Friday, August 25, 2017

East Sumba: Part 1 - The Trip

Hello, sweeties! I'm back from the rapid assessment and awareness raising event on solar panel electrification program in five villages in East Sumba. It was my first trip to Sumba Island, one of the outer islands of Indonesia, and I must say that the experience was quite mind-blowing.

I've been to Flores Island and Timor Island, I even experienced an emergency landing in West Sumba's Tambolaka airport, but those trips didn't prepare me for this East Sumba visit. It was more than just the majestic view, but also its cultural values.

I landed in East Sumba's Umbu Mehang Kunda airport with my colleagues. We used Citilink (HLP-DPS) and Nam Air (DPS-WGP), with a night transit in Bali. There is another airline offering flights to Umbu Mehang Kunda airport, but the office already had bad experiences with that particular airlines, so we went with the other one.

After dealing with car rental and other preparation, we left Waingapu and went to the villages on the southern coast line of East Sumba. There are several routes, but we chose the one that passes Tanarara village. As we moved to the south, the view changes from dry and dusty savanna to red soil to green pastures. Sometimes we saw wild sandalwood pony, a local horse breed named after sandalwood.

Potable water source in Laiwangi Wanggameti National Park

We experienced two incidents during the trip, and somehow coffee is involved. How, I hear you ask? First, the ball joint fell apart. It happened just a few kilometers after we left Kananggar village, which has a small shop selling coffee. One of us wanted to sample the coffee there, but the majority of us opted out. Then the incident took place and we had to return to the village with the help of the driver's relatives (who live in the village). A cup of coffee was no longer a choice, it's a must.

The kind of roads we went through. Up and down, straight and circling, all the way. And I got the whole 3-D experience because I sat on the front seat

This photo was taken when the ball joint fell apart.

The incident allowed us to have a more intimate look to the daily life. We chatted with the home owners, and found that they studied in Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, Central Java. The husband now works as a farmer, while the wife is a stay at home mom. They both took Law and found that there was not much to do in the village with their degree.

After an hour or so chatting, the subject moved to wedding ceremony. I think it all started when a boar fumbled along our legs. I was startled to see such big animal, but the wife said there was another one bigger in the stall, which was kept for wedding proposal ceremony.

The wife (my bad, I forgot to ask her name!) said that during the proposal, the groom family comes to the bride's house and negotiates on the dowry, which usually consists of horned boars, oxen, buffaloes and horses. The number of the animals depends on the negotiation, which can last for days.

During the first meeting of both families, the groom gives mamuli, a set of pendant and chain representing female and male organs, as a sign of goodwill. There are more family meetings after the first one, and each meeting requires even more dowry. A Sumba guy talked to his friend (so I overheard) that he still needed to buy 15 more animals to complete the dowry and his oldest kid is already in primary school!

There are many cases of domestic violence in the area because the husbands think they have spent so much for their wives, so they can treat the wives the way they like it. The women also do most of the household chores: cooking, getting water from spring/well/river, getting wood for the fire in the kitchen, washing clothes, etc.

While many of them acknowledge that the traditions burden them, they keep saying that the traditions are good and actually protect the women because if the husbands mistreat the wives, the women's family can step in and intervene. In some cases, the women's family can return the dowry and bring back the women to the family's home.

A set of mamuli

But I digress, where was I? Ah yes, the second car incident happened when we left Tandula Jangga village. And how did coffee play a role in it?

We had been drinking coffee in the past few days and it started to take a toll on our stomach. So on that fateful morning, I made the team cereal drink. One person who is a coffee addict was not happy with the drink. I told him that we'd get a cup of coffee in the next village. But guess what, the host served him tea! He was upset that he couldn't get his caffeine fix, then suddenly, the one of the tires just blew up. So again, we had to stop and get a cup of coffee while the driver changed the tire.

That was my boss changing the tire, and yes we are evil employees. Ah, the advantage of being the only woman in a road trip.

Sorry I was a bit late in posting this. Drafting a long blog post takes up more time than posting a photo and two paragraphs of caption in Instagram, but I've committed to compile all experience here, so please bear with me.

In the mean time, if you want to keep up with my daily snapshots, you can check @tasrianti. Feel free to follow and drop comments (nice ones, please).

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