I guess the village is about 200 people but I’m not really sure. Most are farmers but the crops are varied; red and white rice alternated every six months (every crop), or cloves sold to cigarette companies, and coffee, they roast it here too. There is also a lot of cacao but there is a fruit fly problem killing more than half of the fruit on most of the trees. These are the major ones that I know of, but they also grow other spices like nutmeg, shallots seem common, today I saw zucchini, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans, chili and many different leafy greens, but I assume these are for local consumption not for export. For fruits I saw Pineapples, papayas, dragon fruits, avocados, bananas and coconuts. I’m sure they grow much more but this is what I’ve seen. It seems like they use most of what grows naturally, not just the very common banana leaf for a plate, which is great, but many leaves can be used to heal and roots, fruits, and flowers. They have learned through the generations what can and can’t be used. I think if you get cancer or some can’t be killed without radiation disease, this is the place to come to get better naturally, or at least to die in paradise.
Despite their herbal cures and healthy variety of food, many still believe that if they get sick it is because of the spirits or bad karma. We went by a house and the girl inside was sick. Obviously I am no doctor and Ary, who I was with, was not either, but all the same Ary tried to comfort her and talked to her, she tried to find out the cause. It seemed like she needed to be asked what she had eaten or been exposed to, to follow a normal line of deductive reasoning that you would ask a child, but it was uncommon here, the girl wanted to see a spiritual healer. In the modern world I guess we are pickier eaters or don’t live directly off the land.
There is a sort of village healer, and old woman about 60, she has a big smile and seems chipper and in good health. She offered me snacks which I liked and remembered me when she saw me walk past her house in the woods. She would know what plants to use to heal different sicknesses and the old natural remedies forgotten in our modern world, not scientifically tested but tested through time and many generations. I would imagine that sometimes she probably heals with a placebo effect, her patients believing in her powers, but I also believe she would know secrets that science either doesn’t know yet or has forgotten.
The village has two chiefs. One is from the government and the other is more related to the church or you could say tribal. The village by the way is basically all the people in the town. The church and the village seem to be one. It turns out I’m staying at the village chiefs house. He seemed a powerful fella and Ary said he was a bit feared and respected, but I just thought he was a rich man, as he owns the restaurant where I stay, a guest house somewhere, a coffee plantation and a rice plantation. They are not huge but they bring in money for sure. Now that I know he is the chief I see he is a bit more than just a rich guy, I see that he holds himself as a man of wisdom and power. He is nice, friendly and incredibly relaxed, but I don’t know if he doesn’t speak English or just doesn’t say much to me. There are often people here talking to him and he always seems very important. His attitude fits his position. The positions of chief, both of them, change every 5 years. The government one is not so important here as things don’t go through the law as much. If there is a dispute they don’t usually go to the law and get witnesses, they go to the village chief and talk it out and a solution is decided upon.
Every new or full moon there is a three day ceremony. Last night was the last night of the full moon ceremony, so he and the healer woman were up until 4 am. I don’t know what the ceremony consisted of but I assume it was like the one I attended the day before: music, praying, dancing and offerings to the gods, but it would be on a smaller scale. The ceremony that I witnessed was four villages combined and the day that most people go. Last night was a private church for this village alone, Munduk. You would probably need to be very dedicated or in need of some serious good luck to be out all night.
The town has many guest houses to make money. It is a bit sad because it equals people coming in and taking pictures of their culture but having very little to do with it. It is also very expensive to tour here. As far as Bali goes there isn’t much culture left that has not been altered by the tourist trade. Today I walked through different farms in the town. I saw where they make fertilizer, and also a small garden next to it . There was a guy who lived there with a wasp tattooed on his forehead. He was a friend of Ary’s so we stopped and talked to him. He made us coffee and cut some cacao for me to eat. It is orange and oval shaped, gourd-like but not perfectly oval, it’s ribbed. The part you could eat was a white coating around the bean, kind of like pith around the beans, very sweet full flavored and a little citrusy and rich. It was really delicious until you bit into the incredibly bitter seed, or bean, which is what makes the chocolate. We met another guy who gave me some red rice seeds to plant at home. There are lots of workers in the village who go from crop to crop as harvesters. I guess the village chief pays more than others, he does 1/3 of profits for red rice which is normal, and 2/3 for white which I think is a bit high for here. The workers usually take product as pay rather than money.
Our mission for the day was to go to his coffee plantation. We went past a sixty-or-so-foot waterfall that I had seen the day before, and met a woman and her son, and a dog named Bobo with his two very amusing puppies. They invited us in for bananas, coffee and to talk. We then met the husband and their younger daughter who was very cute. I watched the dogs and chickens mostly, as I had no idea what they were talking about in Bahasa, then Ary said it was time to go back to the house. We were at the coffee plantation and I didn’t even realize it. So the guy offered to take us into the property further to see more. I’m sure this made Ary happy too, but I think she waits till things are offered, and isn’t pushy, so my innocent unawareness was a bit helpful.
I didn’t see too many trees, because I don’t think it was a very big place. Maybe plantation just referred to the fact that there was a land owner and someone who worked the property and lived on it. It was on a many levels, built on the side of the steep hill just like the rice fields and everything else, in a stair step pattern. We past some workers who offered…more coffee. No thanks, if I had had the three cups offered so far, I would be so jittery, but I had declined them all because I drank one at the house already and caffeine hits me hard.
The man showed us how he was splicing in a new strain from a different area. It was organic as was most everything here. He cut off a branch, then cut the stem diagonally about an inch, then the same to a small piece of new stem, connected them, cut sides touching, and finally wrapped them in a thin strip of plastic. Then he put a small bag over the top, though I’m not sure why, maybe to keep in moisture, and make it humid. Another way he did it was to cut the new stem diagonally on the left and right of one side. Then he just cut a slit down the still growing stem and slid the new into the old, then again the plastic bandage and the bag over the top. The coffee tree starts to yield at about year three and is about 4 ft tall. Its branches grow wide and the new leaves are really shiny green or reddish green. Because of their shininess my first thought was it might be some versions of poison oak. You can only harvest the coffee beans once a year but it is still a profitable business and Indonesia produces tons of it. Why do you think we nicknamed coffee Java?
Then we walked back home. It’s a slow, quiet, peaceful walk with Ary. The forest around us is lush and green and dotted with colorful flowers. We pass houses and can look inside of them and see people now and then. And step over a steam now and again too. When we see people they are happy to see me, nod hello and continue on with what they are doing.