31 October 2010

Night out

I made my first attempt to “go out” at night in Tana Toraja. A few other Fulbrights were visiting Toraja so we agreed to meet up at the Gazebo restaurant in the nearby town of Rantepao. We wanted to try pa’ piong, a traditional Torajan dish composed of coconut chicken baked in bamboo and tuak or palm wine.

We began dinner at seven and after a few hours of sharing stories we were ready to retire. As we were getting up to leave, our waitress inquired as to how we intended on getting home. She then informed us that there is no transportation from Rantepao to my town after seven pm.

We were a bit caught off guard but still optimistic that we would be able to find someone willing to drive us home. I made some sort of uncomfortable joke to the waitress about us sleeping at her place. Poorly received. Though she did offer to call someone she knew to drive us home. After fifteen minutes of trying to hail a car in the rainy darkness with our flashlights, we decided to take her up on her offer.

Unfortunately we had to pay 90,000 rupiah instead of the usual 5,000. Our drive was also terrifying because 1. Toraja does not have street lights 2. It was raining 3. Our driver was speeding and swerving about 4. The cars don’t have seatbelts 5. Most of the roads are busted 6. The tires are most likely not new. It was scary but I kept reminding myself that the driver must do this all the time and he must know what he’s doing. I was therefore relatively cool until the driver made some joke about palm wine. That’s when it hit us: the man driving us had been drinking at the Gazebo restaurant at a table near us earlier. We hadn’t recognized him in the dark until his comment jogged our memory. The drivers here are generally fear-inducing enough without the added element of even a little intoxication. Terrifying

We arrived home safely and overall it was a fun night. 

Moral of the story: I’m ready to return to my beautifully wholesome lifestyle of staying in after dark.

Pa' Piong

Black Rice

Palm Wine

27 October 2010

Shhh vs Ssss

Three children arrived on my doorstep today. They had climbed over my fence with a mission:

"Can you teach us English, Miss?" (They asked in Indonesian)

My instincts told me to maintain boundaries and tell them I was busy. I'm not comfortable having students or random children in my house. 

But then I noticed the little English book held tightly in one of their arms. It was too precious for me to even handle. My maternal instinct/role as a teacher/philanthropic spirit prevailed and I invited my new little students to take a seat with me on my front porch. 

We practiced "How old are you?" "What are your hobbies?" "She sells sea shells by the sea shore," "Ph sounds like F," "One little two little three little Indians" and "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands." 

Most importantly I taught them how to "high five." When I was demonstrating how to high five, I high fived myself in a sort of clap-like fashion. I then proceeded to hold my hand out to high five one of the little students. My demonstration unintentionally taught them to clap their hands together before receiving/taking part in a high five. I don't know what makes it so adorable and hilarious. But I do wish I had recorded it. It's that precious. If you don't understand why this is noteworthy, please wait until you are the unfortunate recipient of a high five and clap your hands together before reaching your hand out to receive. 

I fear it may catch on.

24 October 2010

Cliff Graves

In addition to its gruesome funeral rituals, Tana Toraja is known for its cliff graves. These elaborate grave sites are reserved for those of high social status.

"Tau Tau" are images of the deceased carved from the wood of a jack fruit tree. They are thought to contain the soul of the deceased. 

23 October 2010

Wet Season

Outside my window

Karate class in the rain

Flooding in South Sulawesi airport upon my arrival 

SMA1 (High School)

The high school where I teach English

Pak Paulus and one of my English classes

Flag Ceremony
The teachers' outfits remind me of military uniforms. 

The choir at our flag ceremony

First week: students teaching me about Torajan tourism "objects" (as they're called here)

Yetty and me after English Club

More students

English Club


I was finally able to get a modem.  It only required a ten hour bus ride to the nearest shopping mall. Now that I have internet access, I'd like to explain where I'm actually located. 

Sulawesi is the island that kind of looks like a "K." It is to the right of Kalimantan/Borneo.

I live in the box called "Torajaland." The city of Makassar (near the tip) is where I must go to access an airport or obtain any modern amenities. Think: malls, movie theaters, taxis, coffee shops, computer stores, dairy products...

Fortunately Toraja is an incredible place to be stuck. I have been told it is on the "100 things to do before you die" list.

My Town Square

I get everything I need from the market. It's like a giant tent village with dirt floors. You can find everything from fruit to fish to live pigs to flip flops.

I'm always amazed by what I can and cannot find in Toraja. For instance, dvd players and speakers are here but can openers and dvds are nearly impossible to come by.

I am the only bule (non-Indonesian) living in this town of 30,000.  Being such a novelty elicits a lot of attention. I am thankful that the attention is positive and generally respectful.  Though sometimes it can be exhausting. It's weird to have bus loads of students scream "We love you Meees Yudeeeet!" when they see me. Or have rumors swirl around the town that I do not eat rice. (True). People always tell me they love my nose, which I don't entirely hate. And I've gotten used to photos being sneakily snapped of me.

Tiny paparazzi spotting me at the internet cafe. 

The girl sitting on the floor is seconds away from reaching over and adding herself to my facebook. (You sit on the floor at my internet cafe). It's kind of nice. 


Ritual sacrifice photos

Many of you were probably traumatized by my ritual sacrifice photos. If so, you need to realize that these buffalo are treated extremely well during their lifetime--we're talking sponge baths--and slaughtered more humanely than the livestock you eat for dinner. (Sorry Ashley/vegetarian friends). Every part of the buffalo is then used after the ceremony. Also, in terms of me taking photos at a funeral--the locals encourage it. At this point ritual sacrifice in Toraja is less of a spiritual event and more of a tradition. The villagers often videotape it.

That being said, it is hard to watch and I don't plan on attending more funerals anytime soon. 

Next on my to do list: cliff graves and dead baby tree. 

The buffalo horns in the front of the house are a status symbol. 
More buffalo horns = more buffalo sacrifices = more money