Another of life's passages...
Trip Start May 31, 2008
13Trip End Jul 14, 2008
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Where I stayed
Well finally this invader believed he might be at the wrong door and he went away...only after he had woken up about every one in the place by banging on the door and yelling. So we decide to move on down the road to the Tabo Inn cottages.... We're staying on Lake Toba, a naturally beautiful crater lake in north central Sumatra...should be a tourist haven and I guess at one time it was...but with the bombings in Bali around 2003 devastating tourism and a subsequent crash of the Indonesian economy, Lake Toba is still beautiful but with a deficit of tourists. Which makes it perfect to visit in my mind...the facilities are in place...although a bit shabby...every place looks like it was built in the 70s or 80s and has not quite been kept up. But if you travel here, I'd highly recommend a visit to the area. The Batak people are delightful and you can easily spend a few days getting to know them and enjoying the quiet.
So Tabo Cottages are right on the lake...lovely, peaceful energy...run by a couple...an Indonesian man and a German woman and their family....the food is healthy...you can sit around all day, eat and swim and talk to people and never even leave the area. The family is headed to a Batak wedding the next day and we are invited to join them. The Bataks are the people of the area....strongly retaining their cultural heritage of music and dance and tradition. I guess they used to be a pretty wild bunch, practicing headhunting and cannibalism...not any more though.
Now, a Batak wedding is a full day affair...maybe longer. During the day, everybody is dressed in traditional outfits...there is a sort of big town meeting. While the couple sit there saying nothing, the grooms family buys the bride from the bride's family. May sound a bit disturbing except it's more a display of tradition than an out and out sale. But money and goods do get exchanged...they reflect the wealth of the two families...each family has a microphone to pass around...it goes on for hours with the whole community present, everybody sitting on the ground (on tarps), and eating peanuts and the fermented grain drink (the one every culture seems to have...that tastes like sour yeast). Then there's a meal, then each part of the family is honored...they take their seat near the couple and get a few prayers and recognition and then it's time for the gifting of the cloths (which I have a lot of photos of).
EVERYBODY has brought a traditionally woven cloth and brings it up to the couple, wrapping them in it, then putting rice on the couples head, then their own and then tossing some over their shoulder to the crowd, while saying their prayers for the couple and/or good wishes/words of wisdom. All the while the band is playing this lively Batak tune...people are doing the Batak dance which I would be happy to demonstrate for you - it looks very much like an emo dance...very subtle).
Every once in a while a group busts out dancing some more radical steps...all while the couple receives blankets. Meantime there are a few ladies behind the couple peeling off the blankets after they get loaded on and folding them into a sack. You have to remember it's really hot out here and the couple would be smothered in blankets if these women were not doing their job. It's so cool to be a part of this scene....we're the only non-Indonesians here...felt a little odd walking in but after lots of long questioning stares, then a few smiles followed by exchanged greetings, I feel more than welcome. It's really a very emotional event and I'm wholly touched to watch this community expression of support for this new family. There are tears expressed, laughter, and lots of dance....
We stay for a few hours, want to get home before dark....don't really like driving those motorbikes after dark....and then head back to the Tabo Cottages. And after a tasty dinner in our favorite seats on the lake, it's time to retire to the super-suite, where they offered us a perfect room (including a huge breakfast), for only 150.000 rupiahs (that's about 15 dollars)....sounds really cheap although the place we were staying in previously was only 4 dollars each night. Sumatra may be a little rough around the edges but with a place like this, I can't imagine wanting to leave soon.