Hatches, Matches and Dispatches
01 September 2019
Or.....our old favourite, "Do you smell burning?"
I'm not entirely sure if the rally organisers actually planned to show us the "circle of life" but either by design or accident, that's what we've done.......in between eating them out of house and home and running up the petrol bill with repeated Bintang beer runs to the local back street outlet. Knock twice and ask for Abdul.
About two thousand years ago, or maybe it was two hundred, it's hard to tell, listening to the explanation through mouthfuls of casava balls, the new born heir to the sultan was somewhat poorly. The baby's anxious parents called in the local quack who immediately recommended that, in the absence of snake oil and indeed, antibiotics, they roll the child in banana leaves sprinkled with his no doubt ruinously expensive coconut oil and then, while getting well oiled the smoke of incense should be wafted over the now coughing, screaming, slippery little critter and finally, given a bit of a slap, Monty Python style, with a smoked fish.
Rolled, oiled and kippered, the young heir made a miraculous recovery and on gaining the throne, the new Sultan decreed that all his new born subjects should get the same treatment and so, a tradition was born. I guess the quack retired to Bali on the royalties to live in some splendour still amazed he got away with it.
As a direct result, we attended a mass immunisation ceremony. Just imagine. You got up unreasonably early nursing a mild Bintang hangover and after the ritual morning bus fiasco arrive in a tent where hundreds of screaming weans are being rolled in oil and kippered. If that doesn't get your tinnitus ringing, nothing will.
Through the good offices of a friend of a friend we were invited to attend a local wedding. As is the tradition here and unlike at home, the groom gets to see his prospective missus before the final deed is done, specifically, to warn and ward off any other prospective suitors. This is a show of strength and so we headed to the groom's dad's house, up an alley between the houses, and if you just thought, "sub-division" or "new estate"......it's not quite that type of housing. More a collection of planks cunningly held together without nails, or indeed, paint. A few rooms. Well, two and a fine collection of mats for ageing cruisers to wriggle and squirm on, backs and thighs aching having long ago lost the ability to sit cross legged. After tea and cake and the effects of the equivalent of perhaps six years of mass passive smoking, we took the obligatory selfies and headed out with the groom and his "posse" to show any neighbourhood NEDS that if they messed with the groom or his bride to-be, they messed with all of us. I mean, we could have chased the culprit for a good twenty, maybe thirty yards. As long as they weren't too fast. Particularly as we were all wearing full length skirts.
At the bride's mum's house, more tea and coffee. More selfies and more ciggies and finally, the two were brought together, looking a bit glum I have to say, the prospect of moving in together with mum and dad apparently not entirely in the groom's plans for the honeymoon night. If there'd been a Holiday Inn we might have had a whip round for them.
Nonetheless, complete strangers to best men and bridesmaids in an hour or so.
Now this isn't going to be on the optional tours list of many cruise ships; a cremation. We'd done the circumcision tour, (not that well paid, but great tips), the immunisation gig, the wedding and so I guess, to round it off, why not a jolly good funeral.
There weren't many takers.
That was OK, you could get the second bus and just come to the celebration an hour later on the second bus. We should have factored in Indonesia Rubber Time, arriving while things were still, shall we say........cooking. Those of a ghoulish inclination, or maybe they were feeing the early morning chill, went for a closer look.....and of course, some selfies with the family.
There's a whole custom to this event depending largely on disposable income, timing and whether there's plenty gasoline. To make things cost effective, traditionally, the village kind of gathers up the candidates in the lower income bracket, the relatively wealthy having gone private, and are given the treatment discretely, their ashes kept for later in a coconut and their soul in a piece of wood with their name scratched on it. Then, every fifth year, a massive ceremony, come feast come collective funeral is held and the equivalent of a yellow plastic duck race happens when the coconuts are put in the river to journey to the ocean, returning the dead to join their ancestors.
The piece of wood is then symbolically cremated and the souls of the dead avoid the river race and take the short cut to heaven.
Meanwhile, the relatives, who couldn't afford their own private funeral, have this massive bash which costs millions, celebrating the lives of the recently departed, feasting and singing and having a few selfies with a strange group of passing sailors. Weird, amazing and an insight to local culture you'd struggle to get anywhere.
(Check out the Gallery for pics)