Monthly Archives: September 2012

My Diagonal Life

I think that someone should come live in my house and study the different cultural viewpoints of objects in space. How’s that for a statement?

For example…

There is a little neighbor girl who lives across the street. She is eight years old and very sweet and kind and loves to play with our girls. Every day. Anyway… One of her favorite things to play with at our house is the little toy kitchen and table. And every time she comes, she rearranges everything. The exact. same. way. Every single time! It’s really quite amusing. Can you see my smile from there?

Actually, after my initial annoyance at having to put everything back after she leaves, I find it quite fascinating. She has such a different understanding of everyday objects and how they should be arranged. I would never ever think to put things where she does! Also, recently I rearranged our little toy area and put the little toy table and kitchen on a diagonal. Woah.

It took two whole weeks for her to stop straightening them. And I still have to remind her sometimes. 🙂

Really it makes a lot of sense. No Indonesian house that I have ever been in has ever had anything on the diagonal. Usually the furniture is pushed flat up against the wall all the way around the room. Very rarely a table will be in the center of the room. So my living room must really throw them for a loop. Actually, they probably have just as hard of a time understanding why I have a rug, chairs, sofa, coffee table, and end tables floating in the middle of the room (on a diagonal!) as I do understanding why the neighbor girl rearranges the toys the way she does. It really is a fascinating cultural study!

Actually, maybe I am crazy for putting things on the diagonal. At least, living here in this country. Such a mish-mash of culturally mixed up situations at my house! I hope at least that our daughters feel comfortable moving in and out of different furniture arrangements. If only it were that easy to move in and out of different cultures. But I guess they have a good shot at it since their crazy Mommy rearranges their toys to be on the diagonal, and then their sweet neighbor girl friend straightens them all out again.

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Filed under daily life, family, language/culture, our kids

Mopopoadat– Teeth Filing etc.

This is the next blog post in my series about the recent cultural event I documented.  The first blog post gave a photographic overview, the second highlighted the traditional martial arts here, the third was about kayori singing, the fourth post explained the events at a nearby river, and this post finishes up the series.

After returning from the river and gathering in the ceremonial house, the participants are required to do a few more things.  First, before leaving the home they look into a pail of water with a branch (buah pinang, but a young branch with no fruit) and some dry rice (beras) floating on top.  They look into the water with their eyes open, and they are asked by the leader if they can see a certain species of fish.  The correct answer is “yes.”  However, there is more to this story than I yet know.  That particular species of fish is, as far as they know, only found in one lake up north of where we are.  They apparently used to live in that area but no longer do.  This question now seems to be mostly for the sake of tradition, but it is rooted in old beliefs and meanings that now appear to be lost.  Perhaps this fish had some sort of significance?  Or maybe it was just a species unique to their local lake and a source of pride?  So many questions still…

Here’s a short video of this part:

 

After each initiate looked into the water and answered the question, they all returned to the house for teeth filing. 

(Those of you who are squeamish, stop here)

It really isn’t as bad as it sounds.  Each initiate lays down in front of the leader, and he uses a stone to make their upper front teeth level.  They don’t file down to points or anything like that, and he didn’t file much off at all.  This is a mark that shows you have been through the mopopoadat and are now a full member of the community.  Here’s a short video:

 

After that was lunch, and the end!  Due to some unrest in the area I had to leave immediately, but fortunately I was able to finish documenting everything.  Sometimes circumcision would take place after the mopopoadat was finished, but I didn’t see that in this case and many boys are circumcised at a young age here, well before they participate in mopopoadat.

That’s it for now! I hope you all enjoyed following along with me through this event.  As you can see, this is just a first glimpse into a rich cultural heritage and I still have a lot of work to do.  There are many unanswered questions, and I’d like to document this event again so I can compare what happens.  I’m hopeful that we can help them keep their traditions alive in a changing world, and help them reconcile their Christian identity (which is very Western) with their cultural identity so that going to church doesn’t mean leaving behind their language, identity, culture, and arts.

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Filed under Ethnoarts, Research