National Geographic : 1945 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine Just before the Duel, Gongs and Drums Are Beaten for the Fencers' Warm-up Dance Preceding a championship match, the rivals are wont to perform in slow motion to the music's steady beat. At this ritual the crowd is solemn. When fencing begins, faces will light with joy (page 64). Among the food plants that do grow on the rugged Biran hills are two that are known locally, because of their hardness, as "wooden potatoes" and "stone rice." I found them far more palatable than their names suggest, perhaps because I led a very active life and was always hungry. Some of the local trees provide plenty of green food, especially one with oval leaves about an inch long that taste like spinach. The smaller houses are sometimes built with these trees as posts, so their owners can climb through a hole in the roof or up the side of a wall and bring back fresh food for dinner. Another tree, besides having edible leaves, is useful in several other ways. Both the fruit and the bark are eaten; oil is obtained from the crushed seeds; the wood makes the best mallets used in shipbuilding, and the leaves believed to contain a magic power-are used in love charms. At first I tried to pay for these leaves, but Bahu, my cook, refused to accept anything for them. "No one ever buys or sells them, Tuan," he told me. "There's always more than enough for all of us. I just tell one of my children that you want some and he goes and gets them." One of Bahu's sons had already made two voyages to Soembawa, though he was only seven years old.