Don’t mess with a Buginese!

The first thing I saw as I opened my eyes in the morning was some chilli on the ceiling right above my bed. What do people do in hotel rooms??

I was in Sengkang, a small town on Lake Tempe in southern Sulawesi. Most people in the area are Buginese, an ethnic group with a rich history, its own language and a very beautiful script. My guide talked with great enthusiasm about his people and mentioned their fierce temper, which is coupled with a warm character (luckily). “Don’t mess with a Buginese!”, he said. No, I don’t think I ever would.

The house we reached after an hour-long ride in a small but fast boat floated on the lake, part of a floating village.

There was no furniture except a mattress that was propped up against the wall during the day and a neat kitchen with some shelves and a little stove. The lady of the house was busy with her daily chores of cleaning small fish and putting them out to dry, but interrupted her activity to prepare us some tea and delicious fried bananas. We sat chatting on a carpet as the house gently moved in the wind.

Back in Sengkang the trip continued by car. At a crossroads there was a traffic jam: some young men were raising funds for the Rohingya. Since Sulawesi is a predominantly  muslim region, people seemed more than willing to contribute. My driver did so too.

Tourist outfits don’t exactly abound in the area, so lunch was served in a rural setting in a lovely private house. It was actually the home of the guide in Makassar, but unfortunately he was still at work, 200 kilometers to the south, but we met his wife and youngest child, a little daughter. The quiet lunch break was interrupted by the car alarm suddenly sounding. It was a chicken passing under the car, thereby setting off the alarm. It emerged on the other side, looking very innocent, with an adolescent’s “don’t blame it on me” kind of attitude.

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