17.02.2012 - 21.02.2012 20 °C
I returned from a big journey just yesterday so I really need to get this thing up to date, so now I'm reporting on a journey I made months ago. I still need to update this blog about my experience in Aceh. But anyway, for now, let's return to that village I went to called Ciptageler!
Upon our arrival in Ciptagelar, we were greeted by a couple of village elders and welcomed indoors. We sat on the floor in what was reminiscent of a kind of village guild or community house. Here, I met two fellows, one of which was called Kang Yoyo. Me and my companions were tired, but we sat on the floor and drank coffee together.
Unlike the rest of the folk in the village, Kang Yoyo (top picture) spoke English very well. This surprised me. “How is it that you're able to speak English?” I asked. Kang Yoyo told me that he had left the village of Ciptagaler in his younger years and travelled extensively. He travelled west to Europe, America, and Canada. He even lived in New York for a short period. Eight years ago, however, he decided to return to his village. I asked him why, and he then offered me a prolonged discourse on the differences between the East/West, including the conflicts inherent to Western philosophy and the idea of belief. He explained that in Ciptagelar, people believe in God (indeed, there was a mosque in the village); however, he also explained that the people in the village believe in cyclical existence opposed to lineal existence. Furthermore, he explained how people in the village believe in the power of nature, as well as the belief that ancestral spirits exist within nature. The idea of nature and life as cyclical, he claimed, comes from his peoples understanding and appreciation of the land. He equated their philosophy with a rice harvest, which naturally reproduces itself every year. Syncretic Islam is extremely common in Indonesia, where traditional Islam is mixted with Buddhist and Hindu beliefs (both of which were here over 500 years before Islam) as well as local traditions, culture and history. Ciptagelar is simply one example of the rich spiritual and cultural diversity which envelopes these lands.
My continued my discourse with Kang Yoyo. “I am not Indonesian,” Kang Yoyo said. “I am Sundanese.” For those who do not know, the Sundanese people are the second largest ethnic group here in Indonesia. They speak Bahasa Sunda, and mainly reside in West Java. Kang Yoyo explained to me that the Indonesian state has only existed for little over sixty years, while his people have lived and tilled the lands of West Java for over a thousand. Kang Yoyo then invited us into his home and offered us some more coffee as well as some snacks, and for several hours we sat and talked about a variety of topics.
I then explored Kang Yoyo's home a little, which was a kind of large shack built from wood.
I found these on Kang Yoyo's wall. They are Wayang (shadow puppets), although they differ from their central Javanese counterparts in that they're made from solid models. The Javanese Wayang, on the other hand, are embroidered together with material, which is then projected through the use of light onto a pale canvas. Both, however, are used in Wayang performances, which retell ancient myths from the lands of Java.
We then had the opportunity to try our hand at a couple of Kang Yoyo's personal instruments. The flute like instrument is called the Suling, while I've forgotten the other instruments name. Both are native to the Sundanese people. I failed at playing them both.
After this, I endeavoured to sleep. When I woke up, I explored the village.
In the distance, one can see trees. This was the forest that we travelled through in order to reach the village. The village is, if not too remote remote (the journey through the forest took around 2 and a half hours) then certainly well-hidden. The village is located in the highlands, so the journey here was a constant ascension.
The village is surrounded by fertile land, which the villagers use to grow crops and vegetables. Here, you should be able to make out the rice fields, which, unsurprisingly, form the staple in the villagers diet.
The houses in the village are constructed from wood. In contrast to the concrete jungle that is Jakarta, it was a real pleasure to escape into the country. The atmosphere of the place was quite uncanny. Somehow, it didn't seem real, like a dream or a video game. I suppose this is because I'm so used to spending time in the city, but the sense of awe was there all the same.
These small buildings are also constructed from wood and they're used to store rice.
As mentioned previously, the people in the village are native Sundanese.
As you can see, the man here is carrying a knife - or kris. This is obviously utilized for farming and for any other physical activities which it can be used for. Many of the men wielded them throughout the village.
Here, I am sat chilling in the main house in the village. It was a huge house although nowhere near the size of a mansion. The house had many rooms and a huge hall. This is picture of the kitchen, where the vast majority of people chose to sit, drink tea, eat, and of course converse about various matters.
The room was thick with smoke, which came from the stove here. This area was used to cook for the entire village, so you can imagine how much smoke was created. Although the villagers appeared more than comfortable in this environment, I definitely had to keep my distance from the stove.
This woman is separating the rice by pummeling it with the large stick-like device. The work looked very difficult and I can safely say that I couldn't do it.
This is a toilet. The idea is to squat over the pond. The excrement is then eaten by a type of fish. This fish has a truly delicious taste.
I bathed and drank from the river behind me. It was fresh straight from the mountains and very, very cold.
This is a small gamelan orchestra, played in the Sundanese tradition. For anybody who has a love for music I strongly urge you to hear the gamelan. It a percussion based orchestra which is unique to Indonesia; however, there are great stylistic variations between different regions. As you can also see, this particular orchestra is using electricity. Ciptagelar introduced electricity to the village in 2004. They built the generator themselves, which generates electricity from the river I am pictured in above.
In these pictures, one can the Indonesian flag and the school children wearing the national colours of red and black. This is a stark contrast to the words spoken by Kang Yoyo, who said that he didn't consider himself Indonesian but Sundanese. It was during the 1970s and especially the 1980s and 1990s that the then President Suharto sought to unite Indonesia under one common banner; that is, the banner of monocultural nationalism. This is clearly what Kang Yoyo was speaking against when he defined himself as a non-Indonesian.
There is, of course, much more to say about this village; however, I decided to write this blog for a particular reason, and this is to give my friends and especially my family back home an insight into my life here now in Indonesia. For this reason, I have to continue and this week I'll write another update about Aceh. Thanks for reading yo!