gunung inerie volcano (inerie means 'big mama'!) viewed from atop bobo mountain, in bajawa, flores
(i thought the red part was the coolest.)
visited the village of luba, where the ngada people live. these are ancestral totems that all ngada villages have, so that their ancestors protect the village and bestow blessings on it. these are the ngadu, which are dedicated to male ancestors.
the totem pole is carved in traditional style and is replaced when it breaks or wears out, which is only about every 500 years, as it's made of strong wood. the next part of the explanation is not for the faint of heart. when a new totem is erected, a major ceremony is performed, which includes animal sacrifice (the people here considers themselves catholic but their animistic traditions are still extremely strong). for this ceremony, underneath where the totem is placed in the ground are placed a red chicken, a red pig (don't ask me about the color) and a red dog. each is put in its own cage and buried alive. my guide actually had a totem ceremony just a few weeks ago in his own village, and he said you could hear the dog crying for about a week. (i know. i'm sorry. it makes me almost cry just thinking about it.)
there are spears at the top of each totem, to scare off bad spirits.
this is a bhaga, dedicated for female ancestors. it is essentially a small house, to symbolize a womb and bless the village with fertility. luba had four of each, but two were torn down by a storm a few years ago and the village has so far only been able to afford to reconstruct this one (fully) and a partial one next to it. the reason it is so expensive to make a new totem is the ceremony involved, which involves animal sacrifices, as mentioned, and feeding everyone who comes from far and wide. so the village is rebuilding slowly, as it is able to afford to.
families bury their dead right with them in the village
each house retains symbols of every animal that was sacrificed for its ceremonies (there are ceremonies when you build the house and for various life stages and events). it is a sign of wealth and standing in the community. for pigs they keep the jaws, as you see above. for bulls, the horns. sorry to report, but dogs are also sacrificed (and eaten), but i wasn't told about any remains kept from them.
the front room of a home. this is the traditional front room, where ceremonies are performed. not every house can afford to have one. the wood is carved in traditional style, with traditional elements (horses, chickens, etc).
the small house atop this roof show that it belongs to the highest eschalon in the clan. its ancestors were positioned at the bottom of the totems when the village was founded and the totems first brought in.
the houses with small figures on top are the next highest in terms of caste, having been positioned at the top of the totem when the village was founded.
another 'small man' roof
bull horns from sacrifices
carvings on the edge of a house
the graves were in several different styles (but i forgot to ask if that meant anything).
yes, sprite bottles. why not? as good a vase as any...
wasn't quite sure if this bottle was a vase as well...
this was my favorite. grandpa's favorite shoes, perhaps? when i asked my guide about it he said they were drying. the grave just happened to be in the best spot to get the sun. i guess when you live with your dead every day there is a different kind of relationship with them as, of course, in my own culture this would be considered incredibly disrespectful. (also, my guide translated my joke about grandpa's shoes to some women in the village and they laughed.)
as you can see, the women (and not actually the men, as far as i could tell) chew betel nut, which leaves their mouths red and their teeth rotted.
weaving (ikat) is one of the ways the village earns money. others are harvesting vanilla beans and coffee.
the houses that do weaving usually display it out front. they get some tourists visiting, but not many like the other village i went to (which is listed in the lonely planet guidebook, while luba is not).
you may have noted that the names on the graves are english or spanish-sounding. flores is mostly catholic from portuguese influence, and almost everyone i met had a catholic name (some anglicized, some not): lucas, bernard, augustina, maria (mia is apparently a very popular nickname for maria, so there are tons of mias in indonesia!). i even met a kevin, though i'm pretty sure there was no saint kevin... and arnold. saint arnold? obviously i am the wrong person to ask...
this area is a sort of monument for very special ancestors, and many ceremonies are held around it.
the village of bena, which is the most well-known (and tourist-visited) ngada village in the area. yet it doesn't feel touristy at all. it has a few more items than just the woven textiles for sale, but other than that there didn't seem to be much interest on the part of the villagers in tourist other than to be friendly to them. it was very nice.
playing a game involving marbles and, of course, betel-chewing. the woman in blue was dipping her fingers in white powder and putting on her gums and what was left of her teeth. this gave me a perfect view of the inside of her mouth and i have to say seriously that it was the most disgusting i'd ever seen. i couldn't tell where the betel ended and her teeth and tongue began. or if there was even any betel in there. it was truly awful, and worse than the mouth of any betel-chewers i can recall from india (but perhaps i never had quite this 'idea' an angle).
the more bull horns you have, the more bull sacrifices you've had, the more impressive you are in the village.
vanilla beans for sale on the front porch
i was impressed with this one. not sure if having a whole skull in addition to your horns gives you higher status or if it's just an aesthetic choice.
some really nice carving on this house. my guide pointed it out to me and even took pictures of it for himself.
this man on top of a horse is always part of the house carvings. the horse symbolizes strength and hard work.
view from the highest point in bena
a house in the fields. some people live out here rather than in villages, as their fields are too far away from their villages for them to go back and forth.
this totem is clearly a lot newer than the one in luba.
one of bena's vip ancestor monuments
a bhaga in bena
this house was obviously recently redone.
coffee drying in front of the ancestor totems
everyone was actually in this village (whereas in luba there were no men and mostly older women and a few younger ones doing weaving) because someone had recently died. the men here were preparing food as part of the rituals for the funeral, now in it's second or third day.
i was very lucky that my guide, lucas (who is not really a guide anymore but a hotel manager, restaurant owner and all-around entrepeneur who recently ran for political office and lost) invited back to his village, moni, so i could see the inside of a traditional home (when you visit the villages you are only able to look from the outside, but no one would invite a stranger into their home). he recently rebuilt his family's front room in the traditional style and is very proud of it. his brother did the woodcarving. this is a sort of altar in front of which ceremonies take place. at the top are spears and all of the carvings, of course, have special meanings.
this is the area for cooking the sacrificed animals. the stone in the back is called the mother stone and the other two are support stones. the feathers hanging are from the chickens that were sacrificed in the ceremony that they held when the house was finished. you may also be interested to know that lucas' mother-in-law has two dogs that he is extremely fond of, and he has threatened her that if she ever sells those dogs for sacrifices he will never speak to her again. it's a very strange relationship, as several villagers i saw had dogs as pets. lucas told me of one family who had relatives coming to visit and they had no money but they were required to do a sacrifice so they had to use their pet dog. (yes, i had to hold back tears for that one.)
exterior of the house
bull horns and pig jaws from sacrifices
the carving on the left represents dog legs, to symbolize bravery and protection for the house (if someone, or just bad spirits, are coming, dogs will bark to warn you). on the right are snakes, which are for strength and also protection.
the horse represents strength and hard work.
the rooster and hen are there because chickens are obviously very important to the culture, since sacrificing them is part of most ceremonies (hence the axes depicted between them...). the white discs are gold coins.
this is an elephant because...elephants used to be found on flores (that was all i got from lucas)...strength, too, i'm sure. and gold coins for prosperity.
lucas and his house
even though in this case, 'cal' means calcium (asia seems to be obsessed with biscuits and crackers fortified with calcium), there is just no way you'd ever have a snack food called 'hi-cal' in the west.
is your motorcycle limp, dry and lifeless? (and perhaps too interested in what other motorcycles are doing?) you need nosy motorcycle shampoo!
started my post-bali travels by flying to maumere, in the east of flores, my plan being to make my way back across to the western end, where i would take a boat trip to the komodo islands. this is, sorry, the backside one of the 'bemo boys' on my trip from maumere to moni. it's not quite clear from the photo, but his jeans are basically made to have the falling-down look...with another pair of jeans underneath. bizarre.
the door of my bemo. not sure what the take-home message here is supposed to be... (that is a gun and bullet holes on the 'black' logo, in case your screen is too small to see.)
we drove around town for literally two hours before finally leaving for our destination. about twenty minutes later we stopped again. to fix a tire...which actually turned out to be two tires. nice that none of the no-less-than five guys working on this bemo (minibus) thought about taking care of this in the two hours we wasted in maumere doing nothing but driving around making the tire situation worse--or, god forbid, even before taking the damned thing out on the road to pick up passengers.
fixing tire #1
my bemo from maumere to moni
benny, my sat-too-close-for-comfort seat companion, who is somehow related to the bemo but it wasn't clear he was doing any actual job on it. he also didn't lift a hand to help fix the tires.
benny insisted i take this one (again, too too close)
at various points they used the tire-fixing machine.
at first i called this guy, the main bemo boy (as probably only i call them) no teeth guy.... (note the 'trendy' glasses) unfortunately for me and soon you, he later earned a new name...
how many bemo boys does it take to change a tire...?
one tire finished! (this is before i knew there would be a second, so you can imagine my excitement, since i'd been sitting there for about40 minutes already. hopes quickly dashed.)
a very sweet-seeming and nicely dressed older man who was one of my fellow passengers. he unfortunately earned the name 'smelly guy' the minute he walked on, and i literally had to change my seat to try not to be downwind of him.
confirmation that there was indeed a second tire repair about to take place
ok, as promised/threatened: the evidence of why no-teeth guy got rechristened hairy-ass guy. believe me you are lucky you weren't there for the actual rechristening moment, when he was sitting about a foot away from me. *shudder*