Monday, March 26, 2007


I am spending the night in Singapore Changi Airport waiting for a flight to London in the morning. There are certainly worse airports to spend the night, although I must admit I have spent a lot of time in Changi over the last couple of years and it is starting to get a little dull.

Yesterday was my last day in Wioi, which also coincided with the villages 155th birthday, so there was quite a knees-up. I was called up on stage to say some incoherent words, and then Om Bert got up and gave a stirring speech in Toratán about how important the language is, and if I could go to all that effort of coming from England to learn about it, then young people in Wioi could too. It was a nice speech and the old people nodded in agreement. The young people didn't understand a word, of course. Oh well.

Anyway, it was a productive fieldtrip, I think. I got several good long conversations and stories recorded and got some way to transcribing them before leaving, and managed to follow up some things I thought might be interesting.

I also had plans to do a few other non-work things - climb one of the volcanoes, go to the beach, do a dive course. I didn't do any of those. I did (today, just before it was too late) manage to catch up with our old neighbours in Woloan and see how our anak baptisan is going (fine). He is 17 months old now. He liked the toffees I gave him and smeared sticky handprints on everything, then threw a ball at my head several times.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

'You want to eat Batman?'

People eat bats here. And in plenty of other places too, I guess. Bat is not the worst of the festive meats (that honour I think shared between dog and snake), but it's interesting that Indonesians generally believe that the English word for 'bat' is 'Batman'.
He's not my favourite superhero, but I don't think he should be butchered, chopped into irregular lumps and served in a spicy sauce.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


On Friday I ran a workshop on language documentation at UNIMA in Tondano (it was supposed to be at UKIT in Tomohon but there's an ongoing 'situation' there, so we moved it). 30 people came from UNIMA, UNSRAT and UKIT. I talked a lot and got tired. And in the end everyone got a certificate. They seemed pretty happy, and I guess so was I.
Today we went all the way down the terrible road to Wongkai, and went off to find the village head on his vanilla/coconut/clove etc plantation. Had a chat, did some filming, learnt some rude words, then came all the way back.
Tomorrow is Wioi's 155th birthday. Happy Birthday Wioi! I am invited to the party - I have an intuition that speeches and lots of sitting around will be involved.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hey there shaky shaky

A nice little earthquake last night, which I enjoyed from the comfort of my bed.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

No, I'm really not hungry.

So, I am back in Manado for the afternoon, to pick up the video camera which still isn't ready, although they like to say on the phone that it is.
What else can I say?
I recorded a really old guy whose false teeth rattled a lot and kept almost falling out.
I did some recording using MPI cut & break movies for elicitation. I had mixed results. With one guy, I repeatedly explained what to do, showed an example of someone else's responses, and started the movies. He sat there in total silence. So I stopped, explained again, started again. Total silence. So I tried again, asking him each time what he had seen. He just said "there was someone, a man or a woman. Looked Dutch". What did he or she do? "Don't know".
I was bitten repeatedly by some kind of insect while out in the hills near Wioi, and now I have itchy lumps on my legs.
I have been trying to organize a workshop on language documentation tools and techniques for local language workers for next Friday, and this necessitates many discussions about whether we should opt for the 12500 or 17500 rupiah lunch packet. 70p or £1? Let's go crazy!
I bought a bag of rambutans from a stall on the street, and while I walked along ants swarmed out of the bag and up my arm. I was tempted to drop the bag and shriek, but instead I brushed them off in a dignified manner.
I've gone on a semi-hunger strike. In whichever house I'm staying in, in both Tomohon and Wioi , whenever anyone sees me they make me eat. I don't have the chance to actually get hungry. So I have had to put a stop to that by simply refusing to eat half the time, and if necessary, running away. I'll show em!
And that will do for now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Interesting facts about birds

If a scrub turkey crosses your path from west to east, it is enough to stop briefly and then continue. But if it goes from east to west, you have to have a cigarette. Well, you have to inhale some smoke.


Any discussion of Toratan vocabulary seems to require that someone make the observation that whereas Indonesian has one word naik, Toratan has different verbs for entering a vehicle or house (rumasoh), climbing a tree (maawit), climbing a mountain (I forget), etc. I've heard this at least 20 times now. Eventually I had to say that this was something weird about Indonesian, and other languages also have special words for the different meanings of naik. Dudes, there are plenty of interesting things about Toratan, but this isn't particularly one of them.

Field report

I'm in Manado, the provincial capital, for R and R. Which includes some time on a moderately fast internet connection.
So, I have been here 10 days already. I've spent most of that time in the village (Wioi), recording old people and generally asking a lot of questions and making a nuisance of myself.

Can you watch these silly movies on my computer and say what is happening?
Can you tell me what this word means?
Can you say this sentence a different way?
Can you tell me about birds?
Here's someone from another village, can you have a conversation with him in front of this camera?

Also a lot of time waiting for people to turn up, or waiting to see if the rain will stop so we can go out, or if the power will come back on so I can charge the camera and laptop.

Saturday was fairly typical. I'd arranged to go to the village of Tatengesan (30 mins away) and collect Om Willem from there so he could work with the other guys in Wioi - my plan was that I'd split the guys into two groups and try to do some lexical brainstorming and beef up the dictionary a bit. But Om Willem had bathed at the wrong time the previous day and given himself a headache (this is a legitimate way to acquire a headache or other malady in Indonesia, as is eating something at the wrong time. But probably he was just nervous about leaving the village). So he couldn't come. He said ask Om Wawo, he's from Wongkai and speaks really well. Om Wawo is sent for, but he can't get in a car or cross a bridge because his wife died recently. So I arranged to come back the next day and record them. (Which I did, they had a splendid time talking about the Permesta rebellion and other matters of local history for about 3 hours.)
I didn't have much success with the brainstorming in the end. Well, it went OK, but there weren't enough participants, and only Om Bert got the idea, so it was just like working with him on his own, which is what we usually do. I'd brought along a student to work with the putative second group, but I had to find other chores for him to do. No shortage of them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I suspect not

Will it be anything other than incredibly frustrating to blog via dial-up in North Sulawesi?