Friday, September 06, 2013

On the Road


Last night I had an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness. When we finally got around to our evening meal in Berastagi it was quite late. We had just just picked up Febrina in Kaban Jahe. It was already dark by the time we went there; we were late due to all the additional things that suddenly cropped up (e.g. fix my internet conection). Poor Febrina had waited for us the entire day.  She was terribly excited but claimed, with a laugh, that she was patient.

We were invited to sit on the mat in her house and she prepared coffee for us. We met her Mom, her cousin, her grandmother, her niece, her neighbours – many of whom I had met when I gave away that book in Gang Bersatu in 2010.

We wondered whether we should show the film for them, on the computer, while sitting like that in a circle. It seemed like a natural courtesy, especially for Febrina’s Mom who will be alone without her. Nashir suggested I ask the terribly resourceful Febrina first if she had been able to show the dvd that she had received from us in Taman Mini. Then the story came out.

Indeed, Febrina had managed to show the film. The consequences that she described were spectacular for me. Her tulang (uncle) was present when she showed it and it inspired him to share some of his weaving knowledge. He used to make weaving equipment for Febrina’s grandmother’s younger sister and he promised to make the necessary tools for Febrina. I looked at Febrina. “You want to weave?” Her eyes shone and she grabbed my hand. Yes, she is going to learn to weave! Her mother used to be an ikat maker. Her grandmother’s younger sister used to weave. Alas, if she had not thown away her equipment, Febrina could have used it.

Then the tulang pointed that that not all textiles are made from cotton/hapas, but that there are other fibres, such as ‘hori’. When Febrina told me this, it was good that I was sitting on a mat and not on a chair because I would have fallen off. Hori! I knew about hori. I had read about it in museum archives. I knew of one example, only one. It is part of the collection in the Tropenmuseum. It is described as being made of a kind of ‘indigenous flax’, tough and coarse. The textile was collected more than a century ago! And now there was a tulang who knew how to make it and the grandmother’s younger sister used to weave with it! Apparently, they still have the fabric somewhere. That would have been in the nineteen–seventies! Wonders never cease! This tulang was able to briefly demonstrate how the fibre was exacted as well as the process of making banana fibre. He was willing to demonstrate it. He can also spin yarn! This tulang is an extraordinary resource!

Febrina was not able to get ahold of him last night, but this morning she did. He can see us today. Over breakfast, we will discuss how we will fill in our day and whether we can meet him (he lives near Merek) before 4 p.m. But we will have to pick up Lasma first….She and Febrina have become good friends.

Last night at dinner I looked at everybody around the table. It was only our first day, but already so rich. I looked at Ojak, Nashir, Paul, our new driver Welfred, Pak Jerry, Febrina. Sweet people, all of them. Strong, independent personalities. Each with his/her own talents. Each kind and attentive, sensitive. Our roles and division of labour are natural and spontaneous. Before the meal began, I spontaneously expressed my thanks to them, my happiness that I could be with them to share the journey and the meal. It came out half like a prayer of thanks or perhaps as a prayer-like mini-speech and confused everybody who is used to the regular kind of ‘grace’, but I am sure that they recognized that it came straight from my heart.

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