In the afternoon we walked up to Woloki village to find Didi. Woloki turned out to be not far from Geckos Homestay. We walked up a hill, starting by the same path you’d take if you were to walk up Kelimutu through the villages. Now that would truly be the way to earn the view at the top of Kelimutu.
The first part of the path was paved, albeit with rather dilapidated concrete. After ten minutes, the concrete gave way to earth, which was easier on the feet. We walked for twenty minutes more and then we saw two Indonesian women coming towards us. Suddenly one was hugging me and jumping up and down. It was Didi. She looked almost exactly the same. We kept hugging and I felt very emotional to find her again, thinking about the passage of time running so fast, like a crazy current carrying us all along, and all the things that happen to you on the way.
In my broken Indonesian we talked and introduced everybody. She told us she lived with her cousin Dina who was the woman beside her, and then we carried on to her village. An old guy met us as we walked in and he got very excited and pumped my hand up and down over and over. We stopped at a group of men playing cards and Didi introduced us. The old man was still very excited and other villagers came over to see what was going on. Didi was grinning tremendously and the old guy looked like he was about to burst. I started feeling very overwhelmed. Paul muttered to me “Keep it together, Anne.” I couldn’t believe how excited they were and it made me feel very emotional.
We kept walking to her house and more women joined us. More introductions. Then we went inside. Chairs were pulled out and a group of people gathered in her small living room, some sitting, some standing. Didi served tea and biscuits, and then we attempted to talk more. She told me that she’d never married and neither did the cousin she lived with. Her two brothers had moved away and her ancient Mum had died. She told me that Ibu (mother) Cecilia was buried right outside the house with 16 other relatives in the large raised pink tile grave. She also asked after my sister Sally. I was amazed she remembered my sister’s name.
Didi now lived in a concrete house with six rooms, including a traditional earth floor kitchen. The house was built five years ago in the same spot as her traditional bamboo and thatch house. There were still pigs, dogs and chickens running about, but the communal washing area in the village was gone. The old man showed me around the garden: papaya, cocoa, cashews, coffee, vegetables, and they also had bags of dried tobacco leaves to sell in the market. We went back inside and Didi asked “Makan?” (Eat)
We nodded and went through to her dining room. While we were talking her cousin Dina had whipped up a huge meal: rice, fried dried fish, vegetables, noodles and papaya. Papaya seemed to grow everywhere and always be available. Her cousin Willie arrived who spoke some English, so he helped translate as we sat at the table. Paul got out his phone with a Google translation app and somehow we managed to continue a conversation. There was something about using a phone to talk though that seemed to take away from human connection. It seemed better to stumble along without the phone, kind of like who cares if we don’t understand each other, at least we’re looking in each other’s eyes.
Didi had been 38 when I’d stayed with her, now she was 64. She was in great shape. Her teeth were white and straight, and she obviously had never developed a betel nut habit, unlike the old woman beside her whose broken teeth and gums were stained red. Betel nut is a mild stimulant, kind of like nicotine but with a ritual around it similar to giving guests tea. It also suppressed the appetite. Perhaps that might have been useful in the past in the villages, but it also had been linked to cancer.
Didi still dressed in the traditional way with an ikat sarong, one that you roll to your waist, but unroll if you’re cold so that you can put it around your shoulders. She told us she worked seven days a week, growing vegetables, drying food and in the rice field. They had a little bamboo storehouse for food, raised on stilts, full of dried corn.
We talked some more while Sabine, Nerys and Aaron went outside to look at baby chicks. Then it was photo time. Didi never smiled for the photos, like those black and white photographs of ancient relatives who thought photo-taking serious business. She invited us to come back the next day for lunch and we said we would.