The second day at Sipaha Lima was spent being followed around by large groups of beautiful children wanting to be photographed and touch, poke and hit the strange foreign person amongst them, which happened to be me… I soon learnt that the hitting was a sign of affection and it seems the Batak children love to hit eachother, even young babies, but they don’t do it to mean harm… a very strange concept for me and I found myself calming saying ‘Jangan, hati hati’ (Don’t, be careful!) hundreds of times as I didn’t want to see anyone hurt.
There was more feasting and sharing meals, firstly the women and young girls, and then by the men and boys, all whom had been staying together in two large rooms overnight. The concept of personal space is not thought about here and the rooms were crammed with people and clothing without an inch of spare floor space.
It was a seriously hot day and we sat in the sunshine for hours on end, even witnessing one of the Parmalim women feint before moving to the little shade that was available on the outskirts of the courtyard. The music was enchanting once again as we watched the followers praying and dancing the tor-tor whilst circling the stage set in the centre of the yard.
Offerings were passed to the King, Raja Marnakkok Naipospos, followed by a dance to lure the buffalo peacefully from its holding cell beneath one of the buildings. Apparently the buffalo should be tied to the tall tree in the yard before more prayers and finally being sacrificed. Naturally, it was too frightened once the gate was opened and resisted coming into the crowd, my heart was pounding as I felt sorry for the poor animal, knowing its fate, whilst the children and Parmalim followers sat patiently waiting. I couldn’t see clearly what was happening, as men crowded the gate and cell and there was lots of yelling, before finally the buffalo was brought out hung upside down and tied to two wooden beams.
After more prayers and playing with children, the day finally drew to an end, but not before I was asked to be interviewed and found myself sitting on the grass surrounded by curious adults and children alike. I don’t like the spotlight and found myself sweating as I struggled to understand the questions being asked, but ended by being thanked by a representative of the community for attending, and asked to please share my experience with other people.
I felt sad to be leaving all the beautiful people, the magical music and dancing as we hopped up into our becak for the bumpy ride back to the hotel before a short sleep and heading off on more adventures the next morning.