Friday, August 6, 2010

Betel nut - the new lipstick

We tried betel nut! It's typically handed out as a welcome when you go to a meeting or negotiation of some sort. We've been giving betel nut in some places as a present when we arrive.

The village of Benlutu is in Amanuban between Soe and Kupang. They are expecting us when we arrive and we are greeted by a sung welcome. When we are seated in the shade, a young woman offers us betel nut from a woven basket (we now both own one of these baskets but without the betel nut).

How to chew a betel nut
You take a piece of betel nut and another piece of the plant that is green, cylindrical and not very big. Pop the nut in your mouth and plant it in your cheek for now. Wait for the lime to come around in a little container. The lime isn't anything to do with green citrus, it's like garden lime. Put a small bit of lime on the palm of your left hand. Dip the bit that's not in your mouth into the lime. Then suck the lime off.

Start chewing the betel nut and the lime. Immediately it creates lots of saliva that you musn't swallow and your tongue goes a bit numb. When the saliva gets too much spit it out on the ground and you will discover the whole thing has gone very red. I didn't put enough lime on mine I think and I just got the tongue numbing experience. Fiona's teeth and lips went an attractive shade of red but we didn't get a picture of this unfortunately.

People who chew betel nut alot have very red teeth and are forever spitting on the ground, great red projectiles. However it did clear up a small mystery - I thought there had been fighting in some places, like you see outside pubs in Sydney and where a blood trail is left on the ground. Betel nut is the real answer.

The weaving in this village was warp wrapped, an incredibly labor intensive process but with beautiful results. They are firmly wedded to synthetic dyes here but are using some natural dyes as well.

The villagers love William as he is well over 6 foot tall and they are all tiny. They delighted in dressing him up in traditional cloth and having their photo taken with him for the record of foreigners who have visited the village. It's a nice pay back for all the photos we take.

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