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Life in an Indonesian Village called Sumba

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

chinese tea

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.

About Author

Active traveller with a love for Asian food and Japanese anime.