Monday 13 February 2012
Magic Man of Sama Dua
Due to the fact that there are no proper steps going up the incredibly steep hill to Lise and Faridahs house and one has to almost claw ones way up the sliding dirt, scarbbling for a foothold (I have no idea how the kids managed all on their own to get the the suitcases up it), Faridahs motorbike is kept outside the café down below and the helmets kept on top of the glass food display cabinet, these of course being merely a suggestion. Although it is the law to wear a helmet hardly anyone does. I impressed upon the kids that they must wear a helmet when they go on the back of Faridahs bike and regaled them with the story that occured a few weeks ago of two twelve year olds who were riding down the road outside Lise's place and got squashed between a truck and a car - it was said that their eyes had popped out when their skulls had been crushed. This proved to be enough to put the wind up the kids. Doning said optional helmet, I slipped behind the helmetless Faridah and we rode off to Samadua, Faridah honking her horn every two seconds, not to warn people on the road of our approach behind them, but rather to gather an audience of interested onlookers from the houses lining the road to witness her passing with a white person on board. The fact that Lise's family has come to visit considerably elevates both Faridahs and Lise's status in the community, so conscious of this I'm careful to smile at everyone, even a becak tray full of kids who call out 'Bulai' meaning 'albino' a derogatory term for white people that I had so far not heard in Aceh but had heard plenty of in North Sumatra. I let them know from my facial expression that I've understood what they've said and they immediately look contrite. Riding up a back street, a novelty because most houses are along the roadside so people can set up little stalls in their houses to make some extra money, and also see what's going on in the neighborhood better, we came to a stop at the magic or psychic mans house. The elderly Bapak wearing a sarong and peci (the traditional Indonesian hat) took us outside to a raised, white pavilion. The magic mans daughter brought bettle nuts, Siri (the special green leaves accompanying the chewing of the beetle nuts) and lime, which made the inside of Faridahs mouth a brilliant scarlet color once she'd finished chewing. The magic man listened to his packet of cigarettes (I'm not joking) then asked Faridah to purchase two bottles of water that he blessed. One was for Torsten who had diarrhea (we had forgotten to take our Betaine Hydrochloride tablets, increasing our stomach acid levels to kill any bugs with each meal) and the other was for me and R so we wouldn't have confusing thoughts. Although I hadnt asked anything of him, this was ostensibly Faridahs visit, he then asked for me to take the sapphire off my finger and mumbled a blessing into and told me to wear it always so R would remember he had a wife and wouldn't be tempted to look at other women! Although this all sounds bizarre, the whole village holds him in great esteem and everything he has has ever said has been accurate. On the way home we rode a back road through the hills and forest before emerging back onto the main road. Small huts on stilts sat in the middle of rice padis and Faridah pointed out where her buffalo were kept. The more buffalo one has the wealthier one is. Female buffalo are more valuable because they can of course give birth to more buffalo thereby increasing ones stock. Faridah and Lise have four buffalo, three females and one male. The males are generally sold or kept for ceremonial occasions, to be sacrificially slaughtered. Last time we were here in 2007 there had been an old buffalo grandmother, an old lady who looked after three buffalo. Every afternoon we would see her walking her buffalo from where they'd been grazing during the day across the beach and home. Lise had done a semi-cubist painting of her tending her buffalos that had been exhibited in Melbourne for an International Women's Art Exhibition (Her Presence in Colours) showcasing art work from women of 40 different countries - Lise was representing Indonesia. We were sad to here that though old grandmother buffalo still lived, two of her buffalos had been stolen (probably by non-muslim people from Medan with trucks in the night) andthe third one had been killed and partially eaten by a tiger ( the endangered Sumatran tiger they have here).