Thursday, June 16, 2005

Goats and Skeletons

Thursday 16 June, 2005 17:06 Lhoong

I got into the field today. The last few days I’ve been cooped up in the office and it was great to get out into the fresh salt sea air. I actually went as an emissary of our Water Sanitation delegate, Teh. He had promised to build a dam in the Lhoong and hadn’t been able to get back to the village because he’s been so busy typing his own proposals to NHQ. Sujata, our psycho-social delegate accompanied me. She wanted to look at schools and orphanages. The road was extremely slick due to the tropical rains and Indra, our driver, almost slid off the road on three different occasions. We’ve hired another translator… Poor Ayu didn’t fare that well. The winding roads got to her and she threw up five times. If I didn’t know her better, I would have guessed she was pregnant!

Believe it or not, we got lost on a one way road… we overshot the village (which is just a collection of tents). Had lunch in a small little warung (shop). It was a noodle place. Food was good but spicy. Everything went well until a goat jumped on our table and broke a plate. It was trying to get at the fried bananas that had just been served to us.

After our lunch, we did find the remains of the village of Lhoong. Villagers were out in the fields, burning stumps and clearing rubble. Women were bringing small logs to the men and the men were whittling them into fenceposts. Another group of men was digging holes and dropping the fence posts into the ground. We walked towards where the villagers were working and saw that many had stopped working. They were gathered around a large stump that they had been clearing. Sujata wanted to talk to them and as we approached someone exclaimed that they had found a body. That stopped Sujata in her tracks… I went closer… and yes, there were definitely remains. They had found several arm bones and part of a jaw and skull. In this tropical climate, bodies compose in weeks. What surprised me most was that the villagers dug a small hole next to the bones and just put the bones in the hole and closed it up… No prayer, no formality. Sujata asked one of the older women if this was a traumatic… she said no, it was quite normal. She added that finding the remains offered a well needed break from the days labor-intensive activities. What a world, what a world.


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