Tana Toraja
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Immersion at a Traditional Christian Funeral
Half way through our 7 weeks in Indonesia we stayed at Layuklion Village Stay with Ms. Lande and went with our guide Imanuel Timbang to the 2nd day of a 3-4 day funeral ceremony, with over 1,000 family and friends and a few tourists. As we passed through Rantepao on our way, we witnessed caravans of Torajans standing in truck beds, clad in black, on their way to this ceremony. The festivities were rife with the clamorous squealing of pigs strapped to bamboo pole configurations, laying on the ground, the heaving of their bellies reflecting the rapid heart rate of fear, awaiting their ceremonial sacrifice. A water buffalo’s head lay about after its demise earlier in the day. One’s wealth is displayed through gifts of animals at these ceremonies, predominantly pigs and water buffaloes. We were invited to join a dozen or so attendees in a low-ceilinged bamboo platform area, more ducking and crouching, then lowering ourselves rather ungracefully down into a cross-legged position, struggling to find adequate space in the crowded circle. They embraced us completely, sharing their palm wine and betel nuts. My job was the easiest. Males drink the wine, women chew betel nut. My spouse allowed her newest age-friendly womenfolk to teach her the art of chewing, spitting and then putting a tobacco plug in her cheek! She reported to me that she would not be taking this up as a pastime at home. The rest of the day was spent at caves and cliffs where the dead are laid to rest.
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