Tag Archives: Indonesia

Ghosts of Indonesia

I didn’t realize how many ghosts there are in the Indonesian culture.  But I got to learn about them first hand one Thursday night with Faisal, Misba, Aput, Andre, Ucok and Iswan.  The conversation first started when I was warned about the hypnotizing thieves at market places.

Hypnotizing thieves???  Though not so common anymore, the boys did warn me that if someone tapped me on the shoulder or put a hand on me, to never look them in the eyes.  The reason for this is that there apparently are people so talented in the art of hypnosis that they can literally cast a spell on you.  It starts with a hand or tap on the shoulder.  If you look the person in the eyes the “spell” is complete.  They then instruct you to give them all your money and to return home.  It’s only when you get home that the spell is broken and you realize you have just been robbed!!  Again, the boys insisted that this rarely happens anymore, but that it has happened quite a lot in the past.  However, since I almost always went to the market with Mama, it was never an issue:)

So this interesting tidbit eventually moved into the topic of the many ghosts in the Indonesian culture.  Once the “story telling” (I put that in quotes because they don’t believe them to be simply stories, but rather real events) began, it went on long into the wee night hours!  I learned first that Thursday nights are considered the night with the most ghost activity, and that was one reason why Friday’s are considered their holiest of days. Also it should be noted that with the dawn of electricity there haven’t been so many sightings of each ghost as light keeps them away!

Mind you, what I’m writing below are stories of each ghost as given to me by the six men.  They talked rather fast at times and often over each other trying to find the correct words while telling me about the ghosts, so below are my best scribbles about each one.  I hope I’m going to do them justice!

Doti (aka Santeh or Dooken): Voo Doo, wicked black magic.  These people can insert an evil spirit into a body essentially possessing them.

Tuyul: half human, half spirit that steals money

Babi Ngepet: half pig, half human.  Can only turn into a pig on Thursday nights.  There is a keeper of this creature who can turn the human into a pig when he lights a special candle.  IF the candle is extinguished, the pig turns back into a human.  Once in pig form however, it goes out and searches for money for its owner (the candle bearer).  Babi is stronger and faster than Tuyul as it can instantly send the stolen money to its owner.  If the candle bearer notices that the flame starts to flicker, that means that the Babi (pig) is in trouble and may have been noticed.  But the pig can turn back into a human.  So if it’s being chased and can get into a dark corner or alleyway, the keeper can extinguish the candle flame and turn it back into a human to get it out of trouble.

Poppok: A human, but in the night he can fly.  He is naked.  Can be a man or a woman.  They go to the sea and bring fish for the house.  If you meet and annoy them they will tickle you to death.  But if you hit it with a native palm leaf one time you scare him.  Hit him twice and you make him stronger.  ONLY for South Sulawesi, but may be elsewhere under different names.  This is a genetic trait.  Starts as normal person.  Seeks knowledge to become paranormal.  If he does the steps right, he turns paranormal.  If they do the steps wrong, they turn into a Poppok.

Longga: Very tall human.  He eats people.  Only at night.  Can be in the jungle.  A past problem.

Parakang: Human sometimes around us.  Can be a man or a woman.  At night they go to dirty ditches looking for frogs or fish to eat.  He/she can suck the blood out of newborns.  They will come to newborn baby homes.  They come from the roof, open the roof and come in.  Even in the day.  If it rains with sunshine this is bad.  Sometimes the eyes are red.  If you are suspicious a person is a Parakang, you can test them by throwing salt at the body.  If they thrash about they are a Parakang.  It is a genetic disease.  Can cure them with an exorcism using the Koran.

Pocong: One of the scariest and most famous ghosts in Indonesia.  He has many films made about him.  Happens when a person dies.  During a Muslim burial, they put a white sheet around the body and tie the sheet at the top of the head.  This tie is called Talipocong (tali = line/sting).  After the corpse is covered, it is carried to the grave.  If the talipocong is not removed once the body is put in the grave, the dead person will become Pocong.  They come in the night only and hop around in their sheet that is still tied around their head because they are trapped in the sheet.  Pocong comes around asking to be freed.  People in the village can’t talk, they must be silent or they will attract the Pocong.  But they can help the Pocong or essentially send them away for good by digging up the body and taking off the talipocong.

Kuntilanak:  Only a woman who is pregnant.  Story is from when the Dutch came here to colonize.  A Dutch pregnant woman came and killed herself when she arrived here and she then became Kuntilanak.  Sometimes the story is that she committed suicide, sometimes the story is that she was killed by her boyfriend.  She takes revenge on people by taking other children.  She had her baby in the grave after she was dead and buried.  She picked it up and cradled it.  She takes revenge on her ex by luring single men home.  She appears as a beautiful woman in a white dress, though the feet don’t touch the floor.  She gets the men to take her home, which appears at first to be a beautiful home, but once there it turns back into a gravesite.  The lured man is giddy with love but is stuck in the grave.  She is only happy if she can kill the new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend.

And there you have it.  Some of the many ghosts of Indonesia!

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Learning Bahasa

Please note that most of the spellings are not correct as I wrote them down phonetically so I would know how to properly say them:) Words with an asterisk are also Malay words:)

Common Phrases:

Terima Kasi: Thank you
Sama sama: You’re welcome
Senang Bertemo Dengan Anda: Nice to meet you
Sama: Same
Lagi: Again
Tidak: No
Ya: Yes
Awas: Caution
Ah-ir: Water (spelled air!)
Ah-peh-too: What is…
Bantu: Help

Food Related:

Nasi: Rice
Goreng: Fried
Nasi Goreng: Fried Rice
Tellure: Egg
Ayam: Chicken
Eakan: Fish
Bebe: Duck
Pedis: Spicy
Sawa: Rice field
Sai-yo-ran: Vegetables
Ja-goo: Corn
Pee-sang: Banana
Kuh-lap-ah: Coconut
Sumanka: Watermelon
Lombok: Chili
Enak: Delicious
Timunsuri: Cucumber
Tebu: Sugar Cane
Gula: Sugar

Numbers:

1: Satu
2: Dua
3: Tiga
4: Empat
5: Lima
6: Enam
7: Tujuh
8: Delapan
9: Sembilan
10: Sepuluh

Weather:

Panas: Hot
Matahari: Sun
Hujan: Rain

Around the House:

Baskom: Bowl
Too-chee: Wash
Coors-see: Chair
Back-eye-ya: Clothes
Room-ah: House
Bolla: ball
Booku: Book
Kamarmandi: Bathroom
Tempat Tidur: Bedroom
Sendok: Spoon
Pee-ring: Plate
Pisau: Knife
Meja: Table
Atap: Roof
Glass: Glass

Family:

Saudara Laki-Laki: Brother
Saudara Perempuan: Sister
Mama: Mother
Papa: Father
Keluahgu: Family

Emotions/Adjectives:

Marah: Angry
Hore: Happy
Berisik: Silent, be quiet
Menangis: Cry
Pintar: Clever
Bodoh: Stupid

Body Parts:

Tangan: Hand
Kaki: Foot
Mata: Eyes
Telinga: Ears
Hidung: Nose
Muka: Face
Ramboot: Hair

Animal Related:

Binatang: Animals
Kandang: Pen for animals
Anjing: Dog
Kuching: Cat
Nyamuk: Mosquito
Monyet: Monkey
Bulu: Fur

Miscellaneous:

Asap: Smoke
Ah-pee: Fire
Toe-pee: Hat
Sapu: Broom
Belajar: Study
Kayu: Wood
Jangan: Finished
Gatal: Itchy
Loop-ah: Forget
Besok: Tomorrow
Bunga: Flower
Najis: Dirty
Haram: Forbidden
Halal: Allowed
Chantik: Beautiful
Gagah: Handsome
Kerya Bagus: Good job
Besar: Fat
Gigit: Bite
Aurat: means women must be covered from head to their wrists and ankles
Muhrim: You can’t be affectionate with others unless they are family or your spouse

On to Ghosts of Indonesia

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Favorite Memories from Bajo

Not in any particular order:)

Riding on the motorbike with Ainul: This one has a little back story.  We were all out in Belopa hanging out at one of Faisal’s friends place (Misba) and among other things we got into a conversation about the Muslim religion.  I learned about ‘haram’ (forbidden) and ‘halal’ (allowed) and about proper ways to interact with other Muslim men and women.  On our way back to Bajo, I rode with one of the students, Ainul (Arabic for ‘eye of God’ essentially) and he continued to educate me about the religion during our 15 minute drive back.  He told me that the Muslim religion teaches to love your family, your neighbors and yourself.  To treat others with respect and kindness.  To give what you can and be grateful for what you have.  Then he asked (which still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it) whether I had heard of the recent bombings in France (November 2015).  I replied yes, I had.  To which he said ‘those people are not Muslims.  Our true religion teaches love, not hate.  Those people doing those bad things are not true Muslims.’  Through my welled-up eyes I simply replied “I know.”.  People so often judge others and their religions based on the evil behavior of a few who claim to be of the same religion.  But at the real heart of every religion lies the same undeniable truth: Love one another and be good to one another.  We are each here just trying to live our lives in the best way possible for ourselves, our families and friends.  It’s a shame those with evil intentions and evil in their hearts try to ruin it.

Spicy food:  Ok, so I love, LOVE spicy food!!!  I thought up to this point in my travels that I’d already encountered the spiciest food available in Asia, but I was wrong!!  Indonesia (at least South Sulawesi) has THE spiciest food I’d ever tasted!!  Even something simple like nasi goreng (fried rice) was so unbelievably hot that I was in heaven!!  Truth be told however I couldn’t always finish all my food because of the heat of the meal and the heat of the day!  Indonesia blew both Thailand and Malaysia out of the water in the category of spicy foods!

Cooking with Faisal: Watching this young man teach english was a marvel enough, but amazingly he’s also a talented chef!  I enjoyed joining him in the kitchen several nights a week to watch him whip up  delicious traditional Indonesian dishes full of intense flavors and of course spice!

Meeting his friends: Misba, Ucok, Mita, Iswan, Andre, Aput, Ainul, Lily, Diarah… the list of his beautiful friends could go on forever!

Helping to make Kapurung with Mama and at Iswan’s house with his family.

Amazing Hospitality: Everywhere you went, the hospitality was unbelievable.  Such beautiful people and so giving in every way


Treated like a celebrity: Seriously if you’ve ever wanted to know what it must be like to be a celebrity,  GO TO Bajo!!!  People literally stop and stare, ask for photos and want to get close to you!  They are all of course very respectful and will ask for pictures etc, but once you give the ‘go ahead’ they will come in close and one picture turns into about 70, lol!!  ‘Lagi, lagi’ (again, again) was the common word heard during picture time.  Even just walking down the street to the store I would be stopped by people driving by for a picture with them.  Seriously an ego boost!  Though truthfully there were lots of times when the honor wore off!  I would still always acquiesce to pictures with the people, but after that experience certainly would never want to be a real celebrity!!

Hiking the mountain: The name of it escapes me but it was one of the tallest in our area.  Iswan had a family home at the top of the mountains and after a 2 hour hike, we enjoyed a beautifully relaxing, quiet and calm afternoon chilling at their home.  We practiced our shooting skills with a pellet gun (only shooting targets, no animals!!!) and ate fresh food cooked up by the boys literally plucked from the earth.  So beautiful!

Going to Iswan and Ucok’s home: Such amazing families and homes!!  They were simple yet so gorgeous!  Animals roamed around as we sat on the floor eating home cooked traditional foods and talked.  We tried some palm wine (normally haram, but was only served to myself and the two other volunteers so it was all good!).  We met the most amazing man, Iswan’s grandfather who was apparently over 100 years old, yet looked as if he was maybe 60!  He loved meeting tourists and though he didn’t speak a word of English, his smile and constant laugh said it all.  You couldn’t help but smile and laugh with him non-stop any time you were in his presence!!

Mama: Faisal’s mother was just too cute!  She didn’t speak any English yet was still able to communicate in her own way.  She was warm, welcoming and always a bright spirit to be around!  I loved going to the markets with her or just hanging out with her on the front porch.

Learning Bahasa: I started to carry a little notebook with me so I could write down any new words of Bahasa to refer back to when needed.  I would always write the word phonetically so I could pronounce it correctly and was often corrected in my spelling, lol!!

Salma: One of Faisal’s cousin is an amazing!  She invited me to her beautiful home and served me kapurung (a traditional soup made with sagu, vegetables and meat) then took me to her sister’s house for a tour of their land.  I actually learned the majority of Bahasa words from her.  She couldn’t really construct sentences, but she knew a lot of individual words so as I watched her prepare lunch she would point to items and say their equivalent in Bahasa.  One of my favorite afternoons!

Dressed in local wedding attire: What an amazing experience this was!!  Another cousin of Faisal, brother of Salma was a make-up artist and he turned myself and the two other volunteers into brides complete with the full traditional hair, make-up and gowns!  We were then whisked off to Belopa to several locations to have professional pictures taken by 3 individuals (Aput-the real pro and Andre were 2 of them).  Talk about feeling like a star again!  We even went to the home and met one of the Queen’s of South Sulawesi (one of 8!) and were allowed to take pictures inside her home:)

Karaoke: As part of a going-away gift, Faisal, Ucok and Iswan treated myself and another volunteer from Spain to a night of karaoke!  Sooooooo much FUN!!!!!  We had our own booth and jammed away until our time was cut off, lol!!  Loved it!

The students: Attentive, respectful, full of life, cheery, smart, inquisitive, beautiful students!!  From the 6 year olds up to the 18 year olds, what a wonderful group of kids to have been given the pleasure of teaching!

Visit to recycle center: My first task upon arriving at the request of Faisal was to help set up a recycling center at his home.  Traditionally all trash is burned (not good for the air!) but luckily a recycle center was located in Belopa.  So we visited the center and arranged for us to be able to bring in our recycling.  I set up a little center near the school and we educated then encouraged the kids to bring in their plastics, paper and metals to us so we could collect them and take them to the main center.  Faisal would even get some money from the recycling, which could in turn be put back into helping fund his school!  Visit Faisal’s Environmental Page!

Leaving Bajo: This one was definitely a bitter-sweet memory.  I didn’t want to leave, yet at the same time was ready to.  I received one of the most beautiful send-offs however.  They loaded me with parting gifts and hugs.  I tried my best not to get emotional and cry, but that was just impossible.  I was a big ball of sopping wet tears by the time I got on the bus.  I still carry each of their gifts with me and smile whenever I see or wear them.  My eyes are welling up again…

Building and blessing the volunteer house: I really can’t take credit for this bit as I didn’t actually help build any part of it, lol!!  I kept hanging around and asking if they needed help, but the boys and Faisal’s father had everything under control.  They built a beautiful 2 room home for volunteers just behind the school-house.  I did help with some of the painting however and with a little poem written on the inside of each room, but that was the extent of my contribution, lol!  Once complete, we had a gathering in one of the rooms with food and the entire family and friends and had a little prayer to bless the new space.

Spiderman/Justin Bieber: One of Faisal’s nephews, a feisty character of a young man was often at the house as many other young family members were.  We’d often play games of hide-and-seek or watch them rollerblade around, and the reason he got the nickname ‘Spiderman’ was because you would literally have to look up the walls or to the ceiling to find where he was hiding!  Quite the talented climber that one was.  And he’d constantly sneak up on you from the most random of directions while we were painting or writing on the walls of the volunteer house.  Can’t recall why he also got the nickname ‘Justin Bieber’, but using either of those two nicknames and everyone knew who we were referring to, lol!!

The guitar and songs: Hanging out with Faisal, whether at his home or Misba’s place, one of my favorite times was watching him and listening to him play his guitar.  Self-taught and brilliant!  I could listen to him play for hours while either humming along or simply sitting quietly.

Children, children and more children: Aside from the school children we were accompanied daily by younger family members and in general anywhere around town or other people’s homes would be swarmed by them.  Too cute!!

Invited to an ‘Aquika’: Not at all as you should spell that word I’m sure, but essentially an aquika is a series of blessings given to newborn babies.  Family and friends gathered together to eat and watch the blessings and celebrate the new life.  The first blessing was to ensure good fertility, the second was to ward off bad spirits in her life and the third to grant her good health throughout her life.  Absolutely amazing to be a part of!

Learning the Bajo way of cracking eggs.  Basically use one egg to crack the other!  To crack the last egg they use the table top of course.  I crack my eggs the Bajo way now:).

Going to Faisal’s sisters house to watch her make (and us subsequently eat) donuts and muffins for her bakery business.

On to Learning Bahasa

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Teaching English in Indonesia

My time in Malaysia had finally come to an end and it was time to get out of the country to explore a new one.  I had been wrestling with what to do and where to go for a while and all I really knew was that I wanted to continue to volunteer somewhere, but just didn’t know where.

Tirelessly I researched place after place and continuously ran into programs that allowed volunteers to work with this or that animal, but the cost of doing so was atrocious!  Finally I came across a site called helpstay.com.  After reading reviews about the site as to its validity and exploring the various opportunities they had available in surrounding countries, I decided to take the plunge and join as a member of the site so I could contact one very specific volunteer opportunity.  In all honesty, the second I found the posting to volunteer teaching English at a home site in South Sulawesi, Indonesia that also had an organic farm, I signed up to the site and kept my fingers and toes crossed that they had availability for volunteers.

Within a few hours my inquiry was replied to and a Skype date was set so we could put faces to one another and see if we really were a match for each other, volunteer-wise.  Though part of me was a bit nervous to give away information about myself and Skype a literal stranger in a foreign country, the minute we chatted I knew I’d made the right decision.

The volunteer program organizer is an 18-year-old marvel named Faisal.  He invites people from around the world to stay with him and his family in exchange for volunteers to develop lessons and teach english to local students aged 6 to 18 years.  I was so very impressed with him during our Skype session, that I immediately committed to volunteering for a month with him and couldn’t wait to get there!

Now, all of my volunteering to this point involved animals, because that’s really where my love and strength lies.  I’d never taught English before (and I’d made sure to relate that to Faisal during our chat) but being a native english speaker I thought, how hard could it be? Less than a month after connecting with Faisal I was on a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.  I stayed the first night in Makassar (as my flight landed in the late evening) and first thing the next morning made my way to the Terminal Daya bus station for the 8 hour bus ride to Belopa.

Upon arriving at Terminal Daya I noted several men standing in front of the very, VERY basic bus terminal.  I spoke zero Bahasa and no one so far spoke any English (or very limited at best!) but luckily all that was required of me to say was: Belopa?.  That did the trick as they simultaeously all practically cheered “Belopa!” together.  They whisked my bag out of the taxi and walked me over… away from the vehicles that actually looked like busses… to basically a 4 door Ford truck.  Hmmmm…. is this right???  They all had stickers on the front saying “Pelopo” so I pointed to the truck and said again “Belopa?”.  “Ya, ya” was their response as they hauled my bag into the bed of the truck, took out their cell phones and typed in 150,000… the cost of the trip!

Lord knew at that point whether I was getting majorly ripped off or not, but what choice did I have exactly?  As it turned out, that was the correct and normal price 🙂  Happy day!  Moving on, I paid the fee and squished in the back seat with two other females and after a few minutes we were on our way.  There was actually a third line of seats behind my own, so in total we were a team of 7 people trundling along on the journey to Belopa (an hour South of Pelopo as it turns out).

The journey there was visually beautiful.  The mountains and the sea, vast and open rice fields, the endless green and tropical lush surrounding us.  Absolutely stunning!  The one downfall was that the driver smoked the entire way up, which was a bummer, but at least the windows were fully open to allow quick exchanges of air.  We took one break along the way for some food and a bathroom and made it into Belopa just about 8 hours to the dot later.  After a bit of miming and a game of charades with my fellow passengers in the truck, I was able to communicate that I wanted to be dropped off at the nearest ATM as I seriously had zero rupiah on me.  Luckily enough, the ATM I was dropped off at was next to a coffee shop that offered free WiFi.  So while sipping on a cappuccino (made from an instant coffee sachet) I used the WiFi to let Faisal know I’d arrived, and my exact location.

About 5 minutes later, Faisal showed up in his brother’s vehicle and we finally met in person.  Faisal, again only being 18 years of age and having only studied English for about 2 years spoke english brilliantly!  We loaded my stuff into his vehicle and made the 15 minute drive to his town called Bajo.  The town was absolutely adorable!!  When we arrived there was a football (soccer) match at the village field so there were tons of locals gathered for the game.

Just a bit further along the road we came to his lovely and humble home where I met his mom (mama as we called her who spoke zero english) and dad (who spoke a bit of english) and his cousin Irpan (a student in one of the english classes).  His family was lovely and so immediately welcoming that it just made my heart melt.  I was shown to my room and given a tour of the house and the school-house built by Faisal and some of his schoolmates Ucok and Iswan.  We had some dinner together (Faisal whipped up a deliciously spicy nasi goreng if memory serves) and I made my way to bed.

Thus began one of my most memorable months of traveling…

Visit Faisal’s website to find out more about his amazing volunteer program!!

Review of the Our Chance school

On to Favorite Memories from Bajo

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