Knuku Man – Sept. 6, 2012

Today I’m recording yesterday’s blog from the back yard of the guest house at 43 J.A. Abraham Blvd. Three of the four dogs are sitting around me. The back yard faces the east side of the house, which is where the breeze comes from. Under the awning, it is quite comfortable.

 Photos here

My sister is having a nap in her bedroom, so maybe I’ve tired her out.

Around me, the yard is dug up in several spots where the dogs feel they must dig out a little bed for themselves. I’m glad I don’t own this house, as the yard is a mess now.

Thursday morning began with coffee on the porch, which is my sister’s favourite way to start the day, surrounded by birdsong.

We then had breakfast, and headed out to meet Jon Hilgers, our former gym teacher when we were in high school here. He remains one of our favourite teachers from those formative years. He is the only one that is still on the island, that I am aware of. The others have either passed away or gone back to Holland.

Nowadays, Mijneer Hilgers, as we used to call him, refers to himself as the knuku man. That is because he has moved out to the country on the east side of the island, not too far from Lagun. Knuku is the Bonairian name for farm, although it is drastically different from what we consider a farm.

We met him on the road to Nikiboko at the More for Less Supermarket. We then followed him off the end of the paved road and into the mundi, or what is known as the outback here. He stopped to tell us to make sure we trailed exactly in his path, as it was extremely rough going. We followed the blue rocks on the right side at the various intersections, which indicated the way to the golf course, which is apparently next door to his property. When we finally arrived at his 3-1/2 acre farm, we were met by his dog and black cat.

The kitchen sink was outside by the right fence in order to discourage pests from entering the house.

On the first corner of his square, red-coloured, two-storey home was a huge water storage tank to collect rain water from the eave troughs.

Near the other corner of the house were two very large water containers that were hooked by pipeline to the outside of his yard where the WEB Utility can come and fill them up with fresh water, without having to enter the yard. Behind the house was more water storage, altogether probably thousands of litres of water.

In the far corner of the yard was his fire pit, and to the left of that was the old shipping container that he actually managed to live in for four years while he was rebuilding the house. In between that and the house was a more modern garden shed, which he now regrets buying, as it probably won’t last that long. Inside that shed is his son’s inflatable boat which he is reluctantly storing for him, as his son lives in an apartment on Bonaire.

When we entered the home, it was a bit like entering the basement of the home, as Jon lives most of the time on the second floor. There was a kitchen and bathroom, as well as lots of books and photos.

The back bedroom is somewhat like a sealed bunker, with air conditioning in it from his solar air conditioner. While the air conditioner works about two hours at the beginning of the evening, it is not able to last throughout the night, so Jon sleeps in a hammock on the second floor.

The most remarkable thing was the three electrical panels on the wall that came from the rooftop solar panels. He has eleven panels and some batteries which supply the power for his house. Jon lives completely off the grid, except for the occasional fresh-water delivery. The panels included two inverters and a control panel.

The windows in the lower level of the house are of the Italian design, which let the wind in but not the rain.

Then we went up through a near vertical staircase and through a hatch onto his second floor. We entered his music studio, where he records albums all by himself. The former band he was in has broken up, and he now has a very nice setup to record all the instruments and vocals himself. Later on, we were able to listen to some of his music. It is jazz-style music, sung all in English, as apparently that is easier to write for than the Dutch language.

Next, we entered onto his rooftop veranda, which is an “L” shape around the entire perimeter of the house. There are special U-V rated bug screens surrounding the entire patio, which, with the breeze coming across up on the second floor, makes it very comfortable.

He has a living room, a dining room, and the far corner is where he has strung his hammock for sleeping.

Just beyond that is the roof where he showed us the tubes for the solar air conditioner. We walked out onto the roof to have a closer look. There were fifteen gas-filled tubes. The gas would expand and power the air conditioner in the bedroom below. I wasn’t exactly sure how the science worked. There were about eight batteries underneath this array, but I’m not sure if they were connected to it or to the solar panels on the roof.

I find this type of self-sufficient living very intriguing!

The view from his veranda is very nice, with a moveable panel at the far corner. I almost had a mishap when that panel got knocked over with the wind, but no damage was done.

We sat around the table, discussing his various building projects around the property, and how he managed to live at virtually no cost. Taxes are very cheap, as his property is the furthest away from Kralendijk.

Then I asked him what the potted plants were along the wall, and he said they were the Moringa tree, otherwise known as the miracle tree. It is a tree formerly only known in Africa and northwestern India, whose leaves are edible, and contain a high level of protein. The seeds can be used to purify water. Eating the leaves has very positive medicinal benefits. He is very excited about these trees, and plans to start a plantation of them, and eventually sell the by-products. I think he may do very well, as it is a wonderful tree to grow. He was able to locate these trees on a few private properties on the island, and is not sure when they were imported.

Towards noon, Jon brought out some split-pea soup with bits of asparagus and other vegetables in it. Jon is a vegan. I must say, the soup was delicious!

After lunch, Jon launched into his favourite topic, which is the Raja Yoga religion that he now is a member of. It was a very interesting discussion, with Jon explaining the 84 different reincarnations, and a bit about our essence being an eternal soul that would move from one body to the next.

On the other hand, I believe the Bible’s position that we only get to live our life once, and there most certainly is an eternal soul that lives on after the death of the body.

My sister holds the position that there is no such thing as a soul, and that death means the end of our consciousness.

We batted it back and forth until one o’clock, when we had to leave in order to meet Dick for the afternoon dive. All in all, it was an interesting visit, and we were both very pleased to get reacquainted with Mijneer Hilgers.

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After lunch, Dick picked me up, along with his son, Rick. Joanna had decided she wanted to go cruising on her moped, and explore our former neighbourhoods, so there was just the three of us.

Our first stop was Bruce’s to pick up some air, but Dick did not have his credit card on him, so we turned around and went to Wannadive, where I picked up some air for them. I was able to introduce them to the staff at Wannadive, and they will register with them shortly, as Wannadive has the best prices on the island for refills.

Dive:  Windsock

We then drove back past my house to Windsock Dive Site, which is right off the end of the airport runway. As we were suiting up, I noticed that the borrowed gear that Dick had was a rather ancient looking BC, and the typical rental analog depth gauge and pressure gauge. I mentioned to him that if he wanted to keep diving, a dive computer would be a very good investment.

We walked down to the beach, and had an easy entry. After rinsing out our masks, we submerged, and started heading slowly towards the drop-off.

Dick has only had five dives, and at this point is limited to 18 metres maximum. We levelled off around 15 metres, but I noticed that Dick was swimming vertically, as opposed to the typical horizontal position. We later discovered that his tank had been mounted too low on his back, and the weights as well may need to be repositioned to make him more level. He was also swimming far out from the reef, where you can’t see the creatures in detail.

Rick and I spotted a tarpon swimming by, but I’m not sure Dick saw it. We took a few pictures of each of us, but I later discovered that there was condensation inside of my camera. I have now, hopefully, dried that out with the fan in my air conditioned bedroom.

Rather soon, Dick indicated that he was at half a tank. As happens with all new divers, they breathe much more rapidly, and work too hard to maintain their buoyancy, and so use up the air at twice the rate of an experienced diver. Both Rick and me ended the dive with almost half a tank left over.

After the turn-around, we noticed a spotted eagle ray up in the shallows, so Rick grabbed the camera and pursued it for a few photos.

No sooner had he returned, when we noticed an extremely dense school of fish at about 20 feet deep, numbering in the thousands. As I approached them, it was like approaching a living wall of fish. After I had turned back to the rest of the group, I noticed a barracuda hovering nearby. Apparently this is why they were exhibiting the tight formation schooling behaviour.

As we approached the shore, I noticed Dick was swimming head down, which indicated he was under-weighted. I grabbed my slate, and told him to surface, and we discussed what was happening. I decided that we would try to exhaust most of the air from his BC and have him work on his buoyancy. We then went back down to about 12 feet deep where he practised hovering without moving at all. His feet kept going down, as I mentioned before, but otherwise he seemed to get the hang of it after a few minutes.

We then exited the water, and I decided to drop by Dive Friends Port Bonaire on the way by to find out what they charge for air. The lady wasn’t particularly helpful, and said that they charge $18, with no local rate available. So Dick will be getting his air from Wannadive.

We then stopped at Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn to get Rick’s inflater hose fixed. The valve that attaches to the pressure hose had been seized, and on the previous dive, it had auto inflated, which can be a problem. Within five minutes, Bruce had it fixed good as new! This was the dive shop that the Bonaire director, Joe Barker, had recommended to Dick, so I was glad I was able to make the introduction.

In terms of equipment, service, and overall friendliness, Bruce remains the best dive operator on the island.

We then dropped by my place where I dumped my gear and jumped in the car and followed them back to Wannadive. We dropped off the tanks, and I picked up a new tank for the next day. Dick was very thankful for the assistance, and said he had a most enjoyable experience, which made me happy.

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I then went home, where Joanna made a wonderful skillet meal of cubed pork chops and tons of vegetables. I am continually amazed at Joanna’s prowess in the kitchen!

After a delicious supper, we ended up in a lengthy debate about spiritual matters. It was a very intense discussion, but an honest and open one. By the end of it, I felt I was able to understand a bit of her journey.

I then tried to edit the photos from the previous day, but found I was completely exhausted, so went to bed early at around 9:15. It was a very fun-filled but tiring day.

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