Saturday, September 07, 2013

Hello Boat Budaya

We caught up with the Boat Budaya much later than planned, yesterday. It was dark, cold and wet. It was not what I had hoped for as a first meeting with the boat.

The entire day worked out differently than planned. Of course. We know this already. Every day will be exciting because there will be unexpected elements.

Yesterday, at breakfast in the Green Hotel in Berastagi, we had a group meeting. 
Breakfast meeting in the Green Garden Hotel in Berastagi.
(Photo by Ojak Tampe Silaban)

By that time, Febrina had already called her tulang and he was available to meet with us before 4 p.m. We wanted to pick up Lasma that day and she lived in the opposite direction. What to do? We decided to visit the uncle briefly, just to make his acquaintance, and perhaps at the end of the journey we would be able to visit a little longer, having established what we wanted.

In a valiant attempt to use our time efficiently, Mas Nashir went off to the market to pick up his long list of supplies (staples, rope, white cloth (film screen), pens, paper, electrical wire, plastic boxes to keep  our stuff dry in the boat) while I wrote my blog in the hotel. MJA came back wearing one thick jacket overtop another. Both were new. It was cold. How would it be on the lake? I immediately wanted exactly the same. We loaded up and headed back to the market. I stayed in the vehicle to make sure that my white skin would not drive up the prices and I handed over 30 euro to the rest of the crew. They came back all wearing new, thick jackets and carrying three more in plastic bags for Lasma and me. And then handed me the change! We set off in spectacular merriment, all cuddly and warm. Pak Jerry had performed at his very best and came back, of course, the most stylish of us all. He regaled of us his story of how he got the best possible price.

It was noon by the time we set off for Merek, but the roads were terrible (read: corruption; there is always money being devoted to the roads but the roads never get better) and the going was slow. When we finally got to the turn-off to tulang’s village, the bridge was out. It was too much of a risk to send our vehicle down the improvised wet and muddy path, so we decided to walk, rather than waste the time and effort expended so far. We walked through dramatically beautiful fields of chilli peppers, tomatoes and cauliflower and then it started to drizzle. By the time we got to tulang’s house, in the middle of nowhere, we were all wet.

Walking to Febrina's Tulang's house near Merek
(Photo by Paul Manahara Tambunan?) 

Tulang was not one for ceremony. He didn’t go through the traditional exchange of words upon meeting; instead he went straight to a back room and fetched some sopping wet strings of rotting plant matter. This was hori. With his thumb nail, he scraped off the thin outer layer and then showed how the cleaned bark broke down into strong, thin, strands of equal size that he called yarn. 
Hori fibre
(Photo by MJA Nashir)

We had no time to digest this information and ask questions before he was showing us how yarn is made from banana trunks.  
Banana fibre
(Photo by MJA Nashir)

And then from alo2, another plant.  
Alo alo
(Photo by MJA Nashir)

I have to devote more than a blog to the information that he shared.

It started to rain hard and we needed to get back. Pak Jerry had decided to negotiate the road and had come to fetch us. But he had got a flat tire on the way. On the way back, we had to change the tire. By the time we were headed for Lasma’s house, some 3 hours hence, it was already past the time that we were to climb aboard the Boat Budaya, but the skipper was kind and friendly on the telephone.

When we finally picked up poor Lasma, she had waited 6 hours for us. But she was still filled with happy excitement, gave us all a drink of tea or coffee, and introduced us to her parents and other family members. 
Lasma's house where we had a hot drink
Photo by MJA Nashsir

Lasma's parents
(Photo by MJA Nashir)

Mamak Si Dirita, of p. 495-6  in Legacy, also ran over to our vehicle and after a very warm greeting, stuffed a huge bag full of sweet breads into my hands.

Then we negotiated the hairpin turns in the pitch-black night down to the great traditional harbour of Tiga Ras and met up with our skipper, Pak Siregar.

First sight of the Boat Budaya in Tiga Ras harbour
(Photo by MJA Nashir)

Our boat was huge, gaily painted in pastel green, blue and pink with purple curtains and red and green Christmas lights. I saw that there were new life vests in the boat in answer to my request for this safety measure. I was moved. The boat was clean and pleasant.

But my courage was at a low ebb. It was cold and dark. We hadn’t had our evening meal. I had hoped that we would be able to sail to Tongging but was told that this was impossible. There was nowhere to stay in Tiga Ras. And although we had purchased mats, I couldn’t imagine that I would be able to sleep in the boat on the hard metal floor. We huddled in a circle around our donated solar lights (thank you Dirk and Sineke van Uitert) 

First use of our solar lamps. Oh, so comforting! (Photo by MJA Nashir)
First voyage on Boat Budaya. (Photo by MJA Nashir)

and ate sweet breads. How lucky I am to have an uncomplaining team. I was responsible but directionless, and my team was undaunted. The tears come now, as I write, when I think of it.

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