A Second Home

As soon as Toraja unraveled its stunning landscape, as we drove from Pongtiku airport to Makale, on a hot November morning in 1996, I was hooked.

I arrived as a VSO-volunteer to teach English at a Christian University. This two and half year experience has, I think, forever altered my perspective on life.

On a warm day in Sa'dan 2000 , North Toraja

The people were friendly and laid-back, and made me feel at home right from the start. Getting to know the interesting animistic mortuary rituals became one of my favourite ways of spending spare time. There was ample time and opportunity to attend rituals, not only death rituals, but also life rituals such as marriages and house ceremonies.

Another hobby I enthusiastically adopted in Toraja was bird watching. The sheer quantity of birds of prey is amazing, as well as the wide variety of smaller songbirds and all kinds of herons. I also got a good chance to discover tropical gardening, which, for years, had been something I'd only dreamt of doing. Dabbling in orchids, various kinds of flowering bananas and the bewildering variety of palm trees and mangos (just to mention a few) became a daily obsession.

In Toraja, the landscape always seems to change, something that has always fascinated me. In one direction, I see a rugged mountain range, in another there are enormous bamboo trees making a dense forest, and in between are hidden hamlets with old people sitting down drinking palm wine. Turning around, I see an endless patchwork cover of paddy fields, where women are working to plant the young rice shoots, or to harvest the golden rice crop.

Life seems without worries here. People go about their business in a relaxed way, always smiling.

Now living in Aceh, one of my favourite holiday destinations is still Toraja, which I can proudly call my second home.

Godi Dijkman