My Awkward Moments in Toraja

I just came back from South Celebes a week ago with few members of family. That was an impromptu trip because my dad suddenly missed his hometown, Palopo and my sister and I worried that my dad would feel lonely by traveling alone, so we decided to accompany him and pay a brief visit to Toraja. And later we brought along our niece who had not visited Toraja for long time.

Since it was an impromptu one, I didn’t expect visiting any tourist spots, and I also thought that a week trip to Toraja and its surrounding would be filled with visiting family from one place to another, so I buried deeply my desire of playing a tourist. However, that short trip gave me a mixed of awkward and awesome moments. Let me write what are the awkward moments first.

Toraja1Conversation in Toraja language

Replaying someone’s question in Toraja language was one of the awkward moments for me. Wherever I went, people would directly get the clue that I was a Torajan by looking at my face’s feature and then mercilessly kept on talking to me in Toraja language. The young would fast get the clue that I wasn’t born and grown in Toraja if I kept on answering in Indonesian, but I received different reaction from the elderly. My granny understood my inability, but few of her neighbors didn’t want to. There was a granny that even blamed my parents for not letting me learning about the language and I felt bad for them because the truth is, at my younger days, I was the one who refused to learn it. I found it wasn’t cool back then, and now I regret it. It doesn’t mean I’m a big zero in Toraja language, I know the basic vocabulary and daily conversation, but I’m not accustomed in speaking. I know what people say, but I can’t reply it. My tongue gets tied.

To overcome this problem, I kept my dad or my big sis or my cousin besides me whenever I felt like talking with my grandmother or the other family members who also got their tongues tied while speaking Indonesian. It was awkward to have translator for this type of conversation. When this happened my big sister was laughing. She’s much better than me though.

When a Kupang knew more everything about Toraja

Yes, it did happen. When we (fortunately) had one day to visit Rantepao which lies about 60 km away from my cousin’s home, her husband who (suddenly) become our guide, shared his various knowledge about Toraja. Each time we passed a spot he explained anything related to that spot, whether about the culture, the building, the history, tales, or whatever. He knew it all. He has resided to Toraja for years and his job has driven him closer to Toraja. While he explained everything passionately, on the backseat, I felt awkward to this (supposed to be) reversed situation, and I did admire his knowledge at the same time. #thumbsUp

TorajaThat goodbye when you didn’t mean goodbye

I think this one is quite funny. On our way to Toraja from Makassar, we met two foreigners who visited Toraja for the first time. I don’t remember how it started, but we had brief conversation. Both guys asked us about how long it took to reach Rantepao from our stop spot, and I answered about 4 hours. Finished conversation, we bade goodbye, and the bus run again. And then, in about an hour, we arrived at Makale, which meant Rantepao would be reached in less than 3 hours. So I got it all wrong. I thought it would stop there, but it looked like I had to be responsible for my thoughtless answer from the day before because at the next day, I saw those two men again at a burial site in Lemo. For the sake of saving my face, I avoided them, I took the different route hurriedly. Because the site wasn’t that huge, we still met though (separated about 50 meter wide paddy field), and all I just could do was waving to them. 😀

Toraja2In being fascinated by Megalith Site in Bori

To be honest, I had no idea about Bori until I glanced at tourism magazine that wrote about that Megalith Complex at tourist information center. I was interested and asked my brother-in-law whether it was approachable or not. Fortunately it was. We went there. The sun shone really bright that day which made us easy to dehydrate, to the point that I gulped a bottle of 600 ml water in at once, each time. However, my curiosity and my happiness of being a visitor didn’t hold me from wandering around the sites. I even went up to the hilly area where the old grave located (of course with companion of my dad because because I’m not that brave). Like the other burial sites, it wasn’t that huge, but it was awesome. My big sis and I admired it. We took picture in every single possible angle. Finished with our business, we went back to our car and found our cousin slept inside. We felt bad. We were careless and didn’t put much attention to the others. Then I asked my cousin whether she was hungry, angry, or tired, and her answer shut me because it was kind of ruining my previous excitement. She said that we had to see our grandfather’s burial site since he had one similar feature, almost as high as the big one. And I just, “ehm, okay, I should have seen when our grandfather was inserted into his own hole, and I’ll pay a visit one day.” I said that with mixed feelings. After that, we hurriedly went back home.

Toraja3During my trip, I encountered few awkward moments, but these 4 stories remain strong in my mind.

How’s my story? Was it awkward if you were me?


20 thoughts on “My Awkward Moments in Toraja

  1. I have never been to Toraja but it’s in my list! ^_^
    Anw same things happen when I’m at Medan, the elederly kept asking in Bataknesse language and all I can do is just looking at my feet :mrgreen:

    1. Geeeez… And about two weeks ago I got a preach from my uncle on the importance of able to speak bataknese. Ouch, that slap me roght on the face 😀

      I have lotta in my liiiist. Dunno when can I complete it. One is checked but new place pop up 😀 never ending! Hahaha

  2. Nice post! I happen to be in Toraja right this very moment, I absolutely love it here, but, unfortunately, as from every place, I must soon leave heading south. I would come here with great joy some other time!

    1. Hi,
      Thank ypu! Wow, nice to hear that you love it there. Tell me when you want to come again, who knows I get my days off too. 😀

    2. Sorry for the late replay. I’m in Borneo, I live in East Borneo, but spend more time in South Borneo for working. Where are you heading after Celebes?

    3. Same island, but different country. It’s a Malaysia’ territory. I live at the eastern part of Borneo Island. 🙂

    4. I know that, yes. I will eventually come into the Indonesian part also but not sure as to where exactly.

    5. Have u heard about Derawan? East Borneo might attract the visitors with its nature and little bit culture. It might not as fascinating as Toraja (since you’ve started great) , but there are few interesting places. While south borneo with its culture. Not as much as Celebes, but it’s quite different. Wanna come? Pontianak, West Borneo has its own charm too. I’ve never been to Central Borneo.

    1. Wuaaa, seneng banget dengarnya, mba Non suka Toraja. Iyah, kalo sebentar kaya ada yang kurang gimna gitu yah. Bikin pengen balik juga jadinya. 😀

    1. Just a bit of it Ndien. I know when someone speaks (easy) Toraja, but I can’t replay it. I can say kumande (eat) and apa kareba (how are you). 😐
      I once tried to speak in longer sentences to my grandma, and she didn’t get any of it. 😥

  3. wow! your father come from palopo? and where does he lives now? I went there once and it like…….. almost life changing journey to see with my own eyes how they see death in different way. btw, i blogged about torajan food when i was there in (torajan food was AMAZING btw!!)

    1. Thank you for the link, i sure visit it later. 🙂
      We live in East Borneo now.
      Thank you for stopping by, reading, and giving your comment. Really appreciate it. 🙂

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