Santi cooks at Salassa, a homestay in Bira that she operates together with her husband Eric. She tells me she’s originally from Makassar, one of the major port cities in south Sulawesi. Moving to Bira, a sleepy little town with little going on, took some time to get used to. In Makassar, she had her nails done and wore make-up and fancy dresses as all her friends did. In Bira, that particular rat race seems to not be present at all and when she visited her father after moving in her plain clothes and without make-up he joked that she looked older than her mother. Now that she’s been here for four years, she seems to have grown quite accustomed to the sleepy little town where, besides the sunsets, walking on the beach, reading, and the occasional dive, there’s really nothing to do. Well, you can eat of course, and eating is Santi’s business.
Everyone knows Salassa in Bira, Santi’s food is delicious, the best in Bira. Everyone also knows that Santi takes her time preparing the meals. Stuart, who’s in Bira waiting for his boat to be finished, wrote a friendly notice for visitors to inform them of this fact.
She has a help in the kitchen who helps her prepare the food. Now, during Ramadan, she’s having a hard time. She can’t eat but needs to prepare food for others, which she’s not even allowed to taste before serving it. She also just had a baby who occupies quite a bit of her time. I ask her if the baby is fasting as well. She tells me he isn’t but now that she is fasting the baby doesn’t like her breast milk anymore and she gives him the bottle.
She has some wooden masks around the shop and when I ask her where they come from she tells me from an indigneous tribe near Lombok. Her face turns serious: “Sometimes at night, you can feel a strange power coming from them,” she says. A second later she bursts out laughing: “I’m only joking!”
I ask her if she likes her life in Bira and she nods, she likes it here now. “Sometimes you’ve got to move in order to move forward,” she smiles.