‘I don’t know how old I am exactly.’

Kariawati is 27 years old and lives with her children in the jungle of Siberut, the main island of the Mentawai Archipelago. They are part of the indigenous Mentawai tribe.

What does happiness mean to you?
When I find new cassava trees or when our chickens lay eggs. Happiness to me is when I know we have enough food to feed our whole family.

What is your background?
I was born in Matotonan a small jungle village. I never went to school; I only went to ‘jungle school’. When I turned ten I had to go with my mom on jungle trips. She taught me to assemble sago, bananas and in which trees I could find larvae. She taught me which plants and herbs you can eat and of which to make poison for the men to hunt with. One day my future husband arrived in my village with his canoe and asked me to be his wife. We went together to my parents to ask for their permission. They agreed because my husband has a land with many sago, banana and coconut trees. He had good potential in their eyes to maintain a family.

Where do you stand in life?
I am happily married and have three kids together with my husband. I live a normal life. My husband works on the land and assembles food for us. I clean the house he build for us, take care of our children and cook our meals.

Are you familiar with the 30 years dilemma?
No, I am not. I never looked far ahead in the future, we take life day to day in the jungle. I’m not worried about turning 30, I don’t even know how old I am exactly because we don’t live by time in our culture. I am worried about if we will find enough food every day to feed our family.

How do you see your future?
I hope once my children have finished school, they will come back to the jungle and make a change in our life standard with their new regained knowledge. This is my future dream.

What wise lesson did your parents teach you?
The most important lesson my parents taught me is to find a good husband and to make sure you are able to find enough food for your kids.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
To go to the city and to school instead of only learn a jungle way of living. In the last years there is a school build in our village where my children can go to school when they are old enough. I hope I will also be able to support them to go to junior and senior high school in the city, so they can change their life conditions and have a better future.

When was your last moment of happiness?
Meeting you is a real moment of happiness to me. Being able to talk -even when it is with a translator- to new people and getting to know more about each others cultures.

Under the same sun is an ongoing travel log which you can follow on our travel and lifestyle blog Meet You at the Bridge. The reports show the similarities and differences on what it means to be happy for women between the ages of 25 and 35 who hail from different cultures.

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