Thursday, June 29, 2006

A rainy day on the road

On Tuesday Tartius and I headed off on his motorcycle to Wioi. It rained all day. We got wet and muddy. In Kawangkoan we stopped (as is the custom) for coffee and pork buns (pictured). When we got to Wioi it was still raining — too noisy to do any recording. Then it got dark and the power went off (as is also the custom). So we wandered around for a bit, went to visit Om Bert and stayed chatting for a while.

When we got back to Tartius’s parents’ house, the power was back on and Tartius’s father Anes wanted to watch the recording we made last week in Tatengesan. So we put it on the laptop for him, and for an hour Om Anes sat there, with headphones on, re-enacting his part of the conversation just as if he were right there again, occasionally overcome with laughter. Very funny to watch and also nice to see someone enjoying the stuff I’m recording.

My birthday

This was Monday. I celebrated with an extra long day of transcribing and annotating data. Tartius brought me pork buns for breakfast. My neighbour cooked me a tasty fish with just a little sambal on it (pictured), which we ate for lunch. And in the evening a friend invited me over to a dinner of pork, dog, and a stew consisting of ‘some kind of bird’ and snails. Most of it was very tasty but as usual I felt obliged to eat the dog, which tasted particularly doggy and later made me feel quite ill. On the way home I wanted to get some saguer to drink, but Tartius wouldn’t let me, saying that if I drank saguer we wouldn’t be able to travel to the village the next day because I’d have an upset stomach. (Though the dog had already sorted that out for me).
But we found a bottle of warm beer and drank that.

A banana tree for a hat

On Wednesday morning we went out into the hills to get some more video of palm sugar production — the guys climbing up the tress to collect the bamboo tubes full of saguer from the night and so forth.
I got a little bit before the stupid camera decided to flash ”DEW ALERT” and shut down for an hour. This has happened just about every time I’ve tried to use the camera in the early morning, and there isn’t really anything I can do about it. It’s chilly at night, then it gets warmer in the morning and is quite steamy — it’s just how it is.
This meant that I missed a few important steps of the process, and also when a woman came past carrying a young banana tree (for replanting) in a basket on her head I couldn’t get a photo of her. I swear it was a metre tall. A hat that would be the envy of every marquee at the Melbourne Cup. She stayed chatting for about 10 minutes, didn’t take her tree off.

I spent most of the rest of the day at Om Bert’s house. We’d invited a notoriously funny storyteller, Om Niklas, down from his hut in the hills, so I shot a couple of hours of video of a bunch of guys collapsing in giggles. I foresee heavy use of the @ character (laughter) when transcribing.

I also got them to show me the directional system (again), with associated gestures. The one in the picture is
taná ‘west and/or downhill’.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

So, the big day that I didn’t blog about last Tuesday.

I went down to Wioi with the aim of getting some video of some of the local cottage industries in order to elicit explanations and narratives from the films later.

Hula watu (Indonesian: gula batu) is palm sugar (pictured), and sopi (Indonesian: cap tikus) is a spirit distilled from the fermented palm sap or saguer.

I also went with Bert and Anes (two of the old Toratán guys) to Tatengesan, a village nearer the coast, where they used to speak Toratán but not any more. But we did find one old guy who still spoke it and he was very happy to sit down with the Wioi gang and use the language for the first time in ages. They talked for 2 hours straight and I recorded some good natural conversation.

Since then I’ve been working transcribing and annotating. Now that’s what I call exciting! I’ve got a little crew of people who come to my house to help with typing and translating. But next week I’ll need to spend the whole time in Wioi trying to get consensus on orthographic conventions, and working on the lexical database. As well as making more recordings.

I’m painfully aware that I only really have a few weeks left here and I want to make the most of them.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I can’t seem to get away from the porky theme of this blog. My Toratán word for the day is awun: the sound a wild pig makes when it smells a human.

The pigs in the photo used to belong to my landlord Rudy. They lived in his yard in Manado, which backs onto the Malalayang river. During some floods a couple of months ago the river rose up, washed away the wall and one of the pigs headed downstream into Manado Bay, never to be seen again. Rudy managed to save the other pig, but because its pen was wrecked he sent it to the slaughterhouse.
And on that cheery note...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Porky goodness 3

The smoking went quite well, I think. Basically I cooked the pork on the same kind of coconut shell fire that would be used for sate, but tried to keep the temperature down and the smoke up. And trapped the smoke by putting an upside down wok on top. I cooked two batches, for about 2 hours each. And I ended up with lumps of rather tasty smoked pork. I ate quite a lot of it yesterday and it hasn’t killed me. Actually, it is well-cooked right to the middle, so I’m not too worried about that.


My Toratán word for the day is matuhou. It means roughly ‘wake up in an unexpected place’. For example, of a child who went to sleep in one place, was carried while sleeping, and woke up in a different place.

In other news, I am somewhat baffled by this story, which says that future = forward and past = back has been claimed to be a cognitive universal, but that one (and only one) language, Aymara has been found to show that this is not the case:
Until now, all the studied cultures and languages of the world – from European and Polynesian to Chinese, Japanese, Bantu and so on – have not only characterized time with properties of space, but also have all mapped the future as if it were in front of ego and the past in back. The Aymara case is the first documented to depart from the standard model," said Nunez.
Well, perhaps Nunez and Sweetser have been misrepresented in the story (which is not at all unlikely). Or maybe the cognitive science people haven’t been looking very hard (I confess I am not up to speed on the cog sci literature, because I am not only a Bad Linguist, but also an Awful Person). But I have to point out that Makassarese and the other South Sulawesi languages also refer to the past as in front of ego and so forth —
minggu ri olo <week PREP front> ‘last week’, minggu ri boko <week PREP back> ‘next week’. And while I haven’t really looked into this, I get the impression that this is not that unusual in Austronesian languages. I’ve been told that Sasak does it the same way, for instance, and there are traces of a past = front viewpoint in Malay as well.

Anyway, I have downloaded the actual paper, and I shall read it and see what the claim really is.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Porky goodness 2

So the pork has spent 4 days in the fridge with salt and palm sugar on it, and I think that is probably long enough. I was worried that it would smell bad, but actually it smells fine. I gave it a wash (in rainwater, given the absence of town water at the moment), and I’ll let it dry for a while as recommended. Meanwhile I’ll venture out into the rain to find the coconut shells and clove wood for smoking.
This will give me a break from preparing recordings for transcription and analysis which is starting to get little dull. I have video of quite a long and interesting discussion about wedding customs, but unfortunately the radio lapel mic feeding to the video camera wasn’t working, so I have had to use my backup recording for the audio. This was recorded with a little t-mic sitting on a table, and features a lot of chicken noise.
Also unfortunately whenever the subject matter got particularly interesting, Bert (the main speaker) would turn completely away from the mic and speak really quietly to Tartius (who was doing the interviewing), while Sepus (Bert’s brother) would decide to explain things to me in Manado Malay at the same time. The result being that there are long sections where the explanation in Toratán can hardly be heard, with a parallel explanation in Manado Malay drowning it out.
Still, at least I had a backup recording, or I wouldn’t have anything useable at all.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Water water everywhere

For some reason the water supply to my house has been off for the last few days, and it’s a bit hard to work out who is supposed to fix it. Anyway, whoever it might be, they are unlikely to do it on the weekend so I might as well just get used to it. Luckily it is the rainy season again (already!), so instead of taking a shower I can just go and stand outside for a bit.
The picture is of Cutie, one of the kittens my son begged off Fice the neighbour, just before going back to Australia. Cutie has fleas, and worms, and he meows incessantly. The same is true of his brother Fluffy. So, having ascertained that it is not possible to get worm medicine for cats either in Tomohon or Manado, I got some worm pills intended for people, crushed up about an 8th of a tablet each and gave it to them mixed with some condensed milk. And tomorrow, weather and water situation permitting, I shall give them a bath and wash them with flea shampoo. Perhaps after that they will be ready to join polite society.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Porky goodness

As discussed elsewhere, I am attempting to make, if not bacon, at least some smoked pork kind of thing. To this end, I bought several lumps of belly pork from the less-than-completely-hygienic Tomohon market, and I have smeared them with a combination of salt and palm sugar, and they shall stay in the fridge for a while. How exactly I am going to smoke them has not yet been determined, but it will involve coconut shells and clove wood.
Everyone has the misapprehension that what I want to make is ragey (lumps of pork grilled on a skewer). Many times I have explained that actually, no, nice though it is, ragey is not what I want to make, and I explain about how I want to smoke the pork over a period of at least several hours so that it has a nice smoky flavour. That’s not how you make ragey, they say.

(The picture is of course of a different porky event — this was the roast pig my landlord’s family brought us at Christmas, nicely wrapped in brown paper.)

Monday, June 5, 2006

The voices of frogs

It’s not the most interesting story in the world, but here goes.
While doing fieldwork on the Makassarese language for my PhD, one night the frogs outside my room were so loud I couldn’t sleep. In the morning I told my friend Udin taena kutinro ri bangngi nasaba’ tumpanga ‘I didn’t sleep because of the frogs’. He looked surprised and said apa napare’ tumpanga? ‘what were the frogs doing?’
Were they in my room? Were they climbing on me? Had I eaten too many? Was I having frog-related dreams?
It turned out I had to be specific and say ... nasaba’ sa’rana tumpanga ‘because of the voices of the frogs’.
It tickled me for two reasons. One is that Makassarese is generally very tolerant of ambiguity — people will work out from context what the intended meaning is. And innumerable times I had found myself as a listener or reader, mid-story, having lost track completely of who was doing what. But when I try out a rather innocuous seeming sentence? No, that contains an intolerable ambiguity, which must be spelled out precisely.
The other reason is of course that it would take a lot more than (the voices of) frogs to keep most Indonesians awake, so fair enough, Udin wouldn’t immediately jump to that conclusion.

There aren’t any frogs right outside my window these days, but I hear their voices every evening, in the field out the back. Unless they are drowned out by karaoke from drunken neighbours.