East into Manggarai Land

East into Manggarai Land Title Pic

12 December 2010

I woke early ready for another road trip…this one much shorter than the road trips in Sulawesi or my previous road trips in Flores! I had decided to go on a short trip with a friend to visit his family in the village – ‘Kampung Mano’ and to visit a few places around Ruteng that I didn’t see on my last visit to Flores.

We arranged for another local friend to drive and we headed east towards Ruteng, which is about a 4 hour drive from Labuan Bajo. Again for the second time of travelling this road {although last time I was travelling east to west}…I was in awe of the mountainous terrain…the scenery in Flores is trully spectacular!

We arrived in Ruteng in the afternoon…it was cool and drizzling rain…but we headed to the busy market to buy some essentials to take to the village. Yes…of course…we had to buy ‘betel nut’ – ‘sirih’ or ‘buah pinang’ – and all the extras that are needed to go with it, like the betel leaves and the white creamy paste…!

Chewing betel nut is a tradition, which dates back thousands of years throughout many different parts of Asia. I have seen this tradition, of chewing betel nut, on many different islands in Indonesia and through other parts of Asia, but no where has it struck me so profoundly as it did in Flores! It really is a popular pass time for the people of Flores…young and old…male and female! I’m getting side-tracked with ‘sirih’…but it fascinates me!

So anyway, after buying the betel nut, we drove another half an hour to ‘Kampung Mano’…a small village in the mountains outside of Ruteng to visit my friend’s family. I was welcomed into the family home with a traditional ceremony…including speeches/mantras, a chicken, chewing betel nut and drinking ‘jungle juice’! And not to be forgotten…a traditional feast…and more ‘jungle juice’! I was told many times how the ‘jungle juice’ was ‘adat’ and I had to accept it and drink it…it would be rude not to! Hahaha…

The whole visit to the village was an awakening of cultural insights and understandings…and an extremely humbling experience for me. The family was so eager to please and were extremely kind…obviously fascinated with the western girl visiting them in the small, quiet village of Mano.

The thing that stood out the most was the difficulty in communicating, majority of my friend’s family didn’t feel confident to speak bahasa Indonesia to me…either for the reason that they always spoke their local dialect and rarely used bahasa Indonesia and were therefore scared to make a mistake or they just couldn’t speak bahasa Indonesia. It was also explained to me that some family members were embarrassed to speak bahasa Indonesia with me…knowing that I was an Indonesian teacher…‘takut salah atau kasar sama Bu guru!’ Aduh! Thus resulting in some very interesting conversations and lots of body language…

Kampung Mano family pic

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