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Who is more surprised?

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I expressed my surprise in a previous post (www.gijsbos.com) about the living conditions of the ‘Wana’ tribe. They owned nearly nothing (everything fitted on 2 shelves).

The only things in the house that they hadn’t made themselves were a cooking pot, a couple of plates with forks and spoons (no knives) and some drinking glasses. The house was made entirely out of wood and few nails were used.

There was literally no decoration. Nothing to make the place look nicer than it was.

But probably the most amazing was the complete isolation. Morrowali park can only be reached by boat (2,5 hr trip) and then about an hour of walking to a village of around 10 houses. But the people I stayed with had voluntarily chosen to live even further away from society. Another hour boat trip or three hrs walking to arrive at a home and then still several more hrs of walking to this family. And then they were still living relatively close by civilization as the Wana people who live in the mountains (I didn’t visit them) are living much more remote still.

On my way back to the 10-house village I expressed concerns to the guide. ‘What if the husband of the family gets injured?, ‘how do they educate their children? And won’t they become sociopaths if they aren’t used to other people? How will they ever find a partner later on in their lives? Etc. As my guide spoke spoke no English and I’m not exactly fluent in Indonesian it was difficult to ask the questions and to understand his answer. What I did get was that ‘they do it their way’.

During the following night I couldn’t sleep. Not because of deep philosophical thought, but because the Wana tribe had recently discovered mobile phones. Naturally there was no coverage, but that didn’t withhold anybody from buying a Chinese BlackBerry imitation (for only $65). This phone is even ‘better’ than a BlackBerry as the speakers on the phone are sufficiently powerful to run a small dance party on. Anyway, during the different ‘happy house’ sessions of the Wana tribe I suddenly realized how awkward I must have looked to them. Living in Amsterdam together with 100s of thousands of people on a surface which is smaller than the lands of the Wana tribe. Carrying gadget that can do nearly magical things (the ‘GoSkyWatch’ app for the iPhone was the talk of the village for days). And then myself: unmarried and single at age 37, traveling for months alone. With my family further away than anybody of the Wana tribe has been. Ever.

I literally had an amazing time with the Wana tribe. And from their reactions I gathered hope that the feeling was mutual. Hopefully, it will inspire us to rethink our habits or at least see them in a different light.

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