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Did You Plant Those Trees?

The beginning of mulberries in Gupondoro.

It was Idul Fitri holidays, June 2017. This most festive of Indonesian holidays is celebrated after a month of fasting called Ramadhan. I was living with my husband Oky Kusprianto in a beautiful house he designed himself. He named it Gupondoro which means Home of Pigeons. Gupondoro was located in the middle of a village in Lembang, is a highland area to the west of Bandung city. Lembang is known for its forests, proximity to volcanoes, and cool weather.

Lembang is also a top tourist destination during holidays. With largely underdeveloped small mountain roads, this meant serious traffic jam. Of the horrific type where you are stuck for hours. Since neither Oky nor I wanted to get caught in tourist traffic, we planned to stay home for the week. Oky caught up on his designs while I practiced piano for an upcoming chamber music festival in New Hampshire, USA.

One particular day after an intense practice session, I gave myself a break by looking around our backyard.

“Huh!” I thought to myself. “There are berries in those trees!” I called to Oky, who was drawing as usual.

“Oky, did you plant those trees?”

“What trees?” He asked. I pointed impatiently at the blooming trees in our backyard.

“I didn’t plant any thing there… did YOU plant those trees?” He turned to me. I laughed.

“Are you serious? I‘m on the piano all the time. I have to take care of my hands and fingers.” I replied. As a professional pianist, I was always worrying about my hands because even the smallest cut or blister made it awkward to play. Of course later the joke was on me because I retired from performing and grew to love gardening.

Oky asked our housemate Ari, who lived on the bottom floor. Ari didn’t know about the trees either. This confirmed it to be quite a mysterious case indeed. After extensive research via our gardener, Oky discovered that the trees were planted by a village farmer who owed money to a local mafia. The berries from the trees were to be a form of payment.

This was an interesting predicament, because those trees were planted on our land.

“The fruit tastes really good. I sometimes take some and my wife makes it into jam,” our gardener whispered to us.

The situation kept getting weirder and weirder, albeit in a comical sort of way. I decided to go along with it.

“Can I try the jam?” I asked our gardener. He nodded.

“I’ll pick secretly before they notice and bring some jam here.”

“Ok. Thank you!” I said. “Make sure you don’t get caught…”

I tasted a spoon and fell in love. I knew it was worthy to be sold.

The next day his wife brought over some incredibly delicious mulberry jam. I tasted a spoon and fell in love. I knew it was worthy to be sold. Oky proceeded by settling off the farmer’s debt to the mafia. He also bought the grown trees so they formally belonged to us. We then asked our gardener to plant more mulberries in Gupondoro.

Since that time both Oky and the gardener’s wife have died, but I decided to continue with the trees and the jam. It was a way for me to keep feeling connected to him, while making some money on the side. Mulberries in Gupondoro bloom twice a year, and if you are in Bandung you will be lucky enough to taste it.

August 2020. Click here to visit Gupondoro in Lembang, Bandung (Indonesia).

Read more on my first impressions about Gupondoro in this post.