can be solved with the sun. The rocket stove, an insulated pipe will cook food with very little scrap fuel. And another alternative: if you heat your food boiling hot and then cover the pan and sink it into a basket of hay and cover it over, it will continue to cook and be ready to eat when you return from work, thus using minimal fuel. Wonderful survival techniques. But even more impressive, Irene presented to her Rotary group poverty in America. At first they didn’t want to believe it. But, what does someone do who is living on the streets or in a vacant lot or in their car? How can they cook food? Using solar. She reaches out in her own community and changes it for the better. And, there is that type of poverty in our own counties, we just don’t see it. Mike and Irene are two fascinating people and I am thrilled to have met them, learned new things and enjoyed a wonderful evening.
We stood for a few fleeting minutes and enjoyed a lovely sunset. Carol and I hated to leave for home.