2017
03.29

Mosaic at Entrance to Historical District

SYNOPSIS:  ABOUT CUBAN ART.  ABOUT A COUPLE OF LOCAL ARTISTS.

I said it before, art is everywhere.  But art does not equal art.  From Havana to Trinidad (and I expect from here on out) we saw about one art gallery per street in the historical quarters, doubling and tripling up around the central plazas. Artists seem to be in cahoots about what to produce, which has the undesirable effect that the wandering tourist soon is in no mood any more to step into yet another gallery displaying the same stuff:  American oldies in quaint old streets, Che and/or Fidel, colonial architecture, Cuban scenery, surreal beasts and lots of naked ladies, with a few abstracts sprinkled in between, done in shrill, bright primary colors.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.28

Street Sign

SYNOPSIS:  EXPLORING MARKETS, CHURCHES AND PLAZAS

Today we experienced Cuban free enterprise … at its best? … or to the extent possible?  Hard to tell.  It was marked on the map as the Mercado Agropecuario  El Rio, or the Commercial Center.   On the ground it was a gated plot with several rows of small blue-green wooden stalls selling local produce.  At home we would probably call it the Farmer’s Market.   The market opens at 5 AM every day for two hours, and again in the afternoon. We got there in the early afternoon and overall it was a very low key operation.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.27

One of those Beauties

SYNOPSIS:  TRANSIT CAMAGUEY.  ANOTHER VIAZUL TRIP, ABOUT SOME PEOPLE, TRAVEL EXPENSES, ANOTHER AIR BNB.  TEA, AND A FEW OTHER THINGS.  TWO BLOCKS APART, TWO WORLDS APART –  A NIGHT STROLL.

1.5 thumbs up to the Viazul station in Trinidad!  It was the first one we encountered that was clean (except for some trash corners), not overcrowded, and had a system in place that indicated that somebody had put a thought to something as simple as: check people’s luggage as they arrive at the station rather than scramble with it when the bus is there and time is in short supply.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.26
Equipment

Equipment

SYNOPSIS:  ABOUT SUGAR, BEER AND A FEW CHARACTERS:  EXCURSION TO THE VALLE DE LOS INGENIOS; A BLOG DEDICATED TO MY BROTHER AND MY GRANDSONS.   

We headed in two directions today.  Celi is always up for a swim and some time at the beach and boarded the Cubatur bus which conveniently left one block from our casa, taking tourists to the Playa Ancon, a peninsular East of Trinidad, considered the best beach of the South Coast.  It is really the North that is famous for unsurpassed  beach resorts but Playa Ancon is as good as it gets around here.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.25

Cobblestone Road

SYNOPSIS:  TRINIDAD.  A CITY OF COBBLESTONES AND CROWDS.

What makes Trinidad such a charming city is not just its narrow alleys, colorful colonial homes, churches, and plazas, but the fact that all the streets in the center are still “paved” with cobblestones.  If you think European-style cobblestones, think again. These stones are not the same size, evenly laid out as in other places I have seen.  Here, the stones range from small splinters to larger boulders patched together left and right of a center row of larger stones that forms the low part of two inward sloping sides.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.24
Day 10-11

Transit Trinidad

SYNOPSIS:  TRANSIT TO TRINIDAD.  MORE ON HOW VIAZUL OPERATES.  FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF TRINIDAD.

Our Viazul bus ride to Trinidad was less than two hours and on time.  It does not get much better with Viazul.  We got a bit more insight into the workings of this bus company and there were fewer surprises this time.  Soon, we will be experts. 

The bus terminal was crowded, sticky, filthy and chaotic.  This time I was the one who had to get in line to get our tickets.  Even though we already booked and paid for our bus tickets, Viazul still requires us to get “real” tickets at the point of departure.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.23
Art Gallery

Art Gallery

SYNOPSIS:  About rations, ferries, trash, art, yacht clubs, tattoos, and more.

The sun was beating down on us much stronger than in Havana.  But I guess that beats the Michigan winter by a long shot.  We were only a few blocks away from the central plaza via the boulevard.  Much of the shopping that is above and beyond the government-allotted monthly rations — happens here.  Cubans have their basics met.  Housing is either cheap or free entirely, medical expenses and educational costs are met by the government.  And rations for all necessities are given to every citizen; they last for about 10 days.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.22
Reina Cemetery 2

Reina Cemetery

SYNOPSIS:  About the French and other Colonizers, a theater, two cemeteries and a few other things of note in Cienfuegos.

Our AirBnB’s location is perfect.  We are one block away from the pedestrian shopping boulevard leading to the Central Plaza and we are kitty-corner from the Prado, the most famous thoroughfare of Cienfuegos leading to the Malecon and the Punta Gorda.

But before exploring what is going on today, I thought it fitting to talk about those who are dead by now.  Cienfuegos owes its 2005 UNESCO status to a cluster of well-preserved colonial homes built most likely by one or the other of the 116 (or is it 137) French settlers who came here in 1819 from Louisiana in the US, and from Bordeaux.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.21
ET on the Bus

ET on the Bus

SYNOPSIS:  LEAVING VINALES.  TRANSIT TO CIENFUEGOS.  ABOUT SMELLS AND THE FIRST STRIKE IN THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT.  ABOUT AIRBnBs.

We said goodbye to our pink room with the red curtains draped in white wedding lace and our green tiled bathroom.  One last time we sat in our white rocking chairs on our concrete porch in front of the tidy red house perched on a small hill, overlooking the Vinales Valley.  We had hoped to sip our coffee in peace and quiet, but with overbearing Marisol, our AirBnB host mother around, there was no peace and quiet to be had.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.20

Day 6-4SYNOPSIS:  ABOUT DOMESTIC CHORES AND OTHER ADVENTURES.

I realize that something awful could happen at home or in world politics and I would not have a clue.  We simply cannot connect to the internet without going way out of our path, wasting a lot of time and then having no guarantee of success.  But I feel compelled to try; at least once in a while.   

After 6 days of travel we had to not only take care of the internet and laundry, but of our digestive systems as well.  We utterly confused our AirBnB hosts when we ordered breakfast in two stages:  8 AM coffee and juice.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.19

SYNOPSIS:  TOURING THE UNESCO VALLEY AND MEETING PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.  ABOUT EXCHANGING MONEY IN CUBA.

You can rent taxis or horses or if you want an entire horse carriage, to tour the 11×5 km Vinales Valley.  Or you can opt for the $5 budget version and use the hop on – hop off tourist bus that circles some of the attractions all day long. The problem is that there is only one bus circling and before it returns you are stuck at a particular site for 1.5 hours. Most of the time that is no problem.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.18
Gas Supply Car

Gas Supply Car

SYNOPSIS:   DINNER WITH ROY AND HELEN.  SUCCESS AT THE INTERNET.  MOVING ON WITH A COLLECTIVO.  ABOUT OUR AIRBNB.

After I returned from the synagogue last night, we were met by Roy Junior (Roy Senior had picked us up from the airport) and his beautiful girlfriend Helen.  Roy Junior was 8 the last time, Celibeth was here.  Today, he is a handsome 23 year old with lots of ambitions and dreams about opening his own translation and tourism business with Helen.  Between the two of them they can speak four languages fluently!VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.17
Tomas and Celi setting up

Tomas and Celi setting up

SYNOPSIS:  HOW WRONG TURNED INTO RIGHT.  ABOUT PEOPLE AND PROJECTS AND PRAYERS.  ABOUT THE DIGITAL WORLD IN CUBA. MY CONFESSION.

Despite purchasing a wifi card and spending an entire hour at a wifi spot, I have not yet managed to connect to the internet or figured out how to make a phone call.  Yes, we are in a different world, but it’s also me, who is just too computer/phone illiterate to overcome the hurdles an American phone is putting up trying to prevent me from accessing any insecure connections in a country not served by US phones.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.16
CUCs and CUPs

CUCs and CUPs

SYNOPSIS:  ABOUT PEOPLE, PRINTS AND PLAYAS.  ABOUT 82-4-10 AND A FEW OTHER SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS.

It is the fifth time Celibeth has been in Cuba.  The last time was 14 years ago, but people here remember her fondly.  The first few days in Havana we connected and will connect with a few of them.  There was Roy, an uncle of a friend and taxi driver (on a need-to-be basis), who picked us up from the airport.  Of course, he could not just drop us off at our AirBnB but a stop-over at his small suburban house was obligatory.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.15

Day 1 – ARRIVAL

Celi and ET Now

Celi and ET Now

SYNOPSIS:  TRANSIT TO CUBA AND ARRIVAL IN HAVANA.  OFF TO A NEW ADVENTURE!  HOW I GOT HERE AND WHY.  ABOUT GENERAL LICENSES AND A FEW TRAVEL TIDBITS.

The mosaic of sounds merged into a symphony loud enough to prevent me from napping.  It was just as well. 

The woman on the balcony to my right shouted something down from the fourth floor, getting involved in an animated conversation a few women on the street had started.  Kids were running after each other and calling out.  A motorbike just did not want to start properly, and a few cars were rolling by.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
03.14
Celi and ET in 2002

Celi and ET in 2002

SYNOPSIS:  MY FIRST TRIP TO CUBA IN 2002.  PLANS FOR 2017.

15 years ago, Roz Biederman, our Spanish teacher at WCC, pulled off the impossible:  She obtained a license to take a group of staff and students to Cuba under the auspices of the Cuban Labor Union.  And our WCC administrators supported her efforts.  I jumped at the opportunity to go, and so did my partner David.  I even pulled my son Martin out of school for those 10 days, against the protest of his father.  This was schooling through life.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
08.05

AIRPORT WARNING SIGN

SYNOPSIS:  A few brief reflections on this trip.

17,000+ islands, 300+ different ethnic minorities, 500+ languages and dialects, 5+ main religious groups — how can anyone even begin to comprehend this country?  Not a lifetime of visits or even living here permanently, can accomplish this.

Indonesia is by all measures the most diverse country I have ever been to, and one of the most intriguing ones.  From a modern metropolis like Jakarta to the backwaters of Boti — and I have not even been really off the beaten path or got even close to groups that are truly remote from civilization, such as can still be found in the jungles of Kalimantan, or on the island of Papua.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
08.04
NATIONAL MUSEUM OLD WING WITH ELEPHANT SCULPTURE

NATIONAL MUSEUM OLD WING WITH ELEPHANT SCULPTURE

SYNOPSIS:  About a day in Jakarta.  About a visit to the National Museum and a sermon at the oldest cathedral in town.

For forty five minutes I was screening every oversized ad lining the tollway leading into Jakarta as I have been screening every road for the last six weeks all over Indonesia  not a single smoking ad!    That was unheard of and quite unexpected.  I had hoped to add an image or two to my ever-growing repertoire.  In every mid-size town I have come through from Sumatra to Timur, cigarette ads were a sure bet; you could count on them in every village, too; but not on the main road leading into the center of Jakarta.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
08.03
BETWEEN DOOM AND GLOOM

BETWEEN DOOM AND GLOOM

CURIOSITIES:  A boring day in transiting from Sumatra to Java with nothing to report, so I will add a few curiosities here, mainly in the form of a photo essay. 

I saw some pretty funny signs and a few other things I photographed just because they caught my attention for one reason or another.

I also became completely fascinated by all the smoking ads I saw plastered everywhere and am posting some of them here.  Smoking is a national problem and instead of combatting it  I saw a single public anti-smoking ad and one video campaign at the airport  smoking ads are using everything from sex appeal to macho imagery with interestingly an all-Western cast.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
08.02
BEGGER - MUSICIAN

BEGGER – MUSICIAN

SYNOPSIS:  About a Zoo, a Museum, a Fort, and a bit more of Bukittingi.

The forces of nature spoke loud and clear:  On Tuesday and Thursday the weather was nice.  On Wednesday and Friday  both of the days which I had set aside for paragliding were cloudy, windy and unsuitable for that sort of activity.  I was deeply disappointed.  I had come so close!

Town still had a few things to offer:  There was a modest local history museum, a zoo, the remains of a Dutch fortress and there is always a stroll in the market if you have nothing else to do. 

The zoo was advertised in a nice, flashy poster.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
08.01
BILLY AND HIS WIFE

BILLY AND HIS WIFE

SYNOPSIS:   In pursuit of more traditional crafts.  About textiles and a music performance.  A visit at my guide’s home.  About a girl who needs medical help.

Two nights in a row I visited a small performance hall in Bukittingi in which given at least 10 visitors in attendance nightly performances of martial arts and music were presented by a different crews of dancers and musicians.  Going twice was a good idea only when you have a point of reference do you know good from bad…  One night was definitely heads and shoulders above the other even though similar pieces were performed.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.31
RAFLESIA IN BLOOM CURLING UP FOR THE NIGHT

RAFLESIA IN BLOOM CURLING UP FOR THE NIGHT

SYNOPSIS:  About an excursion West of Bukittingi, picking up a new guide and making two new friends.  About paragliding at Lake Maninjau almost.  About Dutch houses, silversmithing, and  about a world-guinness record experience.

I had put the deposit down, I was ready to go.  Yumat showed up right on time and turned out to be a two-step-up guide from Billy.  He is a licensed and experienced paraglider with his own business and many years of experience as a senior guide. I was about to check off one thing on my life’s bucket list:  paragliding.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.30
FAMILY HOME

FAMILY HOME

SYNOPSIS:  Driving around rain or shine to find traditional Minang architecture with Billy, my local guide.  The story of a palace and a glimpse of a big crater lake.  About living standards, rain, the countryside and a magic stone.

Soon the few original wooden Minang houses that are left will merely be good enough for firewood.  Their fate  does not lag far behind the fate of the Dayak Longhouses that I tried to visit in Kalimantan.  Traditional Minang architecture is characterized by two, four, or six upswung gables on either side of a central door, which also often is topped by a gable swinging for- and upwards.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.29
A GOOFY MOMENT

A GOOFY MOMENT

SYNOPSIS:  About being a guest of honor at a traditional Minang Wedding and about crossing the equator. 

Colorful cloth tents were dotting the landscape when I drove from Padang to Bukittingi — the sure signs of impending weddings.  The Minang are a matrilineal culture and weddings as well as marriage traditions are some of the most emblematic expressions that remain.  It was a weekend in the month following Ramadan.  That is holiday season for all Muslims, and wedding season for the Minang.  I was pretty sure that by just walking through town the next day, I would stumble on a wedding somewhere and would be able to take a few pictures.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.28
MINANG INTERNATIONAL HOTEL

MINANG INTERNATIONAL HOTEL

SYNOPSIS:  About the pulse of this charming mountain town, about Japanese Tunnels,  about my new accommodations and a word about the culture of Islam and what that means for Indonesia.

Gone-by wealth was oozing out of every one of the ornately carved wooden panels in the parlor of the Minang International Hotel.  It was underscored by the worn carpets, the dated upholstery on the two dozen arm chairs, the fancy wedding alcove, and the silver trays on which tea was still served — all of which must have cost a fortune in the 1950’s when this traditional villa was built and furnished.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.27
THREE GENERATIONS

THREE GENERATIONS

SYNOPSIS:  On the road.  From airports to hotels.  From planes into more planes, taxis and minivans.  Reaching my new destination.   About a good travel rule and about networking in Indonesia.  

The photos in this blog are of a few Sumbanese people.

At home my rule of thumb is that you have to plan an hour for everything or you will be running late.  A stop at the grocery store, just heading to the post office — you just never know what comes in your way.  Here, the rule of thumb has to be that everything takes a day. 

I will roll three days of transit into one blog, but three days of moving is finally behind me: from Flores to Bali, from Bali to Jakarta, from Jakarta to Sumatra.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.26
NAM IN THE AIR

NAM IN THE AIR

SYNOPSIS:  About making the most of a boring day.  Sitting around at the Luanbajo airport.  A note from the health and the photo department.   About luck.

I have no address, I have no phone — the clerks at the six airline offices that lined one wall of the rather sparse basement in the brand-new Luanbajo Airport (Bandar Udara Komodo) were baffled.  I pointed to the food court right across from them:  That’s where I live — at least for today.

And all day I sat there, writing my Sumba blog — so that at least something good would come of this very boring, wasted day.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.25

RINCA

ADULT DRAGON

ADULT DRAGON

SYNOPSIS:  About a boat adventure with new friends, dragons, a snorkeling experience, and a hefty rain storm.

These four had done their research!  Independently, Kyle and Stephanie from Illinois and Luke and Barbara from Italy had spend a good amount of time following the protocol.  They had compared prices, ruled out shady boat providers, found a reputable company and had ended up on a really nice boat equipped for up to 10 passengers.  I was only #5 and they happily took me aboard. 

A professional and experienced crew, a clean and sturdy boat and a good itinerary had just fallen into my lap thanks to them.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.24
FERRY

FERRY

SYNOPSIS:  About ferries, ports, and people.

Anywhere else in the world, bus stations and ports are places where, as individual traveler in particular you have to be on red alert.  Shady characters roam around, pickpocketing is a pastime and most certainly you will be ripped off one way or another.  Not so in Indonesia. 

Waikelo (Sumba) was a crazy site but there was nothing shady about it.   Starting around 4 AM, people were gathering to get onto the ferry, just in case…  The ferry had not taken off in over a week because of high winds.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.23
TOMB DETAIL

TOMB DETAIL

REMEMBER TO CLICK ON EACH PHOTO (once or even twice) IF YOU WANT THE FULL IMAGE

Given the importance of burials which I mentioned in the Post IT TAKES A VILLAGE, I thought I would insert a few typical tomb stones and graves here as a photo essay.  In the villages, tombs occupy the central space and are most likely still fashioned in the traditional ways (limestone) and decorated with traditional symbols.   In the cities, each family has their tomb in their front yard. At times the size of the tomb rivals that of the house…  Often, materials such as concrete or bathroom tiles replace traditional materials.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.23
ET AND PATER RAMONE

ET AND PATER RAMONE

SYNOPSIS:  Another day of explorations in Sumba.  About a very late wedding celebration, about funerary practices early and delayed and about a unique cultural center. 

People had gathered at a temporary structure and sat on numerous colorful plastic chairs at a front yard in a little village.  A few trucks were lined up at the fence of the property.  Something was happening.   Can we stop?  Yohn didn’t mind. 

It was a wedding — well, sort of.  The wedding had taken place a couple of years ago.  The couple already had a child.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.22

IKAT

THE INDIGO PHASE

THE INDIGO PHASE

SYNOPSIS:  About chasing the perfect piece of Ikat.  About its production, its tradition and its symbols.    About landscapes, prisons and crime in Sumba.

We all have our priorities.  Some people travel half around the world for a perfect diving spot, others go for the one and only culinary experience, rare plants or animals, and I at times, try to hunt down a perfect piece of art.  In Indonesia, I had it in my head that I was going to buy a special piece of Ikat. 

Ikat are woven textiles which are unique in that the design is created before threads that are ultimately woven, are dyed.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.21
WAITABAR KAMPUNG

WAITABAR KAMPUNG

SYNOPSIS:  Traditional villages in Sumba.  Driving around with Yohn.

I was strolling along the beach at Oro when a voice called out:  Elisabeth?  Now who around here knows my name?!   I had mentioned, that I was looking for a guide to Ziska and Lukas.  And word had gotten around… 

Yohn, also known by his full name:  Yohanes Lende Danggaone, is one of the certified English-speaking guides of this island.  He does not come cheap. But he comes with 12 years of experience, a local upbringing, and a car.  As my time here is limited, I have a few things on my agenda, and the visit of villages would take me days of trekking — I have little choice.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.20

ORO BEACH

MY FIRST NIGHT HUT

MY FIRST NIGHT HUT

SYNOPSIS:  Time for a writing stop.  Where paradise meets home away from home.  Where a writing stop turned into a vacation.  Where sunrise and sunsets are perfect.  Where you meet interesting people.  Where I did not want to leave.

My 3-star hotel time at the T-More in Kupang was sucked up by grading my online course, doing laundry and by the pure indulgence in long hot showers.  My Timur blog still had to be written…

Every night, I process photos.  Waiting around and being in transit is the best time for me to write.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.19
Keeping cool

KEEPING COOL

SYNOPSIS:  About another hypocrisy of life. 

Timur was fabulous,  I knew that once I left “civilization” — when I flew to Kalimantan — the trip would pick up, meaning, it would be more what I like: roughing it a bit, exploring things off the beaten track, getting to know people in their daily surroundings, seeing new art forms and interesting architecture.

It only got better.  After Kalimantan, there was Sulawesi.  I did not have to rough it much as I had a base camp at Rantepao, still, there were challenges.  The Torajans are wonderful people and their arts and rituals are simply amazing. 

Timur topped even Sulawesi.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.18

BOTI

LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW

SYNOPSIS:  About the last animist village in Timur.  About traditions and handicrafts.

Already over 30-40 years ago when tourism to Indonesia was more of a novelty than it is today, news made it to the West that among all the villages and ethnic groups in Timur one of them had preserved its animist practices:  Boti village in the former Kingdom of Amunaban.  A steady flow of tourists started to trickle in despite its remote location.  The villagers not only seem to cope but they made the best of it:  They collectively agreed and built a guest house on the chief’s compound and they collectively benefit from the money tourists pay for overnight stays and the obligatory village donations of betel nuts and cigarettes.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.17
MULTI-COLORED ROCKS

MULTI-COLORED ROCKS

SYNOPSIS:  About a night at the beach and a morning with the stone pebblers about the stars and the sun, chewing betel nuts and about smoking.

It was a long drive from Gemri’s village to the coast.  I had a choice between spending an early night at Soe, and driving on in the morning with Gemri, or driving 2 more hours today with Gemri’s brother Hanki and a driver, to spend one night at the ocean.  Yes, you guessed it — I chose the ocean.

Oetuna Beach is a favorite among locals.  For a small fee people can drive their motorbikes and cars to a guarded beach and even spend the night there hanging out in and around a covered pavilion.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.16
BREAKFAST IS READY AND STEAMING HOT

BREAKFAST READY & STEAMING

SYNOPSIS:  An evening and a morning at Gemri’s house.  About Gemri’s family and about a morning at the village church. 

Gemri’s house was only 200 meters down from the church.  Church service was scheduled to start at 8 AM and groups of well-dressed villagers, some of whom had walked quite far, had been streaming by the house since after 7 AM.  Church on Sunday was one of the occasions to socialize, exchange news, listen to the priest, and just hang out. 

Everyone looked at the red car that was parked in front of Markus and Juliana’s house.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.15
THE ROCK AND A DOG

THE ROCK AND A DOG

SYNOPSIS:  About a trek to a sacred stone village.

Most of the roads in Timur seem to deteriorate to a point that normal cars simply can’t cope anymore.  But there are even villages that can’t be reached by motorbike.  The sacred village of Temkesi in the Kefa area, the former Kingdom of Biboki, is one of them.  With a 4WD we could have driven nearly up to it, but we hiked up to it — a 3 km hike which cost me a big headache as the sun was beating down on us.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.14

CHIEF’S SON – ACTING CHIEF

SYNOPSIS:  How a Jakarta TV Crew blessed me with a full scale event at the warrior village None (Nooh-nay). 

At the most crucial event — the warriors got ready for a war dance — my old, trusty SLR Nikon froze!  My heart almost stopped.  I took out the battery, switched it on and off and tried every trick under the sun, but the camera refused to take another picture.  I had my small emergency Canon camera in the car, but that was one kilometer away.  The dance would start in less than 15 minutes.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.13
DANCING WITH THE CHIEF

DANCING WITH THE CHIEF

SYNOPSIS:  About the life of chief Mattheo Anin in the village of Fatumnasi.  About a unique rain forest.  About kings and kingdoms.  About chiefs and how to become one.  About staying in a traditional roundhouse.

It is dark in chief Anin’s hut. Ten dogs, two caged cuscus, over thirty doves, a rooster, a chicken and a monkey share the 5-meter circular room under a thatched roof with chief Mattheus Anin and his wife Juliana. And of course, any visitor is welcome, and for that purpose about ten wooden chairs hem a half circle around the edge of the room.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.12
GETTING THE CAR READY

GETTING THE CAR READY

SYNOPSIS:  About distances.  How manifesting always works.  About booking a hotel online.  About a new guide.  No photos today.  

For the next week, I will be traveling in West Timur.

I won’t go into it, but East and West Timur have a violent history that is quite recent and was caused by the aftermath of colonialism.  The Dutch cleared out of their part of Timur after WWII, the Portuguese did not.  The Dutch part was converted mainly to Protestantism, the Portuguese part mainly to Catholicism.

I will be traveling in the Indonesian part of Timur only.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.11

FACES OF TORAJA

CHEWING BETEL NUTS

CHEWING BETEL NUTS

SYNOPSIS:  About not learning any lessons.  About rain.  About meeting a Swedish couple.  A day of processing photos and impressions.  A day of rest.  Taking the night bus back to Makassar.    Images of the faces of some of the Torajans.   Saying goodbye to Sulawesi. 

Didn’t I learn anything from my experience with Nicola in Java (see Yogyakarta blog) — leaving the house without the address of your hotel?  No, I did much better than that:  I found myself without money not knowing where I was and not knowing where I was going!VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.10
RICE TERRACES

RICE TERRACES

SYNOPSIS:  About a two-day village trek north of Rantepao.  About rice terraces and beauty.  About sleeping in a 320 year old traditional house.  About “the moment”.

At times, it seemed almost too much to bear.  Every few steps I looked around and a new view into a valley or down a terrace, towards a small church in the distance, or a curvy-roofed family compound, had opened up.  It is hard to describe how something this gentle and beautiful could be so overwhelming.  But it literally took my breath away.

I thought I had seen nice rice paddies in Java and Bali.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.09
Gathering around the Coffin

GATHERING AROUND THE COFFIN

SYNOPSIS:  About the third day of the funerary ceremony. 

The ground was torn from the feet of over 2000 people and the hoofs of hundreds of animals.  And it was muddy from two nights of rain.  A few people trickled into the compound where the family had gathered around the coffin of the deceased mother.

This was day three of the funeral ceremony.  It was quiet and attended by only about 200 people, the extended family of the deceased.  I was welcomed back to observe but I was the only tourist.  No more spectacles.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.08
BOYS IN TRADITIONAL OUTFITS

BOYS IN TRADITIONAL OUTFITS

Synopsis:  About the buffalo and pig market at Bolo.  A few thoughts about animals, rights, and privileges.   About a wedding and a confirmation ceremony.

The bull and pig market in Bolo is famous in all of Tona Toraja.  It happens every six days and people arrive by the truck load from the most remote villages.  Especially during the dry season (May through December), when funeral ceremonies happen and pigs and buffalos are slaughtered by the tens of thousands, this market is bustling.

After seeing the ceremony, I now understand better, where the need for these quantities of animals comes from.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.07
Skinning the Buffalo

SKINNING THE BUFFALO

SYNOPSIS:  About a day of slaughter and community.  Or is it the other way around?  About funeral requirements and etiquette.  How do traditions develop?  A few thoughts.    This blog is long as there is nothing quite like this.

Todays post is not for the fainthearted as I will not spare you the details.  It may be easier for you to read it than it was for me to experience, but I can’t imagine that it is easy either way.  And if you don’t like blood, skip this one.  I put off writing this blog as much as I could and am still fighting back tears writing, just as I was at the funeral ceremony.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.06
FUNERARY PRACTICES-13

GALLERY OF TAU TAU

SYNOPSIS:  Cruising Toraja Villages in search of funerary practices. 

For two days I have been on the back of Yussuf’s bike and my butt is getting sore…  But the final count is in for evidence of the different funerary practices of the Torajans.  I think it is fair to say that Torajans live and earn money to be able to pay for proper funerals. You will be judged by your community for the way you send off your loved ones.  Nothing matters more.

As someone who will be happy with a cardboard box or my ashes blown into the four directions, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this concept.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.05
300+ YEAR RICE BARN

300+ YEAR RICE BARN

SYNOPSIS:  About my new home and my guide.  About the peculiar architecture of the Torajans and a bit about their mythology and history.

As Oscar in Makassar had promised, Yussuf, my new guide, showed up at 6:30 AM at the bus station.  After 8 hours on the bus I must not have cut a pretty figure, but he did not seem to care.  As part of my tour package, he took me to my new accommodations:  Riana’s Homestay.  A large clean room, a large clean bathroom with hot water (no sink), a small green garden, available wifi and a very friendly host family — I could not complain.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2016
07.04
BINTANG BUS

BINTANG BUS

SYNOPSIS:  A  6-day plan, a 6-hour wait and an 8-hour trip.  Manifesting a guide.

I woke up with more bites than I could count.  Were all of these mosquitoes?  Or could there have been bedbugs?  The thought made me shudder!  I could not dwell on it.  It would just ruin my day.  I hope a good shower will take care of things for now.

A metered taxi sped me out of Surabaya via the toll road, a nice, smoothly paved highway bypassing downtown with all the “New York” high rises which I would not have minded seeing again in the daylight.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY