Trip Start May 23, 2011
24Trip End Aug 17, 2011
As it turns out, this time, the answer was yes. We've never hired a guide before – we like the flexibility of choosing our own destinations and schedule. But Shen got a good feeling from Alfons, and I felt ready to let someone else handle the logistics. Independence is great, but it’s also a big fat hassle. For once, I liked the sound of, “Meet here at eight and I’ll take care of the rest.”
In the morning, we went to two villages near Bajawa, and Alfons gave us the cultural run-down. The villages are nestled on the flanks of Gunung Inerie, the largest volcano in Flores
After a quick lunch, we began the two-hour hike to the ceremony. A French-Canadian couple joined us with Alfons, and we joined a caravan of about 20 villagers. We could hear the ceremony before we could see it. There was drumming, and a hollow metallic clanking that sounded like rhythmic wind chimes. We approached the village from above, and as we followed the trail down we saw clouds of dust billowing from below the feet of slow-moving dancers. Hundreds of people sat in front of the houses, completely encircling them. The women had tied strings to their fingers with bird feathers tied every few inches; the men brandished swords
We walked to a house at the far end and sat inside on the floor. Women were shuttling bamboo baskets of rice and meat to everyone inside (and, as we later learned, to everyone outside as well). We drank tea and ate a heaping pile of white rice. Things were hectic in the house, but we got a little info on the ceremony.
We were essentially at a massive housewarming party. When a new house is built in the village, they hold a blessing of sorts for the new house. The village hosts it, providing meals to everyone who comes. The dancers are all from the host village. The ceremony goes on for two days, and people come from all the surrounding villages. The ceremony is the biggest cost in building a house, and people often have to save for it. This ceremony was for a house that was built a year ago. But the ceremony must take place.
After our meal, we went outside with everyone else to watch the dancers. Everyone was so welcoming, making room for us on the porches and making sure we had been fed
It was difficult to witness. They didn’t make a spectacle out of it, and I didn’t watch, but from the sounds it was clearly a long and painful death. Shen took a look, and the primary means of killing was a machete to the brain. Once the pigs were dead, twenty men sat in a circle and butchered every last piece of them. Shen was surprised that I wasn’t completely traumatized, given my particular fondness for pigs. In no way do I want to defend macheteing pigs to death, but it’s not worse than what pigs endure in the US (and in fact, the lives of pigs here are much better). Any time I see pork on the menu at home, I’m well aware that this is the suffering that produces it
Well! That’s enough about that. Despite the difficulties of the day, we felt very lucky to have wound up in that situation. We were shocked to be the only foreigners there, and grateful to Alfons for taking us. It was one of those special moments that you hope for when you depart on your grand adventure, but that you can never guarantee.