Tag Archives: buffalo

Expedition Outfitting in Pidgin Indonesian*

25 Sep

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The scene? In and around various shopping establishments in Kota Ternate, the de facto capital of Indonesia’s Spice Islands, and home to more English language students per head of population than anywhere in the world.

An increasingly harassed single mother is wrangling a small boy in khaki with a motorbike helmet over one arm and the beginnings of an emo haircut. Continue reading

Souls Growing Skywards with the Trees

5 Sep Trees silhouetted against twilit sky. Baby graves, Pana, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, indonesia.

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At Pana, the cave graves were easy to find, half of them broken open, looming out of a granite slab in the oncoming dusk and framed by dark bamboo.

The baby graves? Well, as the beautiful kids who gave us directions and made us sign the guestbook said, they were in a “big tree”.

“These holes in the trunk,” I wondered to Z. But they seemed so natural, gnarled by age into natural knots.

So, no, we decided. They must be the bundles high up in the branches with the ferns shooting out of them, basket coffins transformed into a proliferation of life. Continue reading

Buffalo Soldiers: Living for Death in the Tana Toraja

2 Sep Funeral buffalo sacrifice, eyes open, throat slashed, dying in a pool of its own blood on the grass. Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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“Are funerals like this in London?” asks my new Torajan friend.

The dead man’s drum-shaped coffin emerges from the matrimonial bedroom where he has “slept”, preserved in formalin, with his family for the last eight months. Continue reading