Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reggae in Indonesia...with Cinta Cinta!

In the last 6 days, I've had some very different experiences, so much so that, once again, I need to split them up into two blogs. First things first.

From Bukittingi, we got directions from a local guy names Ed (who will also be our guide on our 10 day jungle trek in the Mentawais) to his friend Teddy's (not-so) brand new guesthouse in a fairly remote part of Western Sumatra. The selling point about staying at Teddy's place was that we would be the first Westerners to stay there, so naturally, we were in! As I explained in my last blog, the place also has a surf break or 2 that haven't ever been surfed. This also means that the village has rarely seen a foreigner (maybe even never) and have certainly never seen a surfer before. I think that pretty much sets the scene.

So we arrive at the bus station in the pouring rain, and manage to explain (with the name written on a piece of paper) where our final destination would be. We got on the right local bus, and headed 4 hours west to Muaro Binguang also known as Teddy's Place. When we arrived at the bus stop, we were greeted with looks of sheer confusion. Especially when Mick pulled his surfboard off the roof. When Teddy came over and greeted us, he offered a warm, firm handshake. Teddy didn't look like most other Indonesians. He had really nice curly shoulder-length hair, a small face and a very genuine smile and just seemed so happy to receive us. We knew right at that moment that we would become good friends with Teddy.

As we walked over to his motorbike, he explained to us that we still had another hour or so ride until we got the house...and, yes, it's still pouring rain. So, Mick hopped on the back of Teddy's bike with his surfboard under his arm, and I jumped on the back of Teddy's friend's bike and we were off. Right away, I noticed that road was really sketchy. It was just a mess of potholes and dirt speed bumps, which given my past experience, made me very nervous. I clenched the shoulders of my driver and asked him to please "Hati Hati" (be careful). He smiled, and laughed a bit, and continued on very slowly, which eased my mind a bit. Just as I started to realize that we were going too slow to do any real harm, I noticed that Mick and Teddy had turned off, and we continued on straight. We were a bit ahead of them, so I simply couldn't oppose...great. Now I am on the back of a motorbike with a stranger going down a dodgy road in the dark and it's friggin' raining cats and dogs I can't communicate with the driver who doesn't speak a lick of English. I sigh, and ask internally what I had gotten myself into this time. Every bad thought you could imagine went through my head, and I tried not to panic. I kept looking back and looking back, and still, no sign of them.

After about 15 minutes or so, I saw a headlight in the distance. Then I heard Mick laugh. Ahhh, I relaxed my jaw and thigh muscles, and shot an angry look at the two of them. "You Okay Krissy" asked Teddy? "Yeah, I was getting worried" I replied (that was obviously a tremendous understatement. Turns out, the two of them had stopped to retrieve the very thing that would dictate the happenings of the rest of our stay at Muaro Binguang...TUAC!

Tuac is a fermented coconut wine, that has a serious knack for creeping up on you, and is the local drink of choice (probably because it's so cheap!) When we arrived at the house, there were 2 other foreigners there already! They had arrived just 1 hour before us (damn it!) but they were excellent company. Carlos (from Spain) and Pedro (from Portugal) greeted us with warm and loud salutations. We all sat around, and it began. Out came the first pitcher of Tuac, and it didn't go down so smooth. It's really hard to describe the taste of it, but Tuac smell-tastes kind of like rotting something. I guess it's fruit, but that doesn't do it justice. Let's just say, it ain't that pleasant. After the second one, it's not so bad though....until you have too many. After many-a-glass of Tuac, we realized that the house we were staying in was home to an Indonesian Reggae band named Cinta Cinta. The guitars and percussion instruments came out not too long after our 2nd glass, and it was a good old fashioned jam session! Me on harmonica, Teddy on reggae vocals, Mick on the Djembe and the other guys on percussion and guitar. What a blast...and these guys were really good!

It's hard to make this long story short, but I will sure try. The next morning, we all went to the beach to watch the maiden surf voyage. We had to go 3 at a time because you have to take a hollowed out canoe across the lagoon for about a half hour and then walk to the surf about 20 minutes from there. A local family watched as I swam in the water and Mick caught a few small waves. They were just taken aback. They didn't quite know what to think of these two whities splashing around in the water. They were silenced when Mick stood up and carved a turn in the first wave. Within a half hour, all the kids were in the water with me, and they were all cheering Mick on. Talk about an ice-breaker!

That afternoon, we went clamming in the lagoon with 3 other local guys. Ori, who is also in the band and lives at the house and two of his friends showed us how to do it, and we emerged with enough shellfish to feed an army! After a sunset swim, we waded back over to the house where the gang was waiting for us to take us to a wedding rehearsal...I know, crazy day huh? It just gets better...

We arrive at the house of the wedding rehearsal an hour later to discover that we are pretty much the guests of honor. Teddy and the band agreed to play (in a very casual style) at the celebration through a friend. Before the music, we are all invited into the brides home, and are shown to the dinning room. This is not your typical dining room, it's actually the very room that the ceremony will take place in tomorrow. It is clad in gold and red, and there is a throne fit for a king and queen at the center. On the floor lies an amazing feast to be enjoyed by us with the accompaniment of the groom. We all sit on the floor Asia style, and are asked to begin. There were so many dishes to choose from, and a heap of rice of course as is tradition. I sampled some non-threatening dishes, and tried to be as polite as possible when the groom asked if I wanted to try the traditional dish. Then I made the mistake of asking what it was...Goat heart. How could I say no to the groom? So, I did it. Yuk. And I payed for it the whole next day.

The rest of the night was comprised of, you guessed it, Tuac and music. It made for a really fun celebration, and as I was later told, the first of it's kind. Cinta Cinta, which is the name of the band, plays Reggae, a genre of music that is not really recognized by most Indonesians. Of course, the loved it (despite the old-school men who just wanted to hear something they knew...universal). As I cheersed with my neighbor, I looked around and noticed that I was the only girl at this celebration. Perfect. I can only imagine what they must have thought of me! So funny. We had a grand old time, drank way too much, and got a ride home in the flat bed of a local's truck. It was a bumpy ride on the same road we had come in on, and I was quick to bed when we got back, already beginning to feel the negative effect of the Tuac.

The next morning, I was sick as a dog...all day long. I think it was the combination of Tuac an Goat Heart that did it. I stayed in bed pretty much all day, and the men of the house took good care of me feeding me Honey ginger tea and antacid tablets. The next morning, I felt fine, thank god, because we had to leave.

That's the really quick version of the story. I wish I could go into detail about each of the people that I became friends with and how much of an effect the band, and the ideas behind their music had on me. I had a really special experience at Muaro Binguang. I've got some photos that I will post later that might help you get the picture.

Tuac Oi Oi Oi Oi, (Tuac, my my my)
Tuac Oi Oi Oi Oi, (repeat)
Tiga Ribu, (30 cents)
Hagi Satu Bottle (it costs for one bottle)

That's the song of the time. I don't think I'll ever drink Tuac again...unless, of course, I have to!