By the month of May 2012, it has been 9 times for me back and forth visiting Sumba island, and yet the fascination of this mystical isolated island is still hovering inside my body , soul, and spirit. This time I got chance to stay in Sumba South West, which is predominantly inhabited by the Weejewan or Wewewa , namely the biggest Ethnic group in the island, about 125,000 in numbers. We stayed in one community, located in the top of the hill, called Kampung Wonga, Wonga Community. To get to this community I need to travel for around an hour with car from the Tambolaka Airport, with cost of Rp 50.000,- per person or about AU$ 5.50, I suggested you talked clearly where to go and when you are gonna stop, cause the driver was pretty aggravated knowing that we were stopping many times, in the end his frown turned into grind, when we gave him more money. But it was not worth it, I was bit sicked seeing his grumpy face along the way, when we then decided to use him again in the next morning, but hey that was another story.
The Kampung itself is located int the top of the hill, to get there we need to walk up about 200 meter distance with 45 degree elevation. It was pretty steep walk, with some flat grounds to have a short break, especially for my mate Rose who was struggling with her swollen feet. One of the local said that in the past it was actually a natural form of defense against the rival tribe or the robbers,or a set of houses made up a fortress, used to have solid stone wall around it. . We stayed in one house right in the middle back of the compound, there are 4 houses, each house has around 6-12 members make up into 2 families, each house is led by a Rato a traditional Merapu Priest, conducting many community and household affairs. We will talk more about it in other post.
The house we were staying as you can see in this picture has one big porch, and 2 mini sitting spots in both sides. It was built 20 years ago, pretty new compared to the the other one which was erected more than 80 years ago. We ate lunch here and doing two of my favorite things to do, which are having siesta and talked about lot of things including life, love, spouses, purpose and coconut tree. In the left side of the sitting porch there were two ladies threshed the rice with traditional pestle, they seemed really skilled with that tool. Having had our lunch, we then were wandering around the communities.
Craig my other mate, was playing volley ball with kids, and young people, and some older people next door, while Rose was so curious with the process of building the new traditional house in the very next of our accommodation, she asked lot of questions with her well put Indonesian language, few locals were entreated to be around her, since the presence of white Australian lady like her is quite rare. They were really happy to explain to Rose about everything regarding the house building process and knowledge behind it.
Meanwhile I was just roaming around the place taking picture of lot of things including a lady who looked after her granddaughter and other kids. There are lots of ancient tomb stone around the houses and the playground,the tomb which Sumbanese use is sarcophagus-like with Dolmen mode of burial, this technique has been adopted since thousand years ago. Some experts said that the only place where the remnant of the Megalithic culture preserved and are still practiced by nowadays people in the culture, is in Sumba.
The kids were just scattered on what so-called playground in the middle of the Kampung , lots of laughter and cheers, such thing is not visible anymore in major cities where I am from, where kids are hidden inside the house because of reckless motorbike rider may hit them. What a heaven for kids here. But these kids also have the problems of their own, like lack of quality education, mal-nutrition, and violence that happens surrounding the community.
I then ventured back to the house and sat next to this man at his 40, I think, and he is the Rato of the house where were staying. The Rato in our house is not only a priest but he also used to be a Military leader, which mean he gather, discuss, plan and mobilize the whole community to war when necessary, but now he left all of those after he became a Christian almost 20 years ago. He is now busy with Church and look after young kids in the community. Nevertheless, He is still, if you allow me to give my personal opinion, the most influential person in subtlest way, I’ve ever known.
Dawn came when we realized how exhausted we were, Stepanus my mate asked us to have wash before ate dinner, but I decided not to have one, saved it for next morning. We then went inside sitting around petromak a contemporary kerosine lamp which bright enough to illuminate the whole room in the building. We sang old hymn together since, not many part of the family could speak English, music is universal language, and Sumbanese has been knowing the old hymn when the Zending-Dutch Christian Mission Movement, had been around since 1850.
I went outside little bit and it was 8pm, I held my head up, gazing the sky, the stars were stunningly beautiful, reminded me the night sky in southern Hemisphere in Tasmania, I sat there by myself in silence for a while, and be thankful.