Sunday, January 25, 2015

Menjadi anak-anak, lagi



“Gimana rasanya mau punya bayi lagi di umur 40?”. 

Masih nempel banget pertanyaan itu di kepala saya. Dari seorang teman, waktu saya sedang hamil Lila di bulan ketiga atau keempat. Waktu ditanya, saya bingung juga, apa ya rasanya. Ada senengnya, pasti. Ada bingungnya juga. Jarak Tara bayi dengan kelahiran Lila itu 7 tahun. Banyak yang saya sudah lupa, dan ingin lupakan...haha... Hayo udah deh jujur aja para ibu yang menjalani menyusui – edisi bangun malem kalau boleh maunya lewat secepat kilat kaaaannn.. 

Tapi mungkin a lingering question saat itu adalah: beda umur saya dengan Lila 40 tahun!. Empat puluh tahun. How will I cope with her growing up with me growing old?. Saya bukan orang yang takut menjadi tua. Tapi bagaimanapun juga, menjadi tua itu secara alamiah akan berarti penurunan fungsi tubuh dalam berbagai skalanya. Itu juga berarti akan ada hal-hal yang saya mau tidak mau harus kompromikan dengan badan saya. Sementara, Lila yang sedang bertumbuh pasti justru sedang butuh seseorang yang bisa aktif menemani dia. 

Jadi pertanyaan itu menggelitik saya: how will I cope?. 

--

Sekarang, 3 tahun 7 bulan kemudian, apa rasanya?. 

Sekarang, kalau ditanya lagi, saya akan jawab dengan mantap, “It’s one hell of a ride, my elixir of youth, my energy for rejuvenating myself, a continuous reminder that we are here to keep on moving”. 

Benar bahwa punya anak itu adalah keberkahan dan rejeki. Tapi saya merasakan ada rejeki tambahan: punya 2 anak di tahap perkembangan yang sangat berbeda, itu menyenangkan. 

Tara sudah 10, sebentar lagi 11, tahun. Sudah ‘tiga perempat’ pre-teen. Dia sudah kurang lebih melihat dunia dengan cara yang mirip dengan kita, orang dewasa. Kalaupun ada yang tidak dia pahami, dia sudah bisa mencari informasi sendiri dan berinisiatif mengajak kami diskusi, kami tinggal mengarahkan dan menjaga koridor dimana dia mencari informasi. Tara sudah bisa menentukan sendiri pilihannya. Sudah bisa bilang, “Aku mau di rumah aja, nggak mau ikut ayah bunda”, dan konsisten pada pilihan-pilihannya. 

Dengan Tara, saya betul-betul jadi ‘orang dewasa’. Saya harus bisa menunjukkan pada dia bahwa ada tanggung jawab yang harus dia pikul kelak sebagai manusia, dan sebagai anggota masyarakat. Saya harus pelan-pelan mulai sekarang mempersiapkan dia menghadapi kehidupan kelak. Misalnya saja, pertengkaran kami yang paling sering adalah soal uang. Saya sering sekali minta dia untuk berpikir ulang saat minta sesuatu dan dia sering menantang saya untuk menjelaskan, “Kenapa?”. Dan saat Tara bertanya, “Kenapa?”, saya selalu tahu itu artinya kami harus duduk bersama dengan wajah serius. 

Dan sesuai dengan tahap perkembangannya, Tara sudah lebih banyak bertanya tentang kehidupan, kadang juga, kematian. 

Jujur walaupun saya menikmati itu juga, ada saat-saat dimana saya kangen jadi anak kecil lagi bersama dia. Tapi hasilnya sekarang, walaupun dia mengatakannya dengan suara sayang, dia sering sekali bilang, “Bunda nih konyol”. Saya menyukainya. Tapi saya juga harus bisa menjaga supaya suara sayangnya itu tidak lalu berubah menjadi suara kesal, nanti saat dia pre-teen (OMG...how time flies).

Sementara itu Lila – dengan pertanyaan-pertanyaannya tentang segala rupa di sekeliling dia, yang dia lontarkan secara sembarangan dan jujur. Dia sedang membentuk pemahamannya tentang dunia, tentang orang-orang di sekitarnya, bahkan tentang kami orang tuanya. Dia sedang belajar tentang banyak hal. 

Dia mencintai air persis seperti saya, tapi belum bisa berenang. Dia sangat sayang pada si kakak, tapi belum bisa menahan diri untuk tidak merebut barang kakak. Dia menyayangi Omanya, tapi kejujuran kanak-kanaknya masih saja membuat dia terdengar usil saat dia bilang, “Oma baunya oma-oma jadi aku nggak mau cium”. 

Nah. Dengan Lila-lah saya menemukan ‘anak kecil’ di dalam diri saya sendiri. Anak kecil yang sedang belajar dan menganggap semua hal adalah baru dan menarik.

Saat saya malas menjadi orang dewasa, bersama Lila saya jadi punya alasan untuk jadi anak kecil lagi. Untuk main pasir lagi, untuk jerit-jerit saat diterpa ombak, untuk lari-lari mengejar burung, untuk terpesona lihat ulat bulu sambil jerit-jerit saat ulat itu bergerak, untuk tiduran telentang di atas rumput sambil berkhayal awan-awan itu adalah monster yang sedang kejar-kejaran dan kami cekikikan sampai sakit perut. 

Bersama Lila saya menemukan kenapa, pada akhirnya, umur tidak perlu jadi alasan untuk saya menjadi khawatir. Oh yes of course saya sering berkata pada diri sendiri, “Gue nggak mau sakit-sakitan saat Tara dan Lila harus menikmati keindahan masa muda mereka di usia 20an dan gue udah umur 60an”. Itu  kekhawatiran saya yang ada kaitannya dengan menjadi tua dan segala yang berkaitan dengan penurunan fungsi fisik. But then, dengan dia, saya merasa sehat!. 

So to me, Lila is definitely my elixir of youth. Dia membuat saya bisa merasakan, LITERALLY, that life DOES BEGIN AT 40!. 

Saya tidak pernah khawatir dengan pertambahan umur, dan uban, dan kerut. Saat saya ulang tahun ke-40 (yang sudah 4 tahun lalu...haha...what a wonderful life...), saya tahu bahwa ini adalah usia dimana saya punya legitimasi untuk tidak lagi menerima any non-sense nor bullshit dari siapapun. Dengan kehadiran Lila, saya merasa saya punya legitimasi tambahan, untuk berkata pada dunia, “Hey, look, 40 is the new childhood!”

Lila mengingatkan saya pada diri saya sendiri waktu kecil: nekat dan sedikit kurang perhitungan. Kakaknya mengingatkan saya bahwa kadang ada gunanya punya sedikit rasa takut :)

Anak kecil ini memberikan saya banyak sekali alasan untuk melihat hidup dengan kacamata yang berbeda... Rencana Tuhan memang sempurna...

(R I R I)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

10 hal yang akan menyelamatkan kewarasan anda saat traveling di Indonesia

Saya sering sekali dengar komentar kalau melakukan road trip di Indonesia itu ribet, rempong, susah. Apalagi kalau udah keluar dari kota-kota besar.

Kami sekeluarga hobinya justru itu: melakukan road trip. Soalnya Indonesia is best explored that way: pelan-pelan, sambil jalan, berhenti sini berhenti sana, surprising ourselves.

Di perjalanan akhir tahun kemarin, saya dan Tara, anak saya yang pertama, iseng-iseng bikin daftar apa aja sih yang bisa dilakukan supaya orang yang travel di Indonesia pada umumnya, dan yang ingin road trip, nggak frustrasi. Jadilah daftar ini - which is not meant to be exhaustive, yang kami buat dari iseng-iseng itu tadi.


1. Pastikan anda sudah duduk dan memesan makanan di restoran atau warung SEBELUM ANDA LAPAR.

Siapa yang pernah duduk di restoran atau warung, lalu pesanan anda nggak keluar-keluar sampai yaaaahhhh setengah jam setelahnya deh. Kami berkali-kali ngalami itu apalagi kalau sudah travel ke daerah-daerah yang lebih kecil. Solusi kami, sebisa mungkin ya itu: sebelum lapar, kira-kira sejam atau kalau terpaksa ya setengah jam sebelum makan siang atau makan malam, kami sudah melipir masuk restoran.


2. Kalau anda berhenti di suatu tempat lalu tahu toiletnya bersih, PAKSA diri anda untuk buang air.

Eh ini serius!!!, apalagi kalau anda perempuan. Ya namanya perempuan kan seslebor-slebornya ada dong jijiknya. Atau kalau bawa anak yang jijikan - ini derita kami dengan Lila nih...masih dalam tahap pelatihan. Si kakak sih udah terlatih bertahun-tahun sekarang sama slebornya sama bundanya. Tapi ya tetap ada batasan laaahh.. Jadi itu kunci kami, kalau ketemu toilet yang bersih, semua akan memaksa diri supaya buang air kecil. Karena let's face it, toilet belum jadi salah satu prioritas di banyak tempat di negeri cantik ini.


3. Kalau anda atau ada anggota keluarga yang belum atau tidak terbiasa menggunakan toilet jongkok, latihan dululah sebelum pergi.

Ini masih ada hubungannya sih dengan nomer 2. Kalau beruntung nemu toilet duduk ya gunakan segera walaupun rasanya anda sedang tidak ingin. Tapi ya yang paling baik sih siap-siap pakai toilet jongkok deeeehhh...karena makin jauh dari kota besar, toilet duduk itu seperti berlian: susah pake banget dicarinya!.


4. Jangan percaya begitu saja dengan tanda jalan.

Kalau menurut anda ini aneh, wait till you experience it yourself terutama sekali lagi di tempat-tempat yang jauh dari kota besar. Itupun kalau anda beruntung sih masih bisa menemukan tanda jalan atau arah yang anda inginkan. Seringkali sih, nggak ada tandanya. Cara terbaik dan paling bisa diandalkan: cari polisi untuk bertanya. Karena kalau nanya sama orang lokal bisa ada 2 kemungkinan: (1) anda nggak ngerti jawabannya (serius...bahasa Indonesia di beberapa daerah kalau dilogatkan dengan logat lokal adakalanya susah kita ngerti!), atau (2) arah yang dia tunjukin anda nggak ngerti juga.

Waktu kami dari Makassar ke Rantepao, di Pare Pare kami kebingungan keluar dari kotanya setelah mampir sebentar ke Indomaret. Untung ketemu polisi, yang akhirnya menuntun kami ke jalan yang benar - saking dia bingung jelasin kami harus kemana, salah satu naik motor dan kami ikuti di belakangnya.

Dan kami bukan pengguna teknologi sih memang. Masih lebih suka bertanya atau melihat peta secara fisik. Lebih seru!. Dan ada kepuasan tersendiri menandai di peta, kami akan dan sudah kemana saja.

Lagipula sinyal luar biasa 'stabil' di Indonesia, ya kan?. Jadi lupakan niat 100% pake gadget anda, biasakan bertanya dan tetap bawa peta fisik yang bisa diandalkan. Dan pengalaman beberapa teman saya yang pernah pakai apapun itu, dari Google Maps sampai Waze di luar kota besar, mereka malah tersesat!.


5. Bersiaplah untuk tersesat dan menemukan sesuatu yang anda nggak kira.

Ini ada hubungannya dengan poin di atas. Jadikan tersesat itu bagian dari pengalaman anda, jangan ngomel.


6. Selalu bawa hiburan anda sendiri demi menyelamatkan diri dari yang namanya 'jam karet'.

Di jaman dimana semua orang tampaknya gadget freak ini mungkin saran yang nggak perlu disebutkan lagi sih. Cuma yaaa...harus diusahakan bawa juga sesuatu yang tidak ada hubungannya dengan gadget apapun, supaya anda nggak jadi perhatian orang. Kebayang nggak anda sibuk dengan tablet di sebuah kapal cepat yang akan membawa anda ke Seram di Maluku sana, sementara sekeliling anda masih banyak yang pakai feature phone?. Yes. Sensitif sedikitlah pada lingkungan anda.


7. Pastikan anda punya 'kotak Dora Emon'.

Isinya: krim anti nyamuk, Tolak Angin (ih suweeerrrr ini top abis untuk ngademin gejala masuk angin, atau sekedar bikin badan anget), minyak tawon - jaga-jaga kalau anda kena gigit serangga, plester luka, minyak kayu putih (dan kalau bisa, bawang merah. Ini kalau anda sama seperti saya yang masih percaya pengobatan tradisional terutama untuk anak-anak. Kombinasi bawang dan minyak kayu putih ini selalu jadi penyelamat), Norit, Diapet, Panadol yang biru, Panadol untuk anak kalau anda sama anak, tisu basah, tisu kering, Anti bacterial solution - itu lho cairan pembersih yang tinggal pake itu.

Itu the very basic yang saya jinjing kemana-mana. Kemarin ini bahkan isi tas Dora Emon kami saya tambah dengan: pisau dapur yang ada tutupnya supaya bisa dibawa kemana-mana - jadi kalau pengen makanan yang harus dipotong, di jalanpun nggak masalah (teman saya ada juga yang bawa Victorinox yang palugada itu); senter - karena Indonesia ini lagi trend mati listrik, males kan kalau di kamar tahu-tahu mati lampu?; dan sendok makan - ya kalau lagi jalan kan siapa tahu harus makan bekal di mobil, kadang males juga bersih-bersihin tangan pakai tisu basah.


8. Be brave - try local food.

Ini makanya bawa Norit dan Diapet - kalau ada apa-apa at least anda sudah punya penangkalnya...hihi..


9. Terutama kalau anda juga orang Indonesia: BERGAUUUULLL.

Sering sekali saya gemes lihat pelancong dalam negeri yang sibuk sendiri. Padahal, menghabiskan waktu dengan orang lokal, mendekati mereka, sedikit sok akrab, ngobrol, itu luar biasa asiknya. Anda tidak akan kenal dengan daerah itu seutuhnya kalau cuma datang dan 'menuriskan' diri. After all, ini kan tanah air anda. Jadi bergaul, bro, sis...


10. Have a sense of humour :)

Indonesia memang tidak se-develop negara tetangga seperti Malaysia atau Singapura kalau bicara soal infrastruktur. Tapi jangan jadikan itu alasan buat anda untuk menggerutu. Look at it with a sense of humour. Ketawa itu kan, sehat. Jadi yaaa santai sajalah, dan mulai petualangan anda.

Teman saya juga bilang hal ini penting kalau anda kebetulan duduk di restoran, meja sebelah bule semua, dan mereka lagi cekikikan ngetawain Indonesia dan segala 'keterbelakangan' kita di mata mereka. Sabaaarrr, dan anggaplah itu bunga dalam perjalanan anda.


Mungkin memang iya travel di Indonesia ini lebih butuh persiapan mental dan fisik. Tapi tetap lho, seru!.

Jadi tunggu apa lagi, mulailah petualangan anda di negeri yang cantik ini. Jangan takut, after all, ini negeri sendiri. Kalau ada apa-apa, anda jangan-jangan malah ketemu saudara :)

Pecah ban di poros Sinjai - Bulukumba. Mengesalkan mungkin, tapi ya namanya road trip, ini salah satu resiko. Jadi kami enjoy aja...malah asik ketemu 'saudara'



Berkenalan dengan keluarga baik hati ini, punya warung buah di tepi jalan. Kami disuguhi teh panas dan kue. Keramahan sederhana, yang susah mungkin ditemukan di Jakarta


Kami kenalan dengan (dari kiri ke kanan) Bu Iin dan suaminya Pak Rahmat - yang punya anak 2 dan kebun merica, duren dan rambutan; lalu Pak Umar - asli Maluku dan kerja di TNI AD, anaknya Pak Umar yang lucuuu banget, dan mertuanya - bu Rupiah. Pak Rahmat dan Pak Umar membantu Cip sampai selesai, bahkan Pak Umar yang mboncengin Cip ke bengkel ban, 200 meter dari tempat ini. Setelahnya Cip numpang mandi di rumah Pak Rahmat, ikut minum teh panas dan makan kue. Kami menemukan saudara, ratusan kilometer dari Jakarta. Itu, adalah sesuatu yang berharga... Perhentian 2 jam ini memang bikin kami sampai di Bulukumba lebih lama dari yang kami rencanakan, but then, apalah artinya waktu dibandingkan dengan kesempatan memahami hidup orang lain..

(R I R I)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Toraja – A Land where Living is Dedicated to Death


“If a Torajan has a lot of money, he would not spend it on traveling like you do. He will keep his money to finance the death ceremonies for his elders. And his children later will do the same for him” 

Paul Pane, our local guide said that with a matter of fact tone in his voice. And it is a fact that many Torajans still hold true to their hearts. And they take it seriously.


Rambu Solo’ – the final respect 

I am sure many of you have heard, or read about Rambu Solo’ – a ceremony held to part with the deceased, to ensure that he is going to the Gods in the nirwana. It is a huge ceremony, can last from 3 to 7 days and nights, of praying, as well as a lot of eating, singing, drinking, buffalo fighting and slaughtering. It is more resembling of a party as you probably won’t see anyone crying. 

In the olden days, Rambu Solo’ is only held by the noble families. But along with the economy improvement, many families feel it imperative that they hold it too if they can afford it. 

And the time to hold Rambu Solo’ is also determined. It should not be held just after people especially the family holding one, replant their padi fields. The death aura will stop the padi from growing. So Rambu Solo’ is usually held after harvest time. 


Months of preparation is put into making a Rambu Solo’. To build these huts, used to house the guests during the ceremony, can take as many as 3 – 4 months. And what they do after the party is over? – nothing. They just leave them behind. Not to be reused because it is bad luck to do so. At best they will use the bamboos as fire wood




The location where a rambu solo' is held is called rante. Once it is held, the family will then ‘plant’ a stone. This indicates that the descendants of the deceased have the right to hold Rambu Solo’ in the same rante. 

There are rante with ancient significance - with stones planted since hundreds of years ago. 


Rante Karasik. The smaller stones went way back to hundreds of years ago. In a more modern time, the height of the stone has another significance: as a status symbol of the family. So the higher it is, the higher one’s status is in the society. And that primarily relates to wealth, not tradition


Rante Kalimbuang Bori’


Originally, there were many rituals in a Rambu Solo’. But with the integration of Christian belief, as well as the fact that it is now held not only by noble families, Rambu Solo’ has become simpler than it was in the past. 

We were very lucky that there was a rambu solo' held by BOTH a rich family and descendant of the nobility. It was held for the mother of the Head of the Regency of North Toraja. I did not watch the whole ceremony. Only watched the procession of the coffin from the house to the rante. Even to observe this small part was already amazing – to listen to people laughing while running in the procession, all the shouts and screams, the beautiful ornaments of dresses (though majority wore black). To me it really felt like a celebration of life – for the deceased and the living, strange as it may sound.. 

Since this is a noble family, the coffin is highly decorated and is put in this mini-tongkonan to be carried to the rante


They looked more like going to a ‘regular’ party though I’m sure these outfits have a cultural significance in the whole ceremony. I did not bother to ask, I was just too amused



The procession with a very long red fabric held high by the people under it. They are the deceased’s family members – from children to other close relatives. In Toraja, red is a colour of life. So having this long red fabric may mean a connection of blood between the deceased, to the other family members. That although she’s gone, but the tie, will never be broken

The coffin, or erong, is about to be placed in the tower where it will be put until the whole ceremony and rituals are done and it is ready to be transferred to its final resting place

Not sure if this buffalo knows what’s coming for him...


Apart from a way to give the final respect to the deceased, as well as to make sure that the deceased can go to the nirwana and becomes one of the Gods who will bless and protect the family, Rambu Solo’ has also become a status symbol. The number of buffalo horns displayed on a pole in front of a Tongkonan that has been used to house the deceased, sometimes for many years before the ceremony is held, becomes the real symbol of the economy status of a family. And that, brings respect from the society at large. 



 
Tongkonan – a place for the living, and the deceased 

This Toraja traditional house resembles the shape of a ship, said to be a symbol that the ancestors of the Torajans came to the land using a ship. It is believed that their ancestors came from Indo China. From Sulawesi, these people go to Kalimantan and became the ancestors of Dayak, then to Sumatra as the ancestors of Batak people. 

Tongkonan comes from the word ‘tongkon’ or sitting. Traditionally, a tongkonan is used by the elders to sit and discuss to decide on a certain matter in the society. And when there is a Rambu Solo’ to hold in the family, it is also here that the family will decide when, and how many buffaloes will be sacrificed, and other matters related to it. 

Tongkonan is also a symbol of a female, and always has to be accompanied by a male which is called alang (or rice barn), used to keep rice for the family. Inside, it is divided into three areas: the North chamber – the place of their ancestors so this is the place they will put offerings, a middle room where meetings are held, and the South chamber where the head of the family usually sleeps. 

When there is death in the family, the deceased will be placed in the North facing room until a Rambu Solo’ can be held for it, with his face facing West which symbolizes death as it is where the sun sets (dies) every day. The East symbolizes life – and Torajans believe when they sleep, their faces should face this direction.



A tongkonan is built WITHOUT a single nail. Outside, it is heavily decorated by traditional Toraja wooden carvings. Every single carving, has a meaning. The more intricate decorations can be seen in the houses of the noble families


At Pallawa, you can see the original shape of a tongkonan. In the past these tongkonan are usually not very high. But with better technology and skill, now the tongkonan can be built a bit higher

Alang, or rice barns. There can be more of these than there is tongkonan on a piece of land owned by a family. Every family member i.e. the sons and/or daughters of the family, has the right to build a tongkonan and alang, or just an alang, on the same land. So if you see a complex of tongkonan and alang, it is usually owned by a certain marga, or kinship. Alang is also a place where guests will sit when there is a rambu solo' is held. The most respected place is right under the door of the alang. That is usually reserved for those who give the expensive buffalo to the family

The length of time a body can be kept in the tongkonan before a Rambu Solo’ can be held for it really depends on the financial condition of the family. In the old days, a certain potion is used to keep the body intact until a ceremony can be done. A traditional healer will come to the house regularly to clean up the body from any larvae that may have lived on the body, and to reapply the potion. Nowadays, formalin is used for that purpose. 

A body kept in the tongkonan is considered sick rather than died. People will consider someone really passed away when a Rambu Solo’ is already held for him, and the body is placed in the graveyard.



A Graveyard – A place between Mother and Father

To Torajans, the earth is considered as their Mother. The sun, their Father. Hence the right location to be placed when one dies, is between Mother and Father – which is why Torajans (unless they are muslim – which also exist as a minority), will never be found buried in the ground. 

In the past it is also believed that if the final resting place is high, it is closer to puya (or nirwana in their language). That is why there are graveyards on the hills like those in Kete’ Kesu and Londa. With the integration with Christianity, people now build patane (or a mausoleum).

Originally Torajans were the believers of the Animism. Christianity took some time to be embraced by Torajans. And because of their unique ancestral’s beliefs, in 1973, the Christian Church of Toraja was formalised. The church combines Christianity with their ancestral’s beliefs. That is why in all graveyards, we will see an interesting mish mash: a coffin with a cross on it, but placed on the ground rather than buried. 

And since a specific place in the graveyard usually belongs to a certain family, and sometimes in the family there are already muslims in it, when the muslim relatives died, they are also buried in the same location but according to Islam’s rule. 

I seriously find it fascinating. A display of true integration and tolerance. 

Londa


At Lemo. There is a hole for erong in the making. I thought they use a sophisticated drill or something to make it in this hard rocky hill. But nope, they use a simple nail like tool made of iron. It can take months to make a hole

On the way to Batu Tumonga, there are patane inside the big rocks. I peeked into one, and was amazed to find that there is quite a big room in it – around 2x2m2
In the old days, erong is hung by building a platform on the rock
With time, many of those erong have broken and causing all the bones and skulls scattered all over the place

The remains from the time when formalin has not been used. When the meat has gone, bones stay strong and white
But in modern times, when formalin is used to preserve the body, bones turned to black, and will become easier to crush. This is a skull we saw at Londa – the cigarettes and coins are offerings to him

In Londa, ancient caves are used as a graveyard. Each hole, belongs to a family. It is still used till now
Patane are scattered at many points in Toraja. This actually reminds me of the view I have seen on Samosir, North Sumatra
In the past, babies who died before they had teeth were ‘planted’ inside a tree. The belief is that they would keep growing as the tree grows. This site is in Kambira – last used in 1973. There is an eerie as well as a melancholy feel looking at this site – it is as if these children, are still alive

Tau Tau, or a statue resembling the face of the deceased, was made for every member of a noble family who died. In the past, these Tau Tau only had very simple facial expression. Now, with the increasing skill and with some of the makers of these Tau Tau learned how to make a realistic statue all the way to Bali, Tau Tau are more like real people in expression.


A Tau Tau costs from IDR 15M, and can be more expensive depending on the size. They only need a picture of the deceased to be able to make one. I am impressed at how realistic these modern Tau Tau are
At a certain time, guided by the elders’ decision, the dresses worn by the Tau Tau will be changed. When we visited Lemo, this ceremony has just been held not long ago. These Tau Tau have gone years back - you can see the 'flat' expression of these

The newer Tau Tau will look like these - more realistic

Tedong – the Jewel of Toraja


Never before I visited a place with so many buffaloes, or tedong, around. Not even in West Sumatra, which also has a strong tie with buffaloes. And what is most interesting is to see Toraja’s own unique buffalo at many places though not as often as the usual black one: Tedong Bonga and Saleko



There are ranks of tedong that one can buy. 

The most expensive one is a tedong which has won so many times in buffalo fights. This type of tedong should exist in a ceremony held by either a very rich person, or a descendant of a noble family. It holds the family’s pride to be able to slaughter that kind of tedong.


An IDR 500M tedong – just one among around 60 something tedong to fight and then be butchered in a Rambu Solo’ held for the mother of the Regent Head of North Toraja – both rich AND descendant of a noble family. I did not ask how many times this tedong has won buffalo fights. I found it mind boggling, to see for myself, a tedong with a price of a house...to be butchered later

Tedong Bonga – white head, with blue eyes (really, seriously, I’m not kidding!!), and albino skin. They can be as much as IDR 70M
The next expensive one is tedong Saleko – the albino buffalo. They are around IDR 50M. Both tedong Bonga and Saleko are originated from Toraja. They exist nowhere else in the archipelago. Some institutions including Institut Pertanian Bogor have tried to breed them elsewhere, with no result. Paul told us that there is a belief in Toraja that these tedong will not be easily born. Only those with good heart, will get this kind of tedong in his flock

By tradition, a noble family only needs to slaughter 24 tedong in a Rambu Solo’, and a commoner only has to slaughter 8 – 10. However, with the better economy condition and the needs to show a higher status symbol, there is no exact number now as much as it is no longer associated with nobility. The number only stops according to the financial condition of a family. 

And these tedong can also come as a contribution from other family – so not necessarily only bought by the family of the deceased. This also becomes a way for others to respect the deceased, and again, a way to show one’s status symbol. There are also those giving the tedong as a payment of old debt, or as a return to the family or to the deceased if they in the past have made the same contribution. 

In current modern time, sometimes, there can also be a discussion between the family, the head of a village, and families wanting to contribute, to decide if the contribution will be in the form of tedong, or in other forms. These can be in the form of pathway development to a certain part of the village, development of a certain public facility, or other things that can improve the village where the deceased lived.

After slaughtering, not all the buffalo's meat is cooked. The meat is also distributed to people living in the village where the deceased came from. Just like what muslims do in an Idul Kurban. 

In a Rambu Solo’, there will be a committee deciding which tedong will fight first, and the order by which each tedong will be slaughtered. This is a very important part of the whole ceremony, because if there is a wrong tedong slaughtered with a wrong order, then the deceased will not be able to make it smoothly to the nirwana to become one of the Gods.

While it has a high significance for rambu solo', tedong has no role at all in a wedding ceremony nor party. It is forbidden to slaughter tedong for a wedding – for reasons that I have now forgotten (don’t shoot me. There were just too many stories told. I should have recorded everything I guess...).

In a marriage however, tedong becomes a tie that binds the couple. Between the two families, a number of tedong has to be agreed to be paid should the couple decide to get a divorce. A certain time period will also be determined, to decide how long the person asking for the divorce should fulfill the number of agreed tedong or the price equal to that, before they can be formally divorced. The size of the tedong will also be determined. Usually it is decided by stating the length of its horn – using the palm of a man.

Take an example if a man is bound to his wife and vice versa by 12 tedong. Now calculate that with a good tedong, which is priced around IDR 15 – 17M, that gives them a handsome price to pay should he or his wife decide to get a divorce. Not to mention that it should be paid within a certain time period!. Not an easy task unless you’re a millionaire. And that, is a good reason not to waste money on an argument that can lead to a divorce...unless your spouse is highly obnoxious then I guess money does not matter much... 

A wedding preparation. Not as grand as it is for Rambu Solo’. And I guess if you already have a grand backdrop as these tongkonan and alang have given, who needs other decorations!



The Beautiful Backdrop – wealth, redefined 

If people keep raving about Bali being beautiful in its intricate connection of religion, culture and nature, then I think a visit in Toraja may give them the same feeling. 

Though it is very different i.e. Bali is all about Hinduism and how they live and breathe in it while Toraja is about honouring, and to some extent glorifying, death, but the essence of it all is the same to me: preservation of a way of life. 

Not only that, I was constantly fascinated by the backdrop of nature in this beautiful land. Ancient rocky mountains (or hills?...whatever...) that always get misty in the mornings and afternoons – giving it a romantic feel, beautifully sculpted padi fields, tongkonan and alang in the middle of a field...and many more.





Cip and I fell deeply in love with the old alang and tongkonan with the roofs covered with plants. They look romantic...or we are just hopeless romantic. They become less and less now, the bamboo roofs have been replaced by metal. So we consider ourselves lucky to still be able to see some of them

To be able to see and feel the ambience of rambu solo', is of course a gift. We did not expect to be able to experience it. Without it we would have gone home very happy and amazed with Toraja already. But this, is really the icing on the cake
To understand the significance of a single animal in people's life, is a totally different cultural experience to me. By the way this is no camera trick. The river IS red


Toraja is very wealthy in every sense: culture, people and nature. I knew I’d be surprised. I didn’t know that I’d also be so emotionally moved by everything about it. 

But the for the most part of it, I didn’t even know that a story around death, can be that captivating. 

Thank you once again, God, for letting me born in this beautiful country of mine.



About the trip


Visiting Toraja is an easy 8 – 9 hours drive from Makassar. You can also take executive busses from Makassar – and these busses are reaaaallllyyyy goood. 

The best time to visit Toraja, where it is also easier to find rambu solo', is between the months of June to August, which happens to also be the busiest months so better be prepared to find too many tourists everywhere. 

We made this trip in December, which was not a bad idea but we had to cope with the weather. It always rains around 3pm until night sometimes until the next morning. This gives it a limited time to explore places - so you'd better start early like 7am to get the most of the sunshine. 


Once in Toraja I suggest you look for a very good local guide who can tell you stories about life as it is and have a good historical knowledge too. Of course you can read about every single place, but having someone there with you, will tell you bits and pieces that no books can tell. 


We were lucky to have found one: Paul Pane (email: paulpane@yahoo.com, mobile: 082348225584). He told us all the stories – all that I’ve written above I got from him. I’m not as diligent as Cip, our family historian who will read things, so I thank Paul so much for telling us those things. Without those stories, and many more that I just couldn’t write as there are just too many!!, this trip would not feel this complete...


(R I R I)