Friday, July 23, 2010

Memorable moments with memorable people

On the afternoon of 23 June, we decided to go to Parapat rather than Balige. My former research assistant, Linda Hutagalung, lives there but has a restaurant in Silindung. She spends half of each week in each place. The long busride is tiring for her. She had been such a wonderful hostess and guide, so generous to us, that bringing her to Parapat in our vehicle so that she wouldn’t have to face the journey on the bus was the one thing we could do to reciprocate a little bit. But we had a stop to make before we could leave.

The first was Pasar Horas, the Tarutung market. We had been there earlier in the day. On page 80 of
Legacy there is a photograph of a textile shop in Tarutung. I wanted to find the owner and give her a copy of the book. Linda knew her (yet another member of the family). Apparently the shop had not survived the earthquake in the 90s and the owner, Rosella boru Hutagalung, now had a stall in the market. Linda had led me to it first thing in the morning. Rosella boru Hutagalung was a real pleasure to meet. While I had photographed her shop, I had never met her. I was impressed by her calmness and her kind eyes. She was overjoyed with the book which I presented in the name of a dear friend, Marion van der Heuvel, in The Netherlands. Her stall was very nicely furbished with the latest fashions in ulos and she was knowledgeable and obviously in close touch with weavers. If ever a textile stall proprietor was going to make good use of the book, she was it. 

She insisted upon giving something in return for the book but searched to no avail for a particular textile with the latest in supplementary weft patterning. We were returning that evening, at her bidding, to receive it. With much merriment, I was diulosi, i.e. in a semi-ritual fashion it was hung around my shoulders. And I do very much admire the cloth. While I had seen the rose motif executed with beadwork (p 501 of Legacy; see also Ompu Si Tohap’s Ulos Sirara pp. 61 and 377), I had never seen it executed in supplementary weft – and such fine work it is! This was a particularly joyful way to be introduced to a new invention. May it become a popular fad and Rosella boru Hutagalung benefit from it!

Our responsibilities in Silindung having been filled, all 5 of us clambered into our vehicle (our chauffeur, Pak Jerry loved keramaian or merriment and lots of people, so he was only too happy to oblige) and started on our journey to Parapat.

 Then there was another stop, this time at Si Singamangaradja University (see the blog on Student Needs) and after that, we found Pelangi Kasih, the residence where Ibu Nuria Gultom is spending the twilight years of her very full and active life. She was the head of the diaconess school in Balige (next to the associated nurse’s residence) when I lived there in 1979-80. She had befriended me with such boundless kindness that I knew that I could never repay her. Certainly, the gentle caring that she and Ibu Ria Hutabarat (see blog Hutabarat) provided were driving forces behind completing Legacy. Ibu Gultom had also given me a very precious textile (page 364 Legacy) when I left in 1980. I wanted to tell her with my book how much I valued her, her gift, her culture, her trust in me. I gave the gift in the name of the Soroptimists of Arnhem as I felt the kinship between Ibu Gultom’s striving for the betterment of women and that of the Soroptimists. In addition, I knew that the book would do well on her bookshelves because many women would gain access to it. Ibu Gultom was still very active and involved in projects for the betterment of lives, a singularly dear and admirable woman. 

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