Just outside the Flores Island hill town of Bajawa are hundreds of traditional communities living much as they did a hundred (or a thousand!) years ago. We were lucky to have the chance to visit a couple of these, home to the Ngada people.
The Ngada are matrilineal (family lines follow the mother and–gasp–women are in charge!) and a ritual-oriented people, with elaborate courting rituals, animal sacrifice, polygamy and all kinds of other cool stuff. Their villages circle around large courtyards filled with graves of ancestors and altars to the village founders; the ones we visited sit on the slopes of one of Flores’ massive volcanoes. Building construction and symbolism in their architecture are virtually unchanged from centuries ago, despite the fact that they have been somewhat Catholicised. [Note: Mel is extremely confused by the concept of selective Catholicism. How would the church react to polygamy?!]
One other cultural trait (one not at all limited to the Ngaga) is their fondness for Betelnut. Splotches of red spit are everywhere and pretty much every woman over 40 has a big red blob where their teeth should be. [Note: one of our group had earlier remarked on seeing the red stains on the road that "there must be a menstruating goat" in the neighbourhood, a comment that became a joke with remarkable staying power. Hi Ellie!]
Of course, Brendan just HAD to have some, and had one of the old ladies whip him up a batch. Red tongues are sexy!
Tags: Indonesia, Travel