Horas- Keeping it simple on Samosir
Horas! Welcome, hello and farewell that is, from peaceful Tuk Tuk.
Picturebook red steeples dot the verdant landscape around Lake Toba
From afar this could be super-size Swiss scenery! Only by zooming in, do the flamboyantly arched roofs and exotic greenery reveal another story: This is equatorial Batak country
Set in cool comfort, 900 meters above sea level in northern Sumatra, and blessed with a year-round early summer climate, all things green flourish here: Palm trees, orchids, daisies, bougainvillea, corn, mangoes, avocados and evergreens crowd the gardens in rare unity.
We were lucky to get to know two long-term expats, Marion and René, who are both partners of ethnic Bataks. We asked them about daily life on Samosir island. Unanimous answer- Ever since tourism began to dwindle in the ‘90s, it’s become harder and harder for Batak families to reach their two major goals: Most importantly, a college education for their, very gently raised, children (I was delighted to see all babies carried in a sling!)
College graduation photos are a source of great pride- they’re huge, often gold-framed and always prominently displayed.
Second most important goal- accumulating a healthy stash of cash! So although inflated prices in the stores can be annoying- jacking them up is an understandable strategy, seeing how quiet things usually are here in Tuk Tuk…..
Quiet, except of course when the men’s love of music gets the better of them
which is most evenings…. The laid back acoustic guitar playing and melodious songs
contradict the Batak’s wild and fiery reputation. I’m guessing Tuak, the home-tapped milky palm wine, helps with the chilled-out vibe. To be fair, you’ll hear people, men and women, singing all day, guitars come out in the afternoon…
Anyway, Toba Batak lifestyle is something of a law unto itself, and religion is only one piece of the intriguing puzzle. Christianity was introduced here, as were the first snug Nordic churches, by Dutch and German missionaries during Dutch colonisation in the 19th century. Before this, the Toba Batak were feared as fierce, cannibalistic warriors. They held occult religious beliefs that included harsh, and occasionally gory, punishments
But many of their milder traditions still survive: The wedding we were invited to last week started off in a Catholic church, but a much longer part of the fourteen hour affair was dedicated to traditional Batak ceremonies like “buying the bride” and “knotting the family-bonds scarf”, that we didn’t get a great view of, seeing that half the town turned up to watch, eat and make merry, (in a disappointingly tame way!). Thanks for having us!