One Day In PangalenganSunday, January 09, 2011
New Year Getaway to Pangalengan.
Ever since my first visit in 2005, coming to Pangalengan has always meant walking in the vast tea plantation at Malabar. On my last two visits, it also means staying at the local people's house, living the daily traditional life. After staying at a plantation worker’s house in last July, yesterday, this time with a friend from college, I got the oportunity to stay at a farmer’s house at Gamlok.
Waking up in the morning - I sensed that the temperature was about 15 degree celcius - I went straight to the bathroom to take a bath. I couldn't believe it made Pak Yayat and his wife, the host, wonder as they never took a shower so early at 6 in the morning.
Leaving the house at 7 for the tea plantation at Malabar, we walked along the narrow unpaved road, used daily by farmers and plantation workers. First, we stopped at a small potato farm next to Pak Yayat's house. We were about to witness for the first time in life, how potatoes are cultivated.
Four women, each of them was holding a long wooden rod, were ready to sow potatoes seedlings. They made small holes (about 5 cm in diameter) on the slightly elevated ground and used bamboo stick to keep the holes aligned.
Then, an old man came with a red basket full of potatoes seedlings.
He is the owner of the farm. I regretted however, I didn’t remember his name. As he saw me coming with a camera, he told me about his son studying in Bandung, majoring in Visual Communication Design. He runs a home based industry, making potato chips under a brand of “BBC”.
The next few seconds, together with the workers, he sowed the seedlings by putting them in the holes and covered them with soil afterward.
This was actually the best part, wandering in the tea plantation. There was no such thing as clear directions there. We just counted on the only unpaved wet road that had been passed by plantation workers for years.
It was a holiday, so nobody worked that day. Only two women were found clearing the land from grass.
Thank to him, we have a technology university in Bandung (now ITB), the observatorium in Lembang and of course, this huge tea plantation that provides schools for children whose parents work in the plantation.
I was a bit dissapointed however as the people cleaning the grave charged us two thousand rupiahs per person for visiting. It was embarasing.
A family, consisting of parents and a son, was clearing a field that had been cultivated with brand new tea trees. That was the first time for me to see what a young tea tree looked like. It took about three years for those trees to grow.
Oh God! I couldn't help but wonder when she lifts the twigs, which seemed to be heavy, and carried them on her back.
She was smiling at me as I couldn't stop staring with wonder at her. So, the ice was broken. We started talking.
Her name was Emak Iki. She lived all alone without a husband or any relatives. She picked up twigs everyday and sold them to neighbors. That's how she earns money to buy rice.
We became interested to know more about this old woman and decidde to walk after her toward her house in a kampong located beyond the plantation.
Walking out of the plantation, we entered a kampong dominated by wooden houses, populated by people whose life depends mostly on the tea plantation. And yes, we walked along a wet unpaved narrow road within bushes on both sides. Sometimes we had to cross a bamboo bridge over a small river.
At one corner, was standing Emak Iki’s house. It’s a wooden house built on poles. As we arrived, Emak put the twigs underneath the house. So that’s the place she stored all the twigs she had picked from the plantation.
There was also a tiny garden in the small yard in front of the house at where Emak had cultivated vegetables.
At first, we were kind of not allowed to enter the house as she felt terrible about the house. After cheering her up and convincing her that we had no problem at all with that, she let us in.
We stood in an about six squaremeters room lit by one small tungsten lamp hanged on the ceiling. Only through the door, the sun light could penetrate the interior.
While talking with Emak, I took some pictures of her sitting close to the door.
The house consisted of two rooms; the bedroom and another one next to it. To me, it looked like a storage. To Emak, it’s the kitchen.
At 4pm, we decided to go back to town as we had to catch the bus to Bandung.