When you meet someone make sure you give them a ‘Hongi’ (the act of kissing each other with the
nose). When you walk past someone say “Permisi” and bow in respect. When you go near the
sacred trees don’t use your phones. When you get the water from the spring do not sing. When
you are making food make sure the chief uses different utensils and he eats first.
Sumba, the hidden village in Indonesia
At the age of 17 I had the chance to visit a hidden village in Sumba (Indonesia). I was hit with the
reality of how people live in the jungle. Food was caught by hand, it was cooked on the fire and the
water was a 3km hike away. The culture was completely different to what I had experienced in the
city and I had to adjust. The people of Sumba were built on the belief that their ancestors provided
them with everything, so naturally the people – in ignorance and naiveness – made up ‘rules’ which
the people of the village must obey so that the ancestors would not be mad. Before I went into the
village I was equipped with a handful of guidelines of how I should act, what I should wear and
what I should do or not do. It was clear that the etiquette of the people was aimed at not wanting to
disrupt the ancestors or upsetting those that came before them.
In the morning we were asked to fetch water for the village but were given guidelines in how we
should behave at the sacred fountain. No outside items were allowed there, no drinking at the
fountain, no showering or brushing teeth either. As a foreigner being told this I thought it was
ridiculous because it was just a ‘fountain’ but as I got to know the people and why they behave the
way they do I came to realise the connection they have to the land and how powerful that
connection was to have an influence on how they carry themselves and how they behave. I visited
the houses and met the families and my understanding of the people became more clear as I
heard the stories of every person and what they believe in.
The houses are sacred, the people are sacred, the land is sacred and the people before them are
sacred. That is one of the core reasons as to why they act and behave the way they do and the
discovery was mind-blowing.