#2, Indonisia, Jan. 30, 1993
I had gotten a ‘special deal’ on an airplane ticket—“See Indonesia—fly three legs for $300.” So I chose to go to Irian Jaya as one leg as that was the furthest from Denpasar! It was quite a milk run as I stopped in Ambon, Miluku, Sarong, Biaak and finally arrived in Jayapura on the Island of New Guinea. My hotel room had a private mandi, which is a tank with continually circulating running water out of which you take a bucket shower. It was necessary for me to apply for a surat jalan (permit) to fly to Wamena for the next day.
When we arrived in Wamena, there were government officials on board so there was a huge turnout of about 40 men and women to greet them (and me!) They were dressed with feathers, and had spots painted on their bodies but all were wearing cloth shorts, perhaps a government requirement, as later when I went to the market, there were many men wearing only penis sheaths, and many women wearing only a grass skirt made out of orchid leaves or a bead skirt.
The market was really wonderful—many people were there from rural areas wearing little or no clothes. I met a young man named Sam in the market who could speak good English, and claimed to be a guide. He seemed to know all about the places that I wanted to visit and so I engaged him for the next day. Later that evening I ate Nasi Goreng, their most common rice dish.
Sam came the next morning bringing two blankets and two rolled up mats (which he called mattresses). We stopped to buy ‘noodles’ and tea at the market, then got a bemo to Jiwicka, about 20 minutes away. A bemo is a vehicle that acts like a bus but with no schedule.
I met Sam’s friend, Yalley, who climbed the lookout tower and shrieked for the others to come as they assembled for a mock ‘war.’
Sam introduced me to an older woman who was missing many digits of her fingers. The custom was to chop off one or more finger digits of a woman when a man dies, the number chopped off depending on how important the man was. What a horrible custom!
We had lunch at the La Uk Inn, a tiny, rustic little place. Then Sam and I took the bemo to Dugum, walking about a mile from the road where the bemo let us off. The Dani live in this village and have constructed two huts for tourists, which are just like the ones in which they live.
In the hut there is a platform about two feet off the floor made of twigs and small logs. The hut is about 12 feet in diameter, and the platform covers about half of the hut. Sam put the mats on the platform, along with the blankets.
Then Gussa, the head chief, paid us a visit, along with several others from the village. Gussa wore a string of rodent teeth around the crown of his head. He had a deformed large toe, as did his son. Sam said this was hereditary and showed who should be chief. Sam had brought cigarettes for them, which they smoked with great relish.
After dark, sleeping on the rough twigs of the platform in the hut was difficult, but doable. I slept under a blanket and the temperature was perfect. Animals seemed to be living in the thatch walls of the hut. Once I woke up Sam to chase them away, but he really didn’t wake up, so I tried to ignore the rustling and cheeping noises, right next to my head!
Early in the morning I was awakened to music—two villagers were playing homemade guitars. They had no frets so they just had one chord each, which they strummed over and over. We were invited to come to eat in the cooking house. It was a long narrow hut with slats for walls (for the smoke?), and there were three cooking fires distributed over the length of the hut, one for each of Gussa’s wives. They were roasting sweet potatoes, which they shared with us. One simply peeled back the charred outside and ate it. They virtually live on sweet potatoes. They have 80 varieties, raised by the women who do all of the fieldwork.
We met the bemo (which Sam had arranged for me the day before) and were transported back into Wamena. I got my flight back to Jayapura, where I stayed overnight. I had good satay and fries for dinner and ‘mandied’ before bed.
Tomorrow I shall fly back to Denpasar and the next day to Jogjakarta.