Circles of Rice and Belief
I woke up at the convent with a tinge of sadness because today would be my last day traveling with Pak Ardi and Pak Patris. They were going to drop me in Labuan Bajo where I would board a boat and go looking for Komodo dragons. But before we parted ways, they had some sights in store that left longing to stay on mainland Flores for several more weeks. We drove off of the main Flores highway and stopped near a regular looking home. Pak Ardi told me a local village woman would lead me up a hill and he’d wait at the bottom enjoying some cigarettes. We hiked up a steep dirt trail and then the woman pointed for me to go join an older Indonesian man who was with a group of tourists from Spain. When I peered over the side of the hill, I was shocked. Pak Ardi told me the rice fields were circular and beautiful, but once I saw it in person, wow:
After several photos from several different vantage points, I decided to ask the older Indonesian man to explain why the rice fields were shaped like this here — I’d never seen anything like it anywhere else in Indonesia.
The man explained how each “slice” belongs to a different family in a village and that rituals and ceremonies take place in the center of rice crop circles. The Spanish tourists looked over at us blankly and then asked me in English to repeat everything to them. With the amount of different languages floating around my mind these days, it’s a miracle I can still write in somewhat decent English!
After hiking back down, we surrounded Pak Ardi and started asking him questions. He said the fields were built this way to promote togetherness ensuring everyone tends their portion and follows the rules. The size of your plot depends on your status within the village and families can fence their plots to keep animals out. Pak Ardi and another young Indonesian man sitting on the bench next to me explained that the maintenance of fields was much more difficult in modern times because responsibilities can become unbalanced as people move to bigger cities to earn money and only return once a year. After having all of this explained, I realized I had forgotten to ask a basic question. I asked the young man next to me the name of the village. He watched and approved as I wrote down “Cara” in my notebook.