It was a typical day…or so I thought. Then I went to Indonesian language class. I learned about love potions, people from a certain island who can make you sick just by sweating while you’re hungry, and suanggi:

“A suanggi is a malevolent spirit in the folklore of the Maluku islands in Indonesia.”

The Malukus are northeast of NTT where I live, but suanggi folklore is popular here as well. Our bahasa Indonesia teacher told us very seriously to beware the suanggi. They take the form of humans by day, but by night they fly and can throw fireballs. They can make potions that will make regular people fly as well. They can make you very sick by simply tapping you on the back (to avoid this, quickly turn around and tap the person back). She told us the second most powerful suanggi in the world lives in Alor, NTT. The first most powerful lives in Africa. There is a worldwide gathering of suanggis in Africa (perhaps on an annual basis?) and otherwise, many suanggis live in a village on another island called Sumba where my teacher is from. Her father frequently saw them, flying and throwing fireballs, on his way home from work.

Our teacher said most people think they are evil but not all suanggis are; in fact many are quite nice as long as you don’t cross them. She told us she lives near one. We asked how she was certain that her neighbor was a suanggi and she said they can’t look you in the eye. If you try to make eye contact, they will very conspicuously look away. She said this in all seriousness. She took about forty minutes of our language class to warn us of the dangers of suanggis and to teach us how to keep ourselves safe. It was quite kind. She also warned us that our host families might not want to scare us with stories of suanggis, but if they told us to stay away from a certain person, we could probably guess that that was why.

Another thing we were warned about was the preponderance of love potions available in the area. People can dose you Romilda Vane-style and the only way to prevent it is to touch any questionable glasses with only your thumb and ring fingers at first. That goes for most potions that might be given to us, but thankfully magic affects foreigners less than people here because our origins are so far away that it’s difficult to make magic that affects us–but still possible.

Love drunk Ron

Our teacher, a young college professor, completely believes that these things are true. And I don’t think I can argue–I haven’t lived here and what you believe certainly has an affect on your reality. It turns out that some of the suanggi stuff is actually pretty dark; check out the linked text definition above for a very sad story about a girl who was raped in a Moluccan village and came back to haunt the area.

So overall, quite the Indonesian language class.