Belitung, a new island to explore new places. When flying over our next research destination, the first things that stood out was the flat surface compared to Sumba and the endless amount of trees. It felt like we were going to the jungle and that nobody actually lived here. Luckily we found out this was not the truth when we were driving through the streets.

After arriving at the hotel, we had no time to relax since we already had to jump in the bus (which even had air conditioning, woohoo) to get to our first meeting on Belitung. When arriving at the destination, I was a bit confused. I thought we were going to a fancy restaurant, since we saw all the chain hotels when driving through Tanjung Pandan. But instead we arrived at a small traditional village with wooden huts and where we literally had to sit on the floor and eat with our hands, pff … (just kidding).

Actually, the traditional setting and cultural atmosphere were the best part about the evening and made me feel part of the community. After praying time, the stakeholders arrived at the community. These stakeholders were important people in the tourism industry of Belitung. First they introduced themselves and after this I did an introduction on our research project. It did not really feel like a presentation, more like explaining something to a friend.

After we had the opportunity to talk with the stakeholders about our study, we could finally have dinner. This was all done in a traditional way. On the floor there were multiple round baskets which looked like Vietnamese warrior heads. We could not see what was under underneath. The tradition has three rules. First, the youngest person of the group has to share the plates with the other guests. After this, the same person had to fill everybody’s plate with rice out of respect for the elderly (which was me, mwhuaha). Luckily I was the oldest person of my group, because the last rule was that this person could take off the lid of the basket and fill his plate first! The dinner was nice, but I am not a big fish eater which resulted in a plate with only white rice.

Overall, it was a great experience and a good way to get to know the Belitung culture a bit better. I am really curious and excited as to what the next days will bring!

Greetings from the elderly

Written by: Mr. Djaya