Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy New Year

2014’s been a hell of a year – and it’s only February 3rd. Stats for the first 23 days of the year: four countries visited, three US states, all four hemispheres, six hotels; 13 individual flight segments (mostly late), one landing in Orlando to deplane a sick passenger, three Amtrak rides plus two British Rail, one 3-hour cab ride, two flights boarded and then deplaned for delays, one instance of delayed luggage; four talks given on three topics, four class sessions taught in two languages, too many interviews, too little sleep, two blizzards and one polar vortex. Push the window back to include the final days of December and you can add a wedding and one more hotel to the list. I’m still sleeping it all off. At least out here in Indonesia I can do so without freezing half to death. 

Grass skirts, cell phones.

I’m afraid my documentation of last year’s trip ended rather abruptly. Long story short: I caught malaria a second time over Christmas (I think I wrote that bit down?), flew out, spent a day in Makassar eagerly speaking English with A-, met my aunt & uncle in Kuala Lumpur, headed out to Borneo, hiked around Kucing, saw some orangutans, dove in Mabul/Sipidan for a week, saw a crapton of sharks (and an orangutan crab), felt vaguely crappy and post-malarial the whole time, went home, felt really crappy, and slept it off for about a month. The photos are all on Facebook and Picasa (or whatever that’s evolved into) if you’re interested.

But this trip! I was supposed to fly in on the 15th, but a last-minute trip to New Hampshire (two of the three Amtrak rides) pushed that back to the 17th. So a particular guardian angel drove me to JFK, from whence I flew to Hong Kong, then to Bali (delayed), got a hotel in Kuta to catch a few hours sleep since the ramen from the Hong Kong airport rather disagreed with me, 2am flight to Jayapura via Timika, and from there to Manokwari, where I checked into the fanciest hotel in town and went the fuck to sleep. I thought I’d been lucky to get an exit row on those last few legs, but on Garuda apparently those seats don’t lean back, so it was an unpleasantly awake few hours flying east. 50 hours door to door, give or take? This is why I usually take a few days in Bali en route.

Found on the porch.
I’d messaged Ibu Min in advance about staying in my usual room but didn’t get a reply, so I figured she was full up and booked a week at the Swiss Belhotel, complete with hot showers and free wifi. On Monday, the first day of the conference, Sonja (who’s staying at Ibu Min’s too) said my room was all made up and they were wondering where I was, so on Tuesday I moved. Much better to be with the family, more comfortable, better food, friendlier; and since the hotel was prepaid for the week I held onto the key and swung by most afternoons for hot showers and internet and a little peace and quiet (two toddlers in the house makes for a noisy day, especially since one of them is Jhio, whose favorite pastimes are yelling, making noise, and throwing things). Not a bad setup at all, for as long as it lasted. It’s bule central around here now, with four of us in the house and two more moved in next door. It’s weird having this many around the university too. I’m not used to speaking this much English out here.

The conference was fun, and I met a bunch of people whose work on related languages I’d read. Good people to know all around. My talk went well – slides are on my website in case you care about antepenultimate stress shift in Wamesa. Tuesday there was dinner at a Manadonese restaurant where dog and bat were served – I can now say from experience that dog is too chewy, bat is full of tiny bones, and pork tastes better than either (though the spicing was quite nice). Wednesday was a boat trip out to Pulau Mansinam, and island in the bay here, where we all went swimming and ate taro and fish and yams from a campfire and got sunburns. The real fun was Wednesday night, at the conference banquet. The pouring rain ruled out the original plan of having it on the beach, but the Rektor of the university kindly offered his Rektorate, so we ate babi guling (spit-roasted pig) in a shiny new white-tile building with only three tables and not a speck of dirt anywhere. After were traditional dance performances from two local groups, and then a lip-synching performance by a group of waria (transvestites, but mostly with top surgery) in tight glittery mini-dresses and platform boots. Probably the worst drag show I’ve ever seen – it would’ve helped if they’d at least known the words. It went on too long, but the embarrassed looks on the faces of all the middle-aged westerners in the audience almost made it worth it. Maybe if I’d had a bintang or two.

khas Papua

What else… the conference ended Friday; Saturday I met up with Ibu Ice for the first time and Sunday was lazy. Virgine took Sonja and Laura and I out to eat coto (a Makassarese beef soup) at a warung in Marina. I ordered just plain meat, but ended up with chunks of lung and liver and tripe and lord knows what else in my bowl. How very generous of them. Om Jemmy caught a giant tarantula outside the house, and Cousin Gary brought Dunkin Donuts from Jayapura. Monday and Tuesday I taught phonetics and phonology to a group of Unipa undergrads and started Wamesa elicitation in earnest. The head-mounted mic I bought won’t work with my recorder despite the adaptor and the website’s claims that it doesn’t need phantom power, but Laura’s lending me her recorder that takes xlr input directly, though that’s old enough to have its own hiccups. So when it decides to actually record I get lovely clear spectrograms, and when it tells me its recording but really it’s not (cough yesterday) I get the files from my little H2, which I’m running as backup. I’m nearly through my list of questions, and still a week to go. Will have to think of more.

On Thursday I went back to Mansinam with the fieldwork masterclass Nick Evans is running for grad students. Mostly I’ve been too busy with my own work, but I sat in on a few lectures, and I wanted to see the walk-and-talk on the island. Turns out a lot of van Balen’s family is buried there, which is huge if you’re from Windesi but nobody else seems to have heard of him (Dutch missionary, late 1800’s, did the Wamesa bible and hymn translations). Otto and Geissler, the first to land on Mansinam and Manokwari, are much bigger here. On the 5th is a holiday celebrating their arrival, with dance performances and boats and church services all out on Mansinam. Huge deal. There’ve been parades and dancing and drumming downtown all week, though I’ve missed most of it. Maybe tomorrow.

At Mansinam.
Saturday I dropped some cloth off at the tailor’s to have a skirt made and discovered that my ATM card had gone missing (so far no unauthorized purchases, thank god). Never dull here in Papua. 

I haven’t climbed any volcanoes yet, but I did drive up some mountains yesterday. Yesterday at 3:30am the four of us – me Sonja, Laura, and Freya – plus Ibu Min, Virgine, cousin Ela, and a friend, piled into a Hilux pickup truck and drove through the Arfak mountains to Mt. Anggi. The first hour was paved, though with all the swerving and honking and accelerating and braking that comes with driving in Indonesia. The second hour wasn’t, and by that point I was nauseous as hell despite the Dramamine, and all three girls in the pickup bed were puking. The road was a mess, all ruts and rocks and giant potholes and bridgeless river crossings up and down through the clouds with jungle on one side and dropoffs on the other, and we were all getting tossed around like rag dolls in the cab. Around sunrise we stopped for a break and I ate a faux-Nutella sandwich and took some stronger drugs, and from there on out was able to enjoy the views, though Virgine and Ela kept puking for a few more hours. The mountains were stunning, and many pictures were taken. Around 9am (after plenty of pee-and-photo breaks) the driver pulled over and said we’d reached the top of Gunung Anggi, so we all piled out and took some more pictures. The landscape out there was sparer than lower down – lots of lichen, no trees. Reminded me of northern Scotland or the interior of Naxos. From up there we overlooked two lakes, Danau Perempuan (Woman Lake) to one side and Danau Laki-laki (Lake Man) to the other. After a bit we drove back down and had lunch by the shore of Danau Laki-laki and I had a nap on the beach, and a good burn in the sun. It was chilly up there to begin with, maybe mid-50’s, but with the sun the fog broke and it started to warm up. From there back in the car, back towards home with a stop at Menyambo village to buy a gigantic bag of passionfruits fresh from the trees. We got home just after four, and once again I had a mandi and went the fuck to sleep. 

somewhere in the Arfaks

 And that’s my last two weeks. More of the usual this week, then flying home via Jakarta, Singapore, and Tokyo on the 13th. Until then, I’ll be enjoying the sunshine and avoiding the mosquitoes. 

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