Thursday, 12 March 2015

From the Coral Sea to the South China Sea
(Part 19)

Toli Toli, Sulawesi, Indonesia: Sunday, 8th February 2015 (continued)

Our rather surprising journey by Police Convoy delivered us to the site for the promised traditional cultural performance. The location had been described as a 'traditional house' but appeared to be the former palace of a local sultan, now preserved as a museum. Once again, we were mobbed by smiling local people, anxious to shake our hands, have their picture taken or take our picture.

A warm welcome in Toli Toli.

We slowly made our way through the crush to a courtyard at the rear of the building. A large modern tent, lavishly decorated, had been erected at one side of the courtyard and this was already occupied by what were clearly local dignitaries. The Mayor, the Chief of Police and the Head of the Prison Service were certainly there.

The V.I.P. Tent.

a row of similar tents, with rows of chairs, had been erected on the second side of the courtyard and this, with a smaller tent along the third side of the courtyard accommodated the passengers from 'Caledonian Sky'.

One of the tents for 'Caledonian Sky' passengers.

The fourth side of the courtyard was formed by the rear wall of the museum building. A low stage had been built and a number of local ladies were seated here. Two ladies from the ship were invited to join the local ladies on stage. The band from the passenger terminal at the jetty had set up next to the stage, re-inforced by an additional drummer.

The stage, with the band on the left and the museum building in the background.

A group of dancers (three boys and three girls in another traditional dress featuring black shorts for the boys and red 'pantaloons' for the girls) performed a dance for us.

Part of the dance troupe.

For the next dance, four of the dancers carried wooden poles. After a variation of 'ring-a-ring-of-roses', the poles were used for a variation of the pole dance we'd seen at Kokas (described here. At Kokas, only two parallel poles were used first separated then ‘clacked’ together. At Toli Toli, two more poles at right angles to the first two were deployed, making it harder for the two remaining dancers to dance without getting trapped. Afterwards, our good-natured Expedition Leader, Jane, agreed to attempt the dance, with predictable results.

The Toli Toli Four Pole Dance.

Attention now turned to the stage, where a 'Seven Months Pregnant' ceremony took place. Most of the passengers (including me) were rather unfamilar with this ritual, at least in the form we saw at Toli Toli. The Indian parentree site says "Most cultures the world over, have ceremonies/celebrations before a baby is born. Mostly, all over the world these are celebrated in the 7th month of pregnancy (Usually the odd numbered months – 7th or 9th for good luck - but the 9th month might be too late)." In Java, the mitoni ritual is practised. In Toli Toli, a bed covered with a yellow sheet had a number of coloured scarves placed across before a young pregnant woman in yellow 'pyjamas' lay on the bed. One of the local ladies on stage then declaimed the ritual, culminating in the removal of the uppermost of the scarves which was tossed into the courtyard in a theatrical manner. In turn, the other local ladies on stage each removed a scarf, followed by the two ladies selected from the ship. Finally, another local lady, presumably the oldest or most senior, removed the seventh scarf which was white.

Removal of the seventh (white) scarf.

The young pregnant woman left the stage and stood in the courtyard, where she was joined by her husband, also in yellow pyjamas. I'm afraid they both looked rather miserable. I don't think I'd have enjoyed being the focus of such a public ceremony and, apart from all the photographs being taken by the ship's passengers and the various local people, there was a group of local men with high-specification cameras prowling the courtyard in a good imitation of paparazzi. As far as I could see, the husband was then required to chop the top off a coconut with a vicious-looking machete and present it to his wife. I suppose the final part of the ritual was predictable - the couple were liberally doused with water (giving a literal meaning to "baby shower").

The bedraggled couple after the ceremony.

It was only afterwards I was told that the orange sheet arranged as a sling which had been suspended from the roof of the stage throughout the ceremony was a crib and had contained a four-week old baby, presumably to symbolise a happy delivery for the expectant mother. The Expedition Guide gave various presents to the young couple who perhaps then looked a little less glum. A few of the passengers were then selected to be honoured by Toli Toli - they were each presented with a decorated scarf and hat.

With the formal business completed, we were invited to look around the 'Museum'. At ground level, there were just timbers supporting the accommodation on what the English call the 'First' floor (but which Americans and much of the world call the 'Second' floor). A long flight of wooden steps lead up to the accommodation where the lighting was a bit difficult for photography but I've included a picture of a rather nice bed.

The Bed in the Museum.

An open walkway ran around the outside of the accommodation and the local children were having great fun scooting around this whilst the opportunity presented.

"... the local children were having great fun scooting around ...".

"The Mayor has invited you to visit his Premises" we were told, so we said goodbye to all our new friends and piled back onto the buses.

The 'Caledonian Sky' passengers making their way back to the buses.

Once again, we travelled in convoy with the police pick-up truck leading the way. We made our way across town whilst it rained quite heavily. By the time we arrived, the rain had virtually stopped. The 'premises' appeared to be a large cafe with a roofed but open-sided area, plus a number of modern plastic tents to accommodate the 'overspill'. Once again, lots of local people were curious to watch the event. There was a permanent open-air stage with microphones, large loudspeakers and a 'Yamaha' keyboard. The back wall of the stage sported a computer-printed banner reading:-
"We Are Proud To Serve You"
Soft drinks and beer were served together with a liberal supply of a sort of pancake, with chocolate sauce. The vocalist regaled us with various 'Western' standards and, before long, passengers from the ship were joining in enthusiastically. Once again, it did seem a little surreal.

Sing-a-long, Toli Toli style.

But the best bit, for me, was the 'Bamboo Band'. This was like a Brass Band, but with the instruments made out of bamboo. Unbelievable! The melody was carried by bamboo 'piccolos', held transversely and played by using fingers to 'stop' holes, rather than keys. There were bamboo trumpets but without valves. I think there were 'stop' holes to allow some range. The other instruments seemed to be in the style of a marching band, with forward-facing bells similar to the mellophone and the sousaphone. Again, there were no valves and I'm not sure which instruments had 'stop' holes to give some variation but the combined effect provided a splendid 'oom-pah' sound, even if a mite limited musically.

The 'Bamboo Band' - 'trumpets' in the first row, 'piccolos' in the second, 'sousaphones' behind.

The 'Bamboo Band' - variations on the 'sousaphone'.

The 'Bamboo Band' - I've dubbed this splendid variation the 'toli-toli-phone'.

With this entertainment over, it was back onto the buses to be returned to our ship after a memorable afternoon in Toli-Toli. It was drizzling slightly as we made our way through the passenger terminal and across the jetty to the gangway of our waiting ship. I noticed a yellow road tanker parked near the stern of the ship, apparently having replenished our Fresh Water Tanks.

Returning to our ship at Toli Toli.

At around 6.00 p.m., we left Toli Toli for Sandakan, a distance of 366 nautical miles.

You can find all the posts on this trip here.

My pictures

Sailing to Toli Toli, Sulawesi.
Toli Toli, Sulawesi.