No! said the wood carver

I knew it would be a failure, but still I wanted to try to make a small wood carving, Balinese style. I had a private lesson with a very experienced wood carver in Ubud, and I believe, and hope, he was rather used to tourists making a fool out of themselves too. He showed me a design that he thought would be simple enough, and drew it on a block of wood. It was really easy, he promised, showing me his array of tools, and how to hammer out the pattern.

I tried. Some ugly indents was the result. He showed me again. I tried again. He showed me again. I tried again. And again. And again. The result kept being ugly indents instead of a beautiful pattern emerging. In the end he said “No!” (with a clear exclamation mark) and looked at me, somewhat astonished at this complete lack of talent.

And then he showed me how to do it the real way, holding the block between your feet (“but you would be too weak for that”) and getting the most intricate pattern out of the piece of wood in no time. I took some consolation from the fact that he had been practising for about 50 years.

I had more success in the cooking class that followed. The nice sate lilit ikan (fish satay) you can see in the photo had actually been prepared by me. The dish tasted reasonably good too.

A snake in paradise

What a lovely relaxed afternoon it was! I was reading a little on the veranda, sorting a few photos and from time to time looking up to admire the surroundings. An elderly couple had rice fields that extended into the hotel grounds, and they were busy as always.

All of a sudden there was some commotion, the couple stopped working and two hotel boys came running, equipped with a bag and a broom. Ah, I thought, there must be a snake. Normally I’m simply petrified of snakes, I can’t even look at a photo, but now, as one of the boys held a two meter long python just a few meters from where I as sitting, I just found it interesting. I didn’t get my camera out though, and I’m glad I didn’t, since I might have been scared of looking at the photo!

The boys put the python in a bag and walked away with it, I suppose they let it out at a safe distance from the working couple and us hotel guests.

This happened in Munduk, Bali.

Sumba stories

It’s a long way from Waikabubak, the main town in western Sumba, Indonesia, to the Kodi region in the northwest. Well, if you look at a map it doesn’t seem very far, but then you have to take into account the state of the roads. The advantage was that the guide had plenty of time to talk about Sumba and its culture.

I hadn’t seen horses at all in Indonesia, but in Sumba it is a common sight. The Indonesian president had very recently paid a visit to the island, and he had received a horse as a gift. Every year in spring there are hugely popular games, or perhaps I should say competitions, called pasola, where horses are in the foreground: villagers on horseback fight one another with spears. Boys train for pasola all year. In olden times it was not uncommon for people to die during the pasola, something which was considered a great honour. These days the games are somewhat calmer, but deaths still occur, according to my guide, who talked about pasola with dreamy eyes. “You must come for pasola next year, mama”.

There is a shortage of water in many villages, so water gets delivered by trucks. Here is one being filled up from a river:

The Kodi region is among the poorest in Sumba, and families there get 30 kg of rice delivered every month to help them avoid hunger and malnutrition. Kodi is a stronghold of the traditional marapu religion. Marapu is omnipresent, as for instance here in the river:

I was particularly fond of this Marapu representation:

In Sumba the dead are buried in megalithic tombs in the centre of villages. Can you spot the Marapu, under the tree?

People who don’t live in traditional villages also have the tombs of their family members next to their houses. They can have glossy colourful tiles all over them, with pictures of Jesus and other biblical motifs, or they can just be painted in bright colour or maybe not be decorated at all.

Many young here still get married early, at 14 is not that uncommon. The result is families with many children, problems to make ends meet and to afford education. However these days things are changing and more young people tend to marry a little later.

The farthest we got during this outing was a beach in Kodi, and what I saw was breathtakingly beautiful.

On the long way back to the hotel I noticed that the guide and the driver started looking at the dashboard and mumbling something. It appeared that we were running out of petrol, and this being a Monday, no petrol would be available at petrol stations in western Sumba. This is apparently the situation every Monday. Petrol is delivered to the rather distant port of Waingapu once a week, and it takes time to transport it all the way west. Well, I got a little worried since I was going to the airport with the same car the following morning, a two-hour ride, and it was quite clear that without more petrol this wouldn’t be feasible. The guide explained:

“Don’t worry, mama, I will buy some petrol by the roadside. See there? It’s sold in those plastic bottles by people who stock up while it is available in the petrol stations and then they just wait for it to be Monday again. Good business!”