Sumba Island Indonesia; Etc.

‘Miss! Come in and meet my granny!’ The in­vi­ta­tion came some twenty years ago from a smi­ley young man who had spot­ted me tramp­ing along a dirt road in the ob­scure south-east­ern In­done­sian is­land of Sumba. It was skil­let hot and ash­tray dusty, and I was very thirsty. His granny prob­a­bly had tales to tell, and she’d cer­tainly be good for a glass of tea or two. Why not? I had clam­bered up a lad­der onto a bam­boo ve­randa where other young­sters were mak­ing un­rest­ful noises with gongs and drums, then ducked through the low door­way and blinked into a win­dow­less dark­ness. Even­tu­ally, by the tiny grains of light that sprin­kled through the bam­boo-weave of the walls, I made out a poster of Je­sus and the Sa­cred Heart. There was a bag of dirty laun­dry on a bam­boo chair. But the room was oth­er­wise de­serted; no sign of granny.
‘Just a sec­ond!’ The young man fid­dled around with the laun­dry bag, un­ty­ing it and peel­ing back the nap­kin on top to re­veal Granny. She had died the pre­vi­ous day, and would be re­ceiv­ing guests each day un­til her fu­neral four days later, as was the lo­cal cus­tom. ‘It’s an hon­our for her to meet you,’ he said. And we sat and drank tea.


Twenty years af­ter tak­ing tea with a dead grand­mother, I dumped my bags in a dispir­it­ing ho­tel room, asked the staff to sweep away the dead cock­roaches and set out to ex­plore…
Czytaj dalej

Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation Elizabeth Pisani

When you first plop into a rice paddy off the bank, you feel like you’ll be sucked in. The mud squishes up be­tween your toes and cov­ers your an­kle; wa­ter sloshes up your calves but your foot con­tin­ues to sink. Then, sud­denly it hits bot­tom, not hard ex­actly, but bouncy-firm. You stop wor­ry­ing about the quag­mire, and start schlurp­ing your foot up and squish­ing it down a lit­tle fur­ther on. The mud oozes be­tween your toes again. It’s slow go­ing for a be­gin­ner, but fun. No one else at the Cen­tral Java field school was a be­gin­ner, of course. They had all grown up in the rice pad­dies and they had the squared-off feet of peo­ple who see shoes as an en­cum­brance. They were there to learn about bugs…


The World until Yesterday Jared Diamond

At some point I told myself that, if I did survive, I should stop obsessing about things in life less important than survival.

…in the second incident, my New Guinea friend Malik and I were on an island off Indonesian New Guinea and wanted to get ourselves and our gear to the New Guinea mainland, separated from the island by a strait a dozen miles wide. Around 4:00 P.M. on a clear afternoon, slightly more than two hours before sunset, we joined four other passengers in a wooden canoe about 30 feet long, driven by two outboard motors mounted on the stern and with a crew of three young men. The four other passengers were not New Guineans: instead, they were a Chinese fisherman working on the New Guinea mainland, plus three men from the Indonesian islands of Ambon, Ceram, and Java respectively. The canoe’s cargo and passenger space was covered by a plastic awning about four feet high, stretched over a framework, loosely attached to each side of the canoe, and extending from about 4 feet in front of the stern forward to 10 feet behind the canoe’s prow. The three crew sat in the stern at the motors, and Malik and I sat just in front of them, facing the rear. With the awning over us and at our sides, there was little outside that we could see. The four other passengers sat at our backs, towards the canoe’s prow.


The canoe set off, and the crew soon had the engines up to full speed, through waves several feet high. A little water splashed into the canoe under the awning, then a little more, and the other passengers began groaning good-naturedly. As some more large quantities of water splashed in, one of the crew began bailing water immediately in front of me out the loose sides of the awning. More large quantities of water came in, soaking the luggage stored towards the front of the canoe. I put my binoculars for protection inside the small yellow knapsack that I was holding in my lap, and that contained my passport, money, and all of my field notes wrapped inside a plastic bag. Over the roar of the engines and the crashing of the waves, Malik and the other passengers began to shout loudly, now no longer good-naturedly, at the driver, telling him to slow down or turn back. (This and all the rest of the conversations during this whole incident were in the Indonesian language, the official language and the lingua franca of Indonesian New Guinea.) But he didn’t slow down, and more water splashed in. The accumulated weight of water was now causing the canoe to ride so low that water began pouring in over the sides.
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