National Geographic : 1971 Jan
I had expected an elderly gentleman in tra ditional dress. I saw instead a lean, youngish man in trousers and a shirt, ordinary looking to a fault. He greeted us in a soft, deferential voice, sat down, and lit a cigarette. Suseno, seated at my side, leaned over and murmured, "This man contains many souls of dead people. They talk through him, and know things he himself does not know." The dukun began to speak in a harsh, ar rogant voice. His body trembled with tension. His eyes, no longer downcast, were direct, gleaming, fixed. He transmitted several mes sages for the noble family from spirits of various periods. After one, Suseno sat in troubled silence. I looked enquiringly at him. "That was a message from one of the giant servants of an ancient sultan, so of course it was in ancient Javanese. I could not understand it." How did the dukun know the old language? He didn't, of course. But the spirit did. Gold Means Safety for Hard-won Savings We traveled eastward all afternoon through beautiful but ungenerous country. Just as Central Java feels-and is-poorer than West Java, so East Java conveys a sense of still greater need. The road ran through hot, moist lowlands beneath Gunung Lawu, a holy mountain almost 11,000 feet high. Surabaja, East Java's capital, lay ahead (map, page 7). Despite its climate, Surabaja is a city on the move. It has a good port and makes its living by trade. Its streets are filled with Chinese-owned stores which in turn are filled with transistor radios (the favorite Javanese possession), sunglasses, and gold objects. Here, as elsewhere in East Java, goldsmiths do an extraordinary business. People line up at their counters to buy small trinkets of gold. Perhaps the memory of recent and fan tastic inflation still moves people to put their small savings into the precious metal. At any rate, they love it. I've even seen full sets of false teeth for sale with gold in them. We went along to the port, which is second only to Djakarta's. It was both busy and de crepit, filled with a wonderful variety of ves sels ranging from gaily painted fishing schoo ners to aging Russian-built warships. A stream of small craft, propelled by sail or outboard motors, carried people back and forth to the island of Madura, 11/2 miles away. Copra, teak, tea, coffee, rubber, and rice fill the godowns on Surabaja's docks. Yet signs of poverty are always in sight. In front Java reveres her gentle highlanders NHABITANTS of a Tenggerese kampong, or village, take shelter from a down pour (above) beneath the eaves of their tin-roofed wooden buildings-unusual on an island where bamboo-and-thatch houses predominate. To combat the chill of mountain nights, the family at right places an eat ing-sleeping platform, covered with jars containing various sweets, near a wood burning, chimneyless stove. Strips of meat hang drying on a back wall. Idealized by other Javanese as free from dishonesty, jealousy, and quarrel someness, the Tenggerese rank among the smallest of Indonesia's 300-plus ethnic and cultural groups.