A week in the village

Just after the start of 2013 we headed up to the village as a family to spend a little over a week in our new village house.  It was an excellent trip: we met more of our neighbors, went to church and Sunday School, and generally learned a little more about life there.  The church also hosted a special community-wide service to celebrate the end of the Christmas and New Year’s festivities.  It wasn’t just a church service; afterwards there was a meal, singing, and then dancing (called dero) that went almost all night long.

This blog post is just a random sampling of some of our pictures from our time there.  Later I’ll post again with some video and more information about the singing – it was interesting to see and participate in!

Kara and the girls enjoying the beach. A little rocky, but otherwise excellent:

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Kids playing in a fishing boat by the shore.

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Elizabeth LOVES exploring the beach and wading in to look for special rocks and shells.

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Once everyone got over being shy, we had kids in our house nearly every afternoon:

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Not the greatest picture, but here’s Elizabeth in Sunday School.

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The inside of the church.  For being in a village, it is quite a large church building and the community is very proud of it.

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The church is on a hill, and this is a view from the front of the church looking back towards the beach and our house (not visible).

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Some of the best (and freshest) fish ever.  It may not look great to you, but don’t knock it until you try it!  Here it is chopped up and prepped for frying.

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The local sawmill.  It was really nice to order wood for some shelves and to be able to pick out the lumber myself and have it cut to my specifications. This sawmill has to obtain government permission to cut trees, and they are given seedlings to replant in the areas where they chop down trees.

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The kids playing in the field in front of our house:

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Overturned canoes make great benches:

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And toys:2013-01-11 16.01.18

 

That’s it for now!  Another blog post will be posted later about the singing tradition, batunjuk.

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Elizabeth’s 4th Birthday!

It is really hard to believe, but our little girl just turned four years old! Elizabeth is a bright ray of sunshine in our lives, and we are so thankful to celebrate four wonderful years with her.

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Originally I was planning a ballerina party for her, but a few weeks ago we were talking about it and she said, “No, Mommy. I want a rainbow party!” She stuck to it, so a rainbow party she got. Her birthday fell on a Sunday this year and she wanted just girls, so we had her party over lunch yesterday. There were 5 little girls that came, and they had so much fun together!

Here they all are, with the birthday girl in her rainbow dress!!

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We decorated everything with rainbows and rainbow colors.

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All the food was rainbow. Rainbow pizza, rainbow veggies, rainbow pinwheel cookies, skittles, watermelon cake (rainbow colors), rainbow kool-aid,  and of course rainbow cake!

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We did a LOT of fun rainbow crafts and activities. The girls used colored pasta to make rainbow sun-catchers, they played rainbow bingo while they ate all the food, and then they made Fruit-Loop necklaces (thanks to a box that my mom sent that made it JUST in time the day before the party!) before cake and presents. And then after stuffing themselves full, they went outside to play with water balloons and swing (and burn off all that sugar!).

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Happy Happy Birthday to my sweet Elizabeth girl!

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Life in our new home

Last Tuesday, we headed to the village to stay in our recently completed home there for the first time as a family.  It was exciting to finally get there! This has been a project for two years now, and seemed interminable.  After all the construction work, expense, delays, and complications it was a relief to live there for the first time. 

We expected it to be a stressful trip, and although some things are different about life there it wasn’t nearly as difficult as we’d feared.  Maybe that’s because we had two years to get ready for this!  Our girls loved life there once they met some of the other little girls and they had a fantastic time feeding chickens and rabbits, playing in the mud, and last but not least enjoying the beach about 50 yards from our house (it isn’t all rough and difficult Smile).

There will be much more to share, but for now we’d at least like to give you all a few pictures and a glimpse into village life in our part of the world.

Out our front door:

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And another one, with a bit of our car in the picture.  That’s the church up above on the hill.

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Our girls playing.

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Looking back into the house.  A view of our dining area (bedrooms to the left):

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Our bedroom:

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Elizabeth and Charlotte’s room:

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From the back of our house, looking to the front.  Dining area is to the left:

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Our kitchen, with on of our wonderful helpers!

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Our kitchen again:

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The bathroom, complete with squatty potty!   

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Our girls enjoying a bath:

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The moon was huge and incredibly bright while we were there.  No city lights also helps:

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Our girls playing in the sand outside our front door.  There’s a nice puddle from a leaky water pipe:

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Our girls and some new friends playing:

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Walking down to the beach.  That’s the side of our house on the right:

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Matt and Elizabeth walking on the beach:

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Another shot of the beach:

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A local fisherman heading out for the evening:

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Charlotte being her cute self:

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On the road home:

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That’s it for now, but there will be much more to come!  Matt will be heading up once or twice by himself during December, but given how busy the Christmas season is here our next family trip will be in early January for a few weeks.  We’re already looking forward to it!

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Research and Papers

A few days ago, I (Matt) did something I have never done before.  I wrote a 21 page paper documenting all my observations, research, and musical analysis of the mopopoadat ceremony you’ve been hearing about if you follow this blog.  Today I sat down and thought about it, and I realized this is the first time I’ve written a paper like this outside the classroom and I actually enjoyed it.  It makes a difference when I care about the topic!

Although it may not seem like writing papers would be part of our job, it’s important for several reasons.  First, we need to document what we see for future generations.  In this case it isn’t just research for the sake of research, but rather preserving a moment in time for this culture.  I’m thinking about writing some of our research up in Indonesian to make it more accessible to people here (maybe even translating this paper).  Second, if we don’t do thorough research to understand the arts here how can we possibly expect to help? 

If there’s any of you out there that are true academia/ethnomusicology nerds, I’m going to put a link to the paper at the end of this post.  I know that about 99.9% of you aren’t interested in reading something like that, but on the random chance that someone is I’m including it. 

Something I’ve been considering for a long time is how to make all my research open.  I’m still working on the best way to do this, but I’d like to publish anything I write and any media we record on the web, freely accessible to all.  Academic journals and the like are excellent “gatekeepers” to ensure that published research is well done and reputable, but I don’t like the difficulty it can present when regular people want to access it.  Ideally if I publish any research it would be in a reputable journal in our field but I would like to find some way to make it easily available too.  Enough about this topic; it’s best saved for another time and I digress…

As we record performances and talk to people, we are always asking their permission to use what we record for research and to help the Pendau people, and we commit that nothing will ever be sold for profit.  This is a very important part of our research as it removes so much suspicion about motives and gives us the freedom to share with the outside world the amazing and unique things we see here. 

For now, I’m just “publishing” this paper via Google Docs, but who knows what I’ll do with it in the future.  Here’s the link for that 0.01% of you who are interested:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1QqfpvpCZ-pzAjhkzA1tLeCkgeHQsmtu72QyA4wX0ZkQ

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A glimpse.

Recently we made a short, amateur YouTube-style video update for a church back home, and we would  like to share it here too.  It’s full of pictures and video clips of what we’ve been up to in the past year or so, and it’s only about 2 minutes long.  Enjoy!

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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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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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Lindu Earthquake

Some of you might already know about this, but I’d like to let you all know about the earthquake that happened here on Saturday (8/18).  USGS measured it as a 6.3, but where we were in the city (about 35 miles north of the epicenter) it didn’t feel too strong.  We haven’t seen any damage or heard of any injuries here.  However, down in the remote community where the epicenter was things are much worse.  So far we know that at least 6 people died, with many more seriously injured.  So far at least 6 have been airlifted out to the local hospital.

The epicenter was right in the middle of a remote national park with no phone reception and no roads, so the disaster response was somewhat delayed.  Thankfully the government and Red Cross have been getting aid into the affected villages, but without a helicopter it is a 3 hour hike in past the landslides.  I and some others drove down with a carload of food and supplies, and it turns out we arrived just as the helicopter (from another organization in town) was arriving. 

I was impressed by the response I saw while I was down there, but we’re starting to think ahead to the ongoing needs of people there in the weeks and months to come after the earthquake is old news.  Although this isn’t in the area of our people group, some of our coworkers are working in the area and we’d like to help out if we can.  Right now we’re still assessing things and finding out what is needed, but if there is anything that could help we’ll let you all know.  For now, here’s some pictures that a local translation worker from Lindu took.

Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna2Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna1Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna3Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna4Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna5

Here’s a few pictures I took of the helicopter airlifting the supplies.  A friend of ours is the pilot:

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Some of the supplies, and some fuel drums for the helicopter in the foreground.  The clover-shaped patch on peoples’ shirts with a red cross in it is the local Red Cross symbol.

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We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

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Mopopoadat–At the River

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, and this fourth post will explain the next portion of the mopopoadat ceremony that takes place at a nearby river.

After the participants and leaders sing kayori all night long (as detailed in my pervious blog post), they are able to rest for a few minutes before the next event begins – going down to the river.  The “initiates” (for lack of a better term that’s what I’m calling them for now) are traditionally not allowed to touch the ground at all, except for the special designated area during kayori.  As they leave the ceremonial home, they are carried on the shoulders of their family and friends for the journey down to the river. 

Once we got there, it took quite a while to get all 89 participants set up and ready to go.  They ended up doing everything in shifts since there were too many initiates to do everyone in one batch.  You’ll see all this in the video but I’ll give a quick summary of what takes place here so you’ll know what you’re watching:

  1. All the initiates kneel or sit in the shallow river.  A cultural leader scoops up a pail of water, blows on it, and then sprinkles it on the initiates all the way down the line.
  2. A cultural leader takes a husked coconut and splits it over the initiate’s head using the back (blunt) side of a machete.  The coconut water pours over the initiate.
  3. The leader then tosses the two halves of the coconut into the river behind the initiate.  How the halves land is said to predict the length of the initiate’s life, but only the leader knows what it means and the information is never shared with anyone.
  4. The parents or supporting relatives scoop out some of the coconut flesh and scrub it all over the neck and face of the initiate.
  5. The initiates bathe and wash all the coconut off.

After this it takes a while for everyone to get back into their nice clothes and back on people’s shoulders, but once they are ready the procession back to the village begins.  Along the way, another interesting thing happens:  they are met by an “enemy.”  A guard and the enemy mock fight in front of the procession for a while, and eventually the enemy is defeated and the procession is able to return to the ceremonial house.  The initiates march around the house three times before being allowed to enter. 

I was very thankful to have a good tripod with me to keep the video stable, especially since I was walking around in the river for much of the shooting. Also thankful my tripod has a built in level!  Here’s my setup:

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Here’s the video (about 7 minutes long, and I just couldn’t get it any shorter!):

Acara di sungai

 

I have piles of questions I need to ask just about this one portion of the mopopoadat ceremony.  Given the focus of our work, I specifically need to ask about some of the possibly animistic beliefs that still exist behind some of these practices.  There is a wealth of deep symbolism and meaning here that I would hate to see lost but we always must be careful in how we apply what we learn about a culture. Many more questions need to be asked so we can find what is appropriate and useable and what isn’t; this is why research is such an essential part of our work!  If we just start encouraging things to be used without asking questions first, we could do more harm than good.

Most of all, I was excited to see a traditional ceremony like this when I have been repeatedly told for the past 2 years that this culture is mostly lost and doesn’t matter to anyone anymore.  I would say the crowd that turned up for this mopopoadat is evidence to the contrary. 

About the questions: I like to be open in our research, so I’ll post a partial list of the questions I have after observing this event.  Feel free to post more questions in the comments if you see other things I should be asking about!

  • Why do initiates step on axe head and then 2 leaves?  
  • What kind of leaves are they, and what are they for?
  • What does the axe head mean?
  • Why must they step on it with their right foot?
  • How is the river and/or spot in the river chosen for the ceremony?
  • Why does the cultural leader blow on the water?
  • Does he say anything when he does it?
  • Why split a coconut over each person’s head?  What does it mean?
  • Why smear each person with coconut flesh, and what does that mean?
  • Who is allowed to smear the person with coconut?
  • What is the significance of throwing the two halves of the coconut into the water? 
  • Does how they land mean something?
  • Why march around the house 3 times? Someone told me it could be 7 times.
  • Meeting an enemy – who/what is he, and who/what challenges him?
  • What does that battle symbolize?
  • Why does it take place on the way back from the river?
  • What are their weapons and shields?  What kinds of branches are those and what does that mean?
  • On the trip to and from river, should participants not touch the ground?  Why were some allowed to walk when most were carried?

Okay, and…. GO! Please feel free to share your thoughts!

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Kayori

Recently I (Matt) had the opportunity to attend and document a huge cultural ceremony with the people group we work with, called mopopoadat.  I’ve already posted a photographic overview of the whole ceremony and a few videos of a local martial arts tradition that serves as entertainment during the rest breaks, and now I’d like to continue by posting a video of Kayori singing.  This singing while processing/dancing in a circle lies at the heart of this ceremony, and I’m told that mopopoadat absolutely can’t be done without it.  I have recorded a slightly different version some of these songs once before, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see kayori in the context of the ceremony.  I don’t yet have a translation of all the words, but generally speaking the singers are reciting the cultural “laws” (hukum adat) to the participants so they can learn and understand it.  After going through the mopopoadat ceremony the participants are considered to be under the cultural law and must abide by its rules and regulations. 

This singing starts at sundown (about 6:15pm here), goes until dawn the next day (about 6:00am), and the participants continue to process in a circle as the leaders sing all night with only short breaks to rest their legs.  This video is only 4 1/2 minutes long; I decided to be kind to you all and just pick a few highlights!

There is so much more for me to learn about this especially since it lies at the heart of this culture.  I was very thankful to have a good shotgun mic on my video camera, otherwise with the noise of the crowd I never could have picked up the singing.  Shotgun mics are amazing tools; without my headphones on I couldn’t hear the singing at all, but when I put them on it was as if I was just a few feet away.  I’m hoping for an opportunity to meet with the singers again and get a better quality audio recording of just the singing.

Pendau Kayori Singing

Something you might notice is that the singers appear to be off from each other; they aren’t singing together but rather some of them always sound “behind the beat.”  I’ve only had the chance to record this singing on two occasions, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that this “echo” effect happened both times.  We still have a lot to learn about the arts here!

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