Village chief, Mentawi Islands

On the Mentawi Islands, my niece is worshipped as a Goddess.

Well, I don’t know that for a fact. But when I showed this old dude a photo of her he insisted on keeping it, wrapping it around a fistful of tobacco and putting both in a battered tin for safekeeping.

The guy was the head of a family that lived in an old wooden longhouse, deep in the jungle of the Mentawi Islands, just off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. I stayed with them for a few days on the big trip I did around the Equator.

I hunted with them. Bathed under waterfalls with them. And slept on a floor made from wooden poles, only feet above their most precious assets, their pigs.

One night they sang traditional songs and danced traditional dances and expected me to return the favour. I showed them the Macarena and sang a few beer commercials.

This photo was taken at the end of that night. The glint in the guy’s eyes suggests he was still laughing at me.

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