I arrived in Tana Toraja last Saturday night. After I realized that both my host and I forgot to confirm where I was to meet her (we’re alike in many ways!) I found her at a lovely, traditional hotel where she and the regional government are hosting me for the next week and a half.
I have a quite a few photos and lots of stories from TT already – and little in the way of internet resources from which to share them. Let’s just say I’ve arrived in 1994 and am struggling to keep a viable internet connection long enough to post a blog while not crashing every program on this dear little computer.
This area is REMOTE – ten hours’ bus ride from Makassar, Sulawesi. The guide books and most local people say it’s only eight, but I’ve found out that’s because most people take the NIGHT bus, on which no one actually counts the hours:) Or maybe that’s because I was on an exceptionally slow bus?
Merda, my host, and her husband Kris took me to a buffalo fight on Sunday – one event in a series for a traditional Torajan funeral party. That’s right – funerals are referred to as “parties” here because that’s exactly what they are. These parties are months or years in the making, and cost more than most weddings.
In an incident that will be detailed in photos later, I smashed the heck out of my foot jumping over an irrigation ditch as we left the buffalo fight. In a matter of minutes I grew a second ankle on my right foot. As Merda called her “traditional” Indonesian masseur to my aid, I struggled to not envision all the ways this injury would ruin my trip. Looking back at the photos, I’m surprised I was at all calm. After all, Lonely Planet (cough!) says that medical care in this region is nonexistent, with the most serious cases (of what?!?) evacuated to Singapore and Australia. Was this serious? It sure felt like I broke something in my foot, and I DEFINITELY heard a “pop!”
The doctor massaged the swelling in my foot; this did not feel at all like a “massage.” Rather, it felt like someone putting all their energy and pressure on a very sore nerve which was, in fact, what he was doing. Apparently my hard landing had not broken a bone; it had displaced a nerve from the side of my foot, entrapping it in a place it clearly was not meant to be. He had to put it back where it belonged. Ouch!
After this treatment Merda escorted me back to my hotel for dinner, and after dinner I couldn’t walk. I had to be wheeled up to my room (embarrassing!) where I fretted and Merda re-assured me about our first day of teacher training, which was the next morning. She also told me that if I wanted to see a “Western” doctor the next morning, she would get me to one. I told her that if my foot didn’t feel better the next morning that I would want to go to the hospital.
Well, wouldn’t you know it – the next morning, when I expected to feel much worse, my foot was actually better. Yes, it was swollen, and a bruise was beginning, but I could walk with a limp and stood on it all day.
Every day it has gotten better, and now on day three it’s significantly improved. I am photo-documenting this process because even though it’s my foot, it’s hard to believe that this traditional treatment has taken an injury that could certainly be a deal-breaker and made it into no big deal.
Teacher training had 82 participants on its busiest day – a bit of a freak out after 11 last week! They are great, however, and are digging in with enthusiasm and expertise. Tomorrow we will throw them into unique teaching scenarios that will FORCE them to be creative. Should be a treat to watch these teachers find creative ways to present “how to wash the dishes” and other such gems.
Merda has taken me to local restaurants and her family houses which are light years away from the tourist track. Like in Bintan, it’s been a pleasure to be hosted by a local who wants to make sure I have an authentic experience. After seeing chickens going from “before” to “after” at the local market yesterday, I can say that this experience has been authentic in every way.
I have a lot more to share about this experience, but I’m tired and it’s time to turn in for the night. This hotel has many modern amenities and a swimming pool, but the guest rooms are screened, not sealed, and one truly sleeps just steps away from nature. It’s been a few nights of blissful rest here in the jungle!