In the village of Desa Lingga, there are a number of traditional longhouses, but there are also traditional buildings for other parts of village life. One of these is the 'geriten', a place for bones. According to the elder who guided me around the village, when a person dies, the body is buried for five to six years. The bones are then dug up, washed in citrus water to deter termites, and then stored in the 'geriten'.
Another custom is that young men sleep in a house separate from the family home - although they go home to eat - and from the windows of this building, they woo young women by playing a flute, a 'baluat'. The young men are not allowed to talk to the women, so must become good flute players to have any chance of gaining a girl's affection.
An interesting aspect of the construction of the longhouses is that traditionally nails were not used and so elements of the building were 'slotted' together or held together with binding. This 'binding' can also be seen in the 'sewing' of motifs onto the walls of the buildings which adds to their colour while helping hold the construction together.
To enter the longhouses in Desa Lingga, one needs to climb a bamboo ladder and then onto a 'step' and through a window-like opening in the entrance wall. As I was climbing in, I commented to the village elder who was showing me around that the step looked more box-shaped than step-shaped, and I also noticed smooth wooden carvings on each side of the opening.
The elder explained to me that the 'box' was in fact a 'birthing chair' and that the wooden carvings were hand grips for women as they were giving birth. The 'chairs' were used as recently as thirty years ago as there had been no hospitals in the area. When a woman was about to give birth, a curtain would be placed around the entrance to the long-house, the mid-wives would be called in, and women would have an 'open-air' birth where the child was born into a large tub of fresh water which had been placed beneath the birthing seat.
In Desa Lingga, about 16km south of Berastagi, there are some traditional long houses still inhabited by multiple families. One of the uniqe aspects of the longhouses is the designs carved into the houses to pay respect to different aspects of Karo life, and the colors used to represent each of the clans.
Carvings include symbols to represent 'eternal life', the 'dokan', and 'fertility of the fields'. The five colors used; white, black, red, yellow and blue, represent the clans. Each person in the village is a member of a particular clan and must marry someone outside their clan to ensure healthy children.
There are some fascinating insights to be heard listening to the guides who will take you around the village.
It was my first time that I had to eat with my hand, without forcs or whatever else..it was so strange for me, and I have to admit that it wasn’t even so simply ...There was a kid beside me that saw my difficulties I guess, as after few seconds all the other kids where smiling on me, because my mouth was completely full of rice...yes, but all around my lips too!!! Like a baby!! Wow!!!
How a simply thing like eat with an hand could create a caos like that?? Then those kids smiled on me for the whole evening!!! Stupid italian guy...hmm
When I arrived in the longhouse I could expect all, despite that they ask me to take my shoes off...The view that I had was fog, fog and fog again, durty on the ground and a lot of caos, so I could seriously expect all but not this...but, you know, culture is culture, so I took’em off....
The funny thing is that the guide told me that if i would’nt take my shoes off, I could make the floor durty...com’on....