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.  Zoos are not part of the picture of typical Muslim countries, so I was curious to see what there was.  Indonesia has such a variety of flora and fauna that all animals were native.  Some amazing birds, bears, elephants, various types of deer and other more rare species such as tapirs were represented.  The poster promise however had little in common with the barren, concrete reality and the overall feel of neglect.  The place was clean, but I could not but feel sorry for these animals, who had no more than a fenced-in place to pace back and forth and to wait for food. 

But I had another thought about animals.  With all the slaughter I had observed in Tana Toraja, and the horror I had felt; with all the rough treatment I have observed when animals are sent to the markets or from one place to another, I have to admit that all of these food animals have something that most of our food animals do not:  They have a life before death.  Our food animals are force-fed, kept by the hundreds in cages only big enough to get them ready for slaughter.  And we are removed from the slaughter which may be quick and professional, but… The animals here are free-range animals without anyone making a big deal out of it.  They live among and with the people.  They share a simple life and often have to fight for scraps, but so do many people.  In many ways, this is the more natural and the preferable way.   The zoo however is another story.  Much could be done for very little here, to improve the lives of these animals.

The modest museum of local history was housed inside one of the traditional homes and had the usual costumes and tools and models of homes on display.  What was the most unusual exhibit was a number of misshapen animals:  two-headed goats, four-legged sheep, three legged calves and so on.  I had no idea how  common these creatures ultimately must be to have so many on display. 

I roamed some of the antique stores in the afternoon and found something I had been after for the last two months:  a book written on tree bark with astronomical signs and formulas used in ceremonies for predictions by the Batak, yet another native Sumatra culture that is concentrated in the Lake Toba area.    

For the blog pictures, I will assemble an array of images that show ordinary life in this mid-sized city.  In many ways, Bukittingi is typical for a mid-size town.  It has a center small enough to be managed on foot.  But it sprawls quite far into more industrial and residential zones without becoming overwhelming.  It has the conveniences of city life:  taxis, running water, malls and markets.  It has the flair of a city, with public monuments and some cultural institutions.  It even has luxuries such as music performances and racehorse training and novelties such as the Raflesia flower in its vicinity.  And Bukittingi in particular has the surroundings that make it suitable to be a vacation town with day tours. 

After so many blogs about villages, you might appreciate seeing ordinary images of city life.  In many ways it resembles our own ways.