Thursday, January 22, 2015

Visiting Lasma on 21 January 2015

I loved visiting Lasma today. I caught a collective taxi in Medan to go to Pangururan and thought, en route, that if I got out in Siantar and went to her village it would be possible to squeeze in a small visit. I could then catch the ferry to Samosir in Tiga Ras rather than Parapat. I called and she seemed to like the idea, so I had my driver drop me off at the corner where the Bus Cepat (Fast Bus – name only, didn’t mean much) picked up passengers for the more northerly regions of Simalungun and off I went.

Besides taking me to Lasma, the Fast Bus quickly brought me down memory lane. In my mind I was back thirty years to my first visits when I didn’t have enough money for more than public transportation. I loved the smell of the sirih being chewed by the old woman next to me and the fresh faces of the school girls that clambered on and off at the different stops. I loved listening to the Batak language and the rough and ready style of the “bus boys” and driver. As always, the bus was a total mess and hung together more or less with wire and tape. When we got to Tiga Runggu, I saw Lasma waiting for me. (She had ordered a becak.) They pulled my heavy red suitcase from the top of the bus (I hoped it was water tight because it had rained heavily on the way) and Las and I hauled it over to the becak-for-three. Las sat in front facing me, and I sat beside a woman who was returning from the market. Lasma showed me her old high school as we rode by and later her grade school as we approached her house. She used to take a becak to and from school, she said. The air was fresh and cool. I loved travelling down the road with my daughter, the wind in our hair.

As we approached her house, Lasma told me that the narrow, tarmac’d road used to only be a buffalo path. When it rained, she would whip off her shoes and walk to school in her bare feet and then wash them off when she got to school and pull on her shoes again. Otherwise the shoes would be ruined. We laughed.

At her home everybody was waiting for us. Some people were lolling outside. Her father’s eyes were bright and happy. 

Lasma's handsome dad

Her grandmother was there (mother’s mother) 

Lasma's grandmother.

and her mom, 

Lasma's Mom.

uncle, grandmother’s youngest daughter, Lasma’s younger siblings, the neighbour, 

A neighbour sat beside the door.

her older sister’s child --- to whom Lasma had given the name Van Zuylen after our trip to Java when she learned the story about Eliza van Zuylen! Lasma’s smile was huge.

Lasma's smile was huge. Here she is sitting with her family in
the front room of heir house.

Somebody unfurled a mat for us to sit on and there we sat beside Lasma’s loom! I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was so real! 

Here is the rest of the family. A part of Lasma's loom is just barely visible
to the right behind her grandmother.

I went over to look at the textile and once again I was impressed by the quality of Lasma’s work, so regular, the edges so straight. Tidy and disciplined. She had been working for two days and the textile was half done. It had pretty stripes. Lasma promised me a photograph of it (I had already packed up my camera as my visit had to be very short if I was to catch the ferry). In the becak on the way to her home Lasma had also told me that her grandmother had a lot of unused yarn. It was literally rotting away in a box. Lasma salvaged what she could of it, and washed and dried the portions that were worth keeping. She will starch it and try to use it in more of her first weaving attempts. I hope that the yarn is good enough and will not be a waste of her time and effort when she weaves.

A glass of water emerged from the kitchen for me, and then a plate of eggs. Then a bag of oranges. They knew that my diet was restricted because I am vegetarian. And Lasma remembered that I always tell her to eat oranges so that she gets enough vitamins. They told me to take the oranges because they would give me vitamins! They also made me take the whole plate of eggs so that I could share them with the team in Pangururan. Fortunately I had purchased several bags of kripik (for the team) at a taxi stop earlier in the day and was able to give them to Lasma’s Mom.

Her family invited me to come and eat with them and to sleep at their home whenever I wished. I was touched and delighted, felt like staying. But I had promised to meet the team in Pangururan and Ombang Siboro’s staff were waiting for me so I knew I must not even risk missing the boat literally and figuratively. Lasma had operated with foresight (she would be an excellent manager) and ordered a new becak. This one was the biggest I had ever seen with three rows of seating. The red motorcycle attached to it was gleaming and new. Lasma’s younger sister, Cina, came with us (so Lasma would have company on the way home) and sat in the front with my red suitcase. Las and I sat in the back seats and talked about our future together. We are constructing some good plans and both of us are excited.

Despite the ruts and lumps in the road and the fuel stop that we had to make, we got to the harbour before the boat left. It felt like home, so similar to our Pulang Kampung III craft. Las and I waved goodbye to each other endlessly and then I sat down, ate another egg and made the crossing with a smile.

Lasma will join us in Pangururan as soon as she can. She has some tasks that she has to perform at the University first. Then, next week, she will be free to join us in Muara where I have planned a meeting with Restuala’s weavers. We need to learn about their needs. It will be good for Lasma to be present for the discussion. And it will be good for me to have her there.

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