- First, read about my whale hunting experience.
I returned “home” to Adonara with a story to tell, some great pictures of a successful dolphin hunt, and blood stained clothes.
What I found was a village full of visiting family from all over Indonesia, and people buzzing around who were making final preparations for the big ceremony tonight.
Very few Westerners have been present on one of these rare ceremonies in Lamahelan, when a new house is christened by the blood of multiple animals; a huge, village-wide feast follows. Other than being in a different venue, the feast wasn’t too much different than my vagabonding “final exam” from a few days ago: lots of sitting, lots of smoking and drinking, and lots of pig fat and goat pieces to go around.
Luckily, by this time I have become relatively accepted here and can even call many of the men in this village “friends.” Having so many people that I have already met present today made sitting through this ceremony a lot less grueling than the last one, but I still receive constant stares and celebrity-status attention everywhere that I go.
Reading over my last few posts, it seems that my blog is starting to turn into a bloodbath! After this one, no more posts about blood. (I hope!) I’ve included some photos on this post, but if you’ve got a strong stomach and really want to see the graphic, messy stuff – click on the link at the bottom of this page.
I sat with my usual cadre of old men, the village elder, and my friend Roy, who was munching on the smashed corn chips and sipping Moke (starting around 10:00 in the morning!). Moke is fermented palm sap; some moke is mild and some will peel paint. We watched as the enormous pigs were led in one at a time, their legs bound around huge bamboo poles, carried by straining men. They were lined up on the ground in a single file; the pigs struggled against their bonds, but the goats just stared blankly in bewilderment.
None of the animals looked very happy to be there.
A hush fell on the mass of people gathered (I found out later that there were 1015 people present) as the village elder addressed everyone in a short-and-simple speech. The next thing I knew, I was jockeying for position to get pictures, competing with people wielding mobile phones to take videos and snapshots. A man with a sharp peda — the headhunter’s machete on a stick — walked to the front with purpose; without any further hubbub, plunged the blade down in a slicing motion into the pig’s throat.
All hell broke loose!
The thing screamed, convulsed, showed its teeth, and squirted bright red blood straight into the air. I was expecting something gruesome, but wow…I honestly don’t get paid enough for this! The screams were ear piercing and the stuff of which nightmares are made. When the first pig finally succumbed, the man moved down the line to a now more nervous row of pigs.
They could smell their comrades’ blood, and were now squealing and fighting against their bonds.
The executioner repeated the same death stroke again and again, without blinking. I saw every huge animal gasp its last breaths while blowing bloody bubbles out of the side of their necks. He repeated this process until 20 pigs and 5 goats lay motionless in a growing lake of dark blood. I could smell the metallic iron-rich blood in the air.
Through careful observation and calculation I have concluded: This is definitely a bad place to be a pig.
I watched the faces of the crowd which varied from amusement to total horror – but the kids and women never turned away until the last animal was dispatched. Killing to eat is simply a fact of life to them; something must die so that they may live. This is the stuf that us soft Westerners who buy meat in the supermarket never have to see.
The warm corpses were quickly carried away, and I was ushered along with them to witness — and document — the entire process. My sandals slipped and slid in the coagulating blood, and I actually left footprints across the floor to the back of the building where several men were on their haunches already using machetes to butcher our dinner.
The chunks were put into large vats and boiled over a wood fire; the innards carefully kept for some unknown purpose later, and very little was wasted. People were already walking around with the raw pigs’ tails, chewing the tough hide off of them like beef jerky.
The older women sat on mats on the ground chewing their betel nuts while the men sat separate, also talking and smoking. I actually got to pitch in and help carry large pieces of firewood from the forest for the boiling vats — the first work I’ve been able to do here and it felt great to lend a hand. Also, surprisingly, the men did all the gathering this time instead of the women.
The feast went on into the early hours of the next morning, and I got to relive the screams a dozen times over as everyone insisted on showing me the videos they took on their phones — lucky me! Once the pieces of goat and pork fat were passed out to everyone present, I was able to sneak home, take a shower, and fall into bed.
I am now one of the few travelers on the road that has both dolphin and pig blood stains on the same pair of shorts!
I plan to write something a little more in-depth (in the form of an article) about the culture in Adonara, since I’ve been able to live on the “inside” for the last eight days. My time here has been unforgettable, and will probably define my experience here in Indonesia when someone asks me in the future. As I sit here and try to condense experiences into words, my fingers just won’t move. I hope the photos will paint a better image for you where I have failed.
Tomorrow morning, I am going to say my goodbyes — which I dread — and make my way north to Sulawesi to enjoy some island time before my visa runs out next week. I never did find a proper gift for my host family, so I hope to post something special from the U.S. once I make it home.
The people here, despite being poor, are kindhearted, genuine, and as real as it gets. They have won my love, my respect, and my memories forever. I will never be able to see Indonesia on a map and not think about Lina, Roy, Bapa, and the Bala Makin family living on a mountain that the guidebook authors will probably never know about.
Being Gregory Bala Makin Rodgers for one week has made my nearly three years of tavel worth every minute.
You can see lots of pictures from my stay in Adonara (including some pigs making quite a mess) in my album here.