Authentic Indonesia- Flores Island

We spent our first week in Indonesia at the Flores island. It is a non- touristic island, one hour away from Bali, with airplane. It is a high density populated island with 2 million inhabitants. People there speak more than 60 languages, so in order to understand each other the locals use Indonesian, which they learn at school.

(We didn't had a proper camera at this moment. So, the picture was made with Lenovo phone...)

Most of the people at the coastline are fishermen. They had adopted Islam from the sailors with whom they trade.

Villages located high in the mountains have livestock and are farmers. Most of them have persevered their traditional culture, social structure and Animist religion. There are no big fabrics at the island. The land is all private and inherited from generation to generation. It is valued very high here and no one sells it. People grow their own crops, use what they need and sell the rest at the markets. Thus everybody is having his own piece. There are no landless and homeless people. We did not meet a single beggar or anyone asking money from us.

Bema is one of 30 traditional villages at Flores island, Indonesia. It is located at the foot of the Inerie volcano, which is still active. Bema is the leading village, preserving the traditional culture of the area. Also it is among the first villages that has opened its doors for western education and welcomes foreigners. All the population is literate. Young people receive their education in the catholic missions schools and then by their own choice come back to their traditional way of living. The village leader has laptop and Internet via mobile cart to communicate with government administration and tourist’s guides. It is not possible to undertake any initiative before receiving the permission from the village leader. This includes making government elections, education seminars, or living with a local family.

Bema is a matriarchal society, where all the land and property is inherited by the daughters. The newly married husband comes to live in the house of his wife. However, the work is still separated according the mainstream way- man do the fieldwork and women take care of the household. Therefore while young boys play football all day, the girls are cooking and taking care of their younger relatives.

Football is incredibly popular at the village. Even among the babies…

A bunch of future Messi here.

The boys have even created their own version of kicker!

Most of the population of the Flores island is officially catholic, following the influence of the missionary’s schools and health centers at the island. But the endogenous Animism is not extinct, rather coexists together with the Christianity. Animism is the worldview that non-human entities as animals, plants and totems have a soul.
The Bema people buried the dead following the Christian tradition in a graves, but not in a graveyard, rather in front of the houses since the Animists believe that the soul of our relatives continue to live with us and is still part of the family.

Animism is a worldview which does not recognize the superiority of the human over the Nature, but the coexistence of all spices and plants in balance. For that reason the village shamans ask permission from the spirits for every human act which causes changing the environment, like cutting a tree to build a road, making an irrigation channel from a lake, or reconstructing a house. Later on they make ceremonial sacrifice from livestock. See the buffalo horns here.

In Flores we witnessed the power of the church and the ongoing missionaries. The Catholic Church had brought a lot of positive things to the island, according to the people that we spoke with, like medical service, hygiene education and schools. Local people really appreciate it and nowadays Christianity is deeply rooted in the society.

This is a flow of people going to the Sunday service. Everybody is wearing their newest clothes and of course a sarong (the scarf around the legs, worn actually by Hindu and Buddhist followers). So, the locals were amazed to see me in jeans in the church.

The Kelimutu volcano has three craters, which have become lakes. Because of the minerals and the elements coming from the magma the lakes change their colors from milky white and green to ruby red. The waters are highly acidic. The local people believe that the souls of all dead people live in the dark lake (this time black color), the souls of babies, pregnant women and people who died young inhabit the light color lake. The souls of the bad people occupy the third lake, which is always dark blue- green.

The flying foxes are the biggest “bats”” on Earth. They live on one of the small islands around Flores. Those flying mammals are fruit and sun lovers. They live at the Mangrove trees at the see and are active during the day.

Flores is one of the most vivid, interesting and memorable place I have ever seen. There is so much history, symbolism and culture, beyond everything you see at the island. But to know all those stories, you need experienced guide. Till now there are only two people at the island who not only know good English, but have a comprehensive knowledge about the different communities. Those are Dino Lopez and Teddy Aimbal. I found Dino from a Trip Advisor forum and I am very thankful to him for sharing his knowledge and experience with us. If considering traveling to Flores I highly recommend him!

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