Posts Tagged 'Grantourismo'

The Soul’s Final Journey: A Funeral in Tana Toraja

Perched at the doorway of his raised house, an old Torajan man stares out at the spectacle below: pigs strapped to bamboo stretchers, buffalo guts lying in the mud. The man’s brother has died, and after months of keeping the embalmed body in the house, it is finally funeral season. After a lifetime on earth, the man’s brother is returning to where all Torajans believe they came from: the stars.

I took a long, queasy bus ride along the edge of Sulawesi to reach the mountains of Tana Toraja, and the cool air is a relief from the usual Indonesian heat. The endless tiers of rice paddies look impossibly alive, the clouds so huge they leap out of the blue sky. But in all this life lurks death: dank caves house countless coffins, and doll-like effigies watch the living from tiny balconies built into the mountainsides.

Villagers dressed in black sit on decks and under canopies, surrounding the scene of the funeral like spectators at a bullfight. Pigs scream as men slit the animals’ throats, packing the guts in bamboo shoots to be cooked. Twenty feet in front of me, though, is the most important sacrifice: three skinned buffalo in a pool of blood.  These buffalo will guide the dead to the afterlife, aid him in his journey towards the land of souls. On earth, his family will feast on the buffalo for days, celebrating the liberation of this man’s soul, reveling in the most important moment of his life.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.



The Other Side of the World

The sun was at its highest when my father and I reached the isolated beach. A small woman sat alone on a piece of driftwood, perfecting the mid-day Indonesian art of doing absolutely nothing. She looked as though she had been sitting there her entire life, staring out at the ocean and the volcanoes beyond Bunaken Island.

“Selamat sore, Abigail,” my father said, waving. The woman nodded.

Behind her was the most primitive house I had seen ever seen: Its roof made of thatched palm leaves, its sides of sagging palm bark, the old shack looked as though a castaway had desperately thrown it together, plopping it down amid a tangle of rainforest.

“Is Silas in the ocean?” my dad asked.

The woman nodded again, her eyes smiling this time. I guessed she was Silas’ wife.

Hours ago, we had woken early to go snorkeling, rolling out of our hostel beds and stepping into the soft-lit morning. We had sat with the other travelers in the open-air eating area, picking at our rice and fried eggs.

I felt like I should talk to them. I felt like I should have stayed up late with the flirty Swedish girl, getting drunk and swooning over the tall, blond German as he played guitar. But I was uncomfortable with it all. These young travelers—ambling out into the morning, tan and careless in sarongs—felt more foreign to me than my father’s Indonesian wife.

“After snorkeling, we’ll visit Silas on the other side of the island,” my dad said, putting down his fork.

Three hours later, we ended up here in a small fishing boat a few miles away from the hostel, watching Silas continually emerge from the water and go back down again. Finally, he stood up, dripping in a black shirt.

“I got one!” he yelled. A mess of tentacles dangled from the hook in his hand.

Silas had been out spear-fishing for octopus when my father stumbled on this beach a few years back, and every visit since, this was where my father found him—in the water, searching for these coveted creatures that went for a high price.

He had a penchant for talking like few Indonesians I’d met. While his wife sat beside him, he told us how few octopus were hiding in the coral these days. He talked of his Sunday walks through the rain forest to attend church in the nearby village, about his daughter who had left them to live there. Water, he said, came rushing in their house every time it rained.

My father asked if he ever considered moving into the village.

“I’ve spent my entire life here,” he said plainly, shaking his head. “My father built this house.” Chickens circled around his feet.

I thought of the young travelers back at the hostel, the girls laughing in the hammocks, the boys lining up empty beers. I had come to the other side of the island, but it felt like the other side of the world.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo-HomeAway travel writing competition. You can visit HomeAway Holiday-Rentals here.

Does this piece resonate with you? Have you had experiences like this? I’d love to hear about them!

About Simone Gorrindo

Simone Gorrindo is a freelance journalist, poet, and travel writer who can't stay put.


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