So, the smoke that plagued the center of Sumatra weeks ago, which I heard has subsided now thanks god, reminded me of my trip with dad to a place call Mahato in Riau. Was there on 27 February-1 March, 2013. This post was a midnight contemplation to get my mind off from other stuffs, so enjoy.
The whole trip was actually miles and rows of palm plantation. The land and the air were dry and dusty. Even the vast clouds didn’t help the sun burning the earth down. The main colors there were either bright blue sky dotted with huge fluffy white clouds, the green and grey of the palm plantation, the various red of palm beads, or just the dusty orange brown road.
Life was tough here, I guessed. People were nice to me, of course. A bit curious more likely. What was a city girl doing in this place? They might wonder about my visit. Dad was keen on me learning life never in the easiest way. He preferred to have me see and experience it directly on my own and then pick me up when I crumble. For that, I am actually grateful.
The details of my trip there were now fuzzy to me. But I did remember stuffs I noticed on my visit. The roads were rocky with holes the size of the wheels that it made the whole long hours trip a smashing bumpy ride. Normal city car won’t survive, it was either trucks, 4WD or Jeep. Houses were sparse. The common houses in sight were usually held a level up the ground. We called it Rumah Panggung. Constructed wholly with woods in various sizes and forms. Electricity didn’t reach far. In the evening, the electricity depended on solar-fueled generator. Likely to save the solar, it was on until 10 PM and then pitch black night, or people went on by minimum usage. That was if people were lucky enough to have generator set on their houses. I didn’t know otherwise, though.
Dad told me about the problems usually faced by these people working on palm plantation, such as flood from the river or when it rained heavily the day before, damaged bridge that cut down accesses for trucks or other transportation, totally damaged road, machine- or wheels break down of the trucks in the middle of palm forest, pests such as snakes or orang utan (yes, they do consider orang utan a pest), and other things.
The palm would be harvested on 20 days cycle. The prices for it would go up and down, depended on the price offered that selling day, so either people got lucky with their harvest, or just got by so-so. The life of the palm trees could go up to 25 years. They would be harvested after they were 5 years old, and then when they were dead, they would be toppled down. Next to their death bed would be new seeds of palm tree. Sometimes, people would burn them down before planting new ones. It reminded you of heavy smoke calamity. A vicious cycle, don’t you think?
I used to be unsympathetic of these things. Protesting against the existence of palm trees and how it damaged the ecosystem, and so on. But I wasn’t living their–those people’s life, yes?
Life was tough, indeed, but would anyone have it otherwise?