Land of the Sasaks: Lombok, Indonesia

August 19-26, 2006






Dharma lesson: It was serendipitous that we arrived in the village of Sapit the night before a local Sasak wedding. Over dinner, we met Dharma, a deaf mute who sleeps in back of the restaurant and helps with chores at the guesthouse while entertaining visitors with card tricks, leading walking tours, and making everyone laugh. He uses his own style of pantomime to communicate. Strangely, he was one of the easiest people we ran across in Lombok to "talk" with because his language is universal.

I pointed to a picture of a gamelon in a photo album with a questioning glance. Dharma instantly tapped his watch, held up nine fingers, pointed down the road, then at Liza, himself and me, thumb and forefinger together (meaning small), and then wagged two fingers to indicate walking. Okay, we said and nodded, we were going to hear music at 9pm that night (only later did we realize this was part of a wedding celebration). Dharma came by our room at 9:30 with a flashlight and cast its beam into the darkness.

We followed the deaf mute down the road into the night. Soon we could hear many voices, people talking and laughing, and the sound of booming drums in the distance. We made our way to a dirt clearing in front of a house lined with bamboo mats, lit by the glow of a single fluorescent bulb. We were surrounded by kids and adults trying to talk to us, pointing and laughing, "touris, hello, hello...", then seeing the camera, "photo, photo...". Our Bahasa skills are close to nil, so it was a struggle to do more than ask their names and tell them ours. But everyone was in a party mood and here talking wasn't required to have fun. Soon the special colored mats were rolled out directly in front of the musicians and they insisted we sit with them (I think we were part of the show now). They kept waving their arms with a fluid motion, to indicate a dance was soon to start. Then the music began, with gamelon, drums, cymbals, and a loud distorted amplified bamboo flute. With a hush in the audience, two women appeared dressed in beautifully patterned brightly colored dresses. A raucous evening ensued with men from the audience dancing in front of the youngest of the dancers, taunting her to pull bills (money) from his teeth with hers, as they danced in a slow suggestive manner. If he came too close, she waved him off with her fan. It was hard to know exactly what was going on, but from the little kids to the very old, everyone was having a fabulous time. We ducked out at 11pm, but we could hear the music going well into the night back at our room.

The next day, Dharma appeared without warning in front of our room, pointing to his ring while his hands described a veil around his head, face somber. He gestured that we come with him immediately. We got to the village just in time to follow the wedding procession winding through the streets with marching gamelon, a huge crowd of townspeople, and a growing pack of motorbikes, following behind with loud enthusiasm. Again we were ushered up to the front to take photos of the event. We never really understood exactly what was going on, but amazed to be welcomed so warmly into the festivities.

Later that day we went with Dharma on a silent tour through the rice and tobacco fields, neighboring villages, and to a deep green river canyon with cascading waterfalls (apparently the source of Sapit's drinking water). This Dharma character related how his father had recently died. He buried him (arms making a digging motion) and now was all alone with no parents left, pointing to his eyes and making streak lines on his face. It was a sad story that brought tears to our eyes. But this kid knows how to laugh and enjoy what he has to the utmost. He would point at me, then at the sun, and cower under the tiny shade of his outstretched hand, making lines (of sweat) pouring down his face -- laughing uproariously and pointing to me. Yes, I was broiling and sweating profusely, as usual, under the noonday sun. We had many good laughs together! Dharma is a teacher I think, and he taught us both an important life lesson that day...




Sound recording -- Sasak Wedding Procession in Sapit (4:37).





Sound recording -- 5AM Call to prayer outside our room in Sapit (excerpt, 6:21).



Sembalun valley

12295' Gunung Rinjini rises out of the ocean

Yogyakarta, Java (plane) ► Denpasar, Bali (plane) ► Mataram, Lombok (taxi) ► Senggigi (car) ► Sapit (car)Senggigi