Today's Stamp: Tado Village (Part 1)

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Tado Village lies in the hills of Flores, in Indonesia, 45 km east of the popular diving destination, Labuan Bajo. This area is known as the Manggarai region, whose indigenous people are a mix of settlers from neighboring islands as well as Portuguese*.

     I was introduced to Tado village on a day spent cruising aimless on a rented motorbike, where I stopped to chat at food stands & tiny roadside shops (with no small help from google translate, my new best friend). From these conversations, and thanks to a small tourist map, I was directed toward Batu Cermin (Bah-tu Chermin) aka the Mirror cave.

     Upon my arrival, not sure I was in the right place considering there were no major signs of it being a tourist site, I met Gonsales playing guitar at a small home nearby the entrance to the cave. After about an hour or two of our sharing music both via his guitar and the music library on my phone, Gonzales said I should take the ride up to Tado (Village). He didn't describe anything about it and by that time I asked no questions other than, "how do I get there by motorbike".  

     Eventually I did make it to visit the cave which was far less intriguing than my time sitting with Gonzales.   Shortly after my 10 minutes visit in Batu Cermin, I began planning the next day's trip up to Tado Village. 

     I started the next day's adventure rather early, as at that time I wasn't completely confident on a motorbike.  After about 30 minutes the well paved road began to twist like a pretzel up through the volcanic terrain.  As the elevation increased, the temperature dropped, the potential for finding English speaking people (even partially) greatly diminished, as did the service signal for my phone and with it, the ability to utilize google translate.  NOTE:  DOWNLOAD THE LANGUAGE DICTIONARY AHEAD OF TIME while you still have an internet connection....lesson learned.  

     After about an hour of viewing the gorgeous landscape, I began to descend, the temperature rose, the clouds dispersed, and I came upon a valley with large rice fields.  I later found out this was considered to be part of the spider rice fields, shown on the tourist maps. Slowing down my pace to take in the view I saw a few people working in the rice field and one gentleman building what appeared to be a bamboo shack.  Intrigued I stopped by to say hello.  Low and behold, the bamboo structure was to become the information office for Tado village.  

     Yeremias (aka Jeremy) spoke enough english that he could communicate what he was building, and the location of all the different sections of what is known as Tado Village.  As we were chatting in this bamboo construction zone, two more motorbikes pulled up (French tourists and their friend or what seemed to be perhaps their guide from Mozambique). Jeremy offered to show us the village if we were willing to take the trek up hill about a kilometer or two.  

     We were offered tea in Jeremy's home, &  greeted by many of the villagers.  This was only the beginning.  Our conversations went well beyond "where are you from" and "how long are you here" to, deeper conversations regarding race, heritage culture, sustainable farming and the economic status of villages in this area of Flores.  From this personal interaction we were free to ask one another in depth questions about each other's ways of life, including political views and even hwo tourism may be affecting their village way of life (ying & yang).  

     As mentioned in "today's Stamp" (the title of this blog... Tado Village Part #1), there is far more to come regarding this Village and my (thus far) 3 visits there.  To close today's blog entry I would like to highlight the importance of allowing interactions to take place.  I often see more European travelers put themselves in less curated travel experiences (such as the one I have described in today's post).  However I see less American travelers doing this and less than 1% of those being 'Brown' western (especially African American) travelers.  I realize some may find more comfort in travel plans of a more curated nature, but honestly most of what can be learned/exchanged does not come from this form of travel. Part of the reason for my sharing these travel experiences is in hopes to encourage other travelers in general to open up to the less curated style of travel, and especially for "Brown westerners" as often times we for various reasons are far more apprehensive when it comes to this.  

to be continued.....

References to above *

*A Portuguese expedition crew reached the island in the early 16th century and named it ‘Cabo das Flores’, which means ‘Cape of Flowers’. The island became an important strategic point for the economic activities of Portuguese traders. However, Flores itself was neither a source of valuable spices nor sandalwood. After a long period of struggling with other trade powers, the Portuguese were finally defeated and withdrew themselves to Dili in East Timor in 1769. They renounced all their spheres of influence in Eastern Indonesia and sold their remaining enclaves on Flores to the Dutch administration.
Even though the Dutch administration was eager to expand its influence in Indonesia, it hardly interfered in local political issues at the beginning. When the Dutch administration decided to increase Flores’ potential as a source of income for its state treasury, systematic measures were taken to improve the island’s infrastructure and educational system. Being increasingly challenged with rebellions and inter-tribal wars, the Dutch army launched a massive military campaign in 1907 to settle the disputes. After being subdued in 1909, the island was provided with a new administrative system, dividing it into the five major districts of Manggarai, Ngada, Ende, Sikka, and Flores Timur. Each of these administrative units was headed by a local leader who was appointed by the Dutch colonial government.  
Except for a short period of Japanese occupation during World War II, the Dutch remained the dominating colonial force until Indonesia became an independent nation state in 1945.