Thursday, April 12, 2012

From Central Sulawesi

A desert-like breeze is welcome as it floods in the room's large house-shaped window. It carries the not unpleasant fragrance of burning coconut husks, apparently waste from a common industry here. The water here is darkly tinged with minerals, staining laundry yellow if one is not quick to dry it. I like the iron content for my thalyssemia, but a glance at the neighbor's kids suggests something else sinister in the environment.

I worried about numerous small, slender bugs in the bed the first morning but they didn't seem to be biting and Kosil assured me they were okay. On the other hand we are all covered in mild rashes. Mine healed in a week but fresh, flea-bite-like ones appear. Pak Terip bathes his skin in Bokashi fermented herbal oil day and night.

The first few days Pak Terip dozed in the daytime heat. Now they've stepped up practice, having us there from morning small-group practice until night. Of course the organizer, Pak Sadyana, buys us lunch, fat individual portions of rice and savory dishes arranged in a brown wax paper pyramid. Evening rehearsals are productive but dripping hot and plagued by mosquitos. Kosil mainly works the drummers while I take on one side of the gangsa and try errantly to help the trunk melody, jegog and calung. The guys seem a decent enough bunch, joking with each other and laughing when I made an egregious mistake that drew harsh words from my teacher.

The Balinese emigrants understandably vary. Some are at least as hospitable as the folks back in the Buleleng mountains, dropping in on us and offering to take us out to see sights and dine at their homes. One lent me his only laptop and modem when word got out that my Linux system wasn't working with the local mobile broadband options. The gamelan has invited me to perform with them at the festival in Yogjakarta come September, expenses paid. Of course I want to see this through to the end, so I again have incentive to raise those visa renewal dollars.

Cool things I saw on the full-moon holiday Purnama, when we played a family temple initiation ceremony (Dewa Yatnya) from morning until early afternoon and then prayed at the temple our host serves as treasurer:
  • a very high platform, about two people-heights up, fully decked out in cloth and banten, the four corner poles extending up to full-height penjur.
  • At the end of the sacred mask ritual Sidha Karya a household member cracked a raw egg and sprinkled it over offerings placed on the ground, then smashed a ripe coconut on the stony ground. Terip explained it symbolized gratitude to Mother Earth.
  • A kumpul, traditional Balinese wood bell, tower decorated on all sides with Christian freizes. It's religiously very mixed here, though around the village everyone's Balinese.
Our host Komang recorded donations at the front of the Purnama congregation. At the end of the ceremony as everyone was leaving he took the podium and announced every household and the amount contributed. Many gave Rp 20. but several gave more. I remarked on this to Pak Terip who replied it's only the right way to practice transparency.

Don't worry, I still won't identify you and your contributions without your permission. 

PS No, we didn't feel the earthquake.  

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