Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Other priorities

I knocked on the door and entered the dark house. One shutter was open casting a shaft of light across the floor where Nai Ati had her loom. She was sitting in it with her back against the wallweaving a simangkatangkat, the textile type that she was weaving when I first met her in 1986. 

I greeted her: “Horas, Ompung!” Greetings Grandmother! Do you remember me? She peered up at me. “Si Sandy?” she asked without hesitation. It had been 24 years and nobody had warned her of my visit.

She untied her backstrap and stood up to greet me. She had shrunk considerably with age but was still beautiful. “Where are you coming from? When did you arrive? My husband died 13 years ago. I am alone. My children have all left home.”

We sat down together on a mat and I pulled out a copy of Legacy for her. We looked through it together and I gave it to her in the name of the Soroptimists of Arnhem. She stood up and performed a song and dance of happiness, the kind that I have read about but never seen, swinging her arms, turning her head and taking short steps on the spot. It was infectious. I wanted to join her.

Then she asked me for money in that challenging way that I am familiar with as a Batak style. She asked me to buy two of her textiles, perhaps the last of their type that will ever be made. Her youngest child was marrying in Jakarta and she needed money for her visit. This was uppermost on her mind. She had already forgotten the book. Her poverty was screaming and I had not been able to alleviate it. She was disappointed in my visit.

See Back to the Villages - the map!

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