Sunday 25 November 2012

Roosters & Kopi Luwak illustrated

The sound of the waves from the beach is amplified at night
 The sound of waves lapping gently on the shore lulled us to sleep. The pleasure of smelling the salty perfume of the ocean in that deep dream state one only achieves in the early morning hours was rudely and sharply overridden by that f*****g rooster!
Rooster on the beach is a normal sight
 It had chosen to stand directly under my window and proceeded to kykeli ky for the next three hours! Having only had a few hours sleep when it started crowing it was rapidly becoming in danger of being that evenings dinner. After a few hours of trying to ignore the bugger I decided it was pointless and got up to scoop the refreshingly cold water of the mandi over my face and body.
My mothers mandi with the green scoop
 As I stood on the concrete bathroom floor lathering the soap onto my skin a small scorpion ran across the floor. I grabbed a scoop full of water and flushed it down the drain and resolved not to mention it to the kids, I did want them to bathe in the near future. Later that day India found two more scorpions near her suitcase that required removal. Apparently the chickens eat them so we decided the rooster might be useful after all. A few days later everybody was in favor of eating the rooster, even India and she's vegetarian!
Mother hen with her chicks outside Lise's house
 Opening up the wooden louvred windows that faced the ocean I was greeted to the sight of three chickens roosting in the small tree outside. Stepping outside and rounding the corner of the house I came across a mother hen sitting with eight two day old chicks tucked under her wings. Mother and chicks were all a-flutter as I walked past up the stairs for my morning coffee. My mother had acquired at great expense to the management ($100 for a small bag) some Kopi Luwak for me, the civet cat poo coffee I spoke about in my my post titled  'Defaecated coffee anyone?' for anyone interested in the process. Faridah made me a cup of kopi biasa (normal coffee - which is coffee grinds that they have grown, harvested and roasted themselves) which I started to drink and found quite nice. Then she brought me a cup of the Kopi Luwak and after tasting it's velvety smoothness the normal coffee tasted incredibly bitter. Morning coffee was accompanied with persimmons, sau (a fruit with a pear-like texture) and papaya. Every time I eat papaya it reminds me of our friend in Perth Loren Adams. Loren had been in the SAS and during his interrogation resistance training he had been blindfolded for days sitting on a hard concrete floor and been forced to eat mashed up papaya whilst being told it was someone else's vomit. After that he couldn't even get close to the smell of a papaya without gagging. Over a lunch of grilled snapper, rice and pumpkin shoot leaves we listened to the Arab news, the Russian news and the Japanese news.
Massive satellites on every house in the village
  Being almost on the equator here, the huge satellite dishes on the houses here point almost straight up to receive signals from the satellites orbiting the globe. They pick up some 600 plus chanels, our favorite usually being the French film that's on at eight o'clock in the evening.
Torsten watching a French film on the tv at Lises
  Later in the day that bloody rooster just wandered merrily into the kitchen looking for somewhere nice to sit and Torsten had to chase him out. Apparently when they're about to lay their eggs the rooster and hen will walk around like a young married couple trying to find a spot that looks good to nest in. Quite frequently this turns out to be the top of the fridge or Lises armchair and they have to be unceremoniously evicted. Regarding the rooster, Lise explained that he crows at first light ( it's still bloody dark as far as I'm concerned!), and to announce both high tide and low tide, and also to chat to the other rooster across the road.

The injured rooster
 The next day we noticed that the rooster was having difficulty walking and spent most of his time sitting down on the ground. Faridah was hoping mad with one of the neighbours and this is the reason: Apparently said naughty rooster had been going down to check out the neighbours hens and the neighbour, spying him, went at him with a machete and hacked of his spurs and severed the tendons on the back of one his legs. Faridah found him (the rooster the is) trying to stagger back up to our place with blood running down his legs. I have a feeling he became one of our meals but it was never mentioned due to the sensitivity of the western children present.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Photos added Magic Man of Sama Dua

Lise & Faridahs house
 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.
The view of helmetless riders Riding along on the motorbike with Faridah
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.
Magic man's 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.
Magic man's daughetr cutting up siri
Betel nut (siri) with lime paste in background that gets added and rolled up in leaf
  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!
Magic man of Sama Dua with cigarette
 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.

Religious sacrifice of buffalo
 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) and the third one had been killed and partially eaten by a tiger ( the endangered Sumatran tiger they have here).

Sunday 11 November 2012

Octopus and How to Cook Fern Shoots

Diary extract from January 2012 Kiria is a village girl whom Faridah employs to help out with the food preparation and cleaning. One afternoon she pointed to a large basin on the kitchen floor and said 'mangsi'. I peered in at a slimy grey, pink and white mass of tentacles and suckers - it was one rather large octopus destined for dinner. Kira held it up by the head above her shoulders and let the dangle almost to floor to show me how big it was.
 She then washed all the sand out of it thoroughly and proceeded to chop the tentacles into small pieces.  These were then fried in a tomatoey sambal that was delicious, served with rice and chopped cucumbers.
Staying for several weeks in Air Dingin necessitates registering with the local police rather like we had to do in the old East Germany when I would travel there with my parents to visit my aunt who lived just outside of East Berlin.
Faridah took me on the back of her motorbike into the nearest 'big town' Tapak Tuan', a fifteen minute ride away, to visit our police friend, Isnadih, and present copies of our passports along with passport photos of each of us for their records. Isnadih had called ahead and warned Faridah that we needed three photos each, not the usual two due to the fact that a person in the north of Aceh had been shot and Aceh had now been declared a state of unrest and emergency requiring extreme precaution! After we finished at the police office we went to visit the family running the café Faridah had built 3kms from the house.
 It is situated on the beach adjacent to a new Harbour being built where they plan to bring in fish to transport on for the Medan market.

Next we went into the pasar, or market in Tapak Tuan to shop for fruit and vegetables. There were many things I was unfamiliar with, particularly the different types of leaves that can be stir-fried in a similar way to my favourite kankung.

I did recognize the delicious fern shoots though because we can also by them at Rusty's market in Cairns. Later on I watched Faridah cooking them and I attach the recipe below. Everybody wanted to chat and have their photo taken. Luckily my Bahasa Indonesian is improving enough to hold a simple conversation. Of course if they speak the Acehnese it's completely impossible to make out even one word. I had commented to my mother that it sounded like Cambodian and she affirmed that the Acehnese had indeed come in several migratory waves down from Cambodia.

Across the road from the market we walked passed a couple of head butting goats to visit our friend Am who has a small clothing stall.

Faridah couldn't resist a peach coloured pant and top outfit with a peterpan collar and I snaffled up transparent red (surprise, surprise I know) slendang or scarf, whilst sitting on low stools chatting with Am and her new husband, who looked to be about half her age. Faridah is also engaged to someone 19 years her junior - its considered perfectly normal here to marry a much younger man. Faridahs fiancé is not from Aceh so he doesn't speak Acehnese. He is in fact from further down south and a muslim Batak. They have to speak Bahasa Indonesian together. They met by mobile phone when Faridah dialed the wrong number and got him and they got to chatting. He has been up to visit for a few days and he stayed in the house. The village chief had to be notified because they have rather strict muslim laws about single men staying with single women.  In fact one of the village chiefs was himself caught visiting a divorcee and they were made to sit all day in just their underpants in the river for everyone to see as punishment.
How To Cook Delicious Fern Shoots
Place a small piece of fresh galangal, ginger, garlic and chili into a blender and mash to a paste with some salt. Wash a nd chop the fern shoots into 1" pieces and place into a hot wok with some coconut oil. Pour the paste ontop. Add a couple of bases of lemon grass and stir round for a while. Mix in a cup of santan (preferably freshly shredded (coconut) and add some water to make a small amount of sauce. Cook for a while longer until you're sure the shoots are tender and serve - yum!

Sunday 4 November 2012

My sofa, car & laptop are all Red - what is the Secret meaning of this?

Have I encoded a hidden or secret meaning by purposely choosing red for certain of my posessions? Read on to find out: I have been totally in love with Chaos Theory since reading James Gleicks book ‘Chaos’  13 years ago. I even managed to find an excuse to insert Chaos Theory into my final dissertation at Uni on Wayfinding for Vision Impaired Persons. Chaos theory is about looking at dynamic systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions (Think Butterfly Effect – a term appropriated from the title of a paper given by Edward Lorenz in 1972 to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C. ‘Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?’)
Lorenz was an American mathematician and meteorologist and this is his story of revelation in James Gleicks words:
One day in the winter of 1961, wanting to examine one sequence at greater length, Lorenz took a shortcut. Instead of starting the whole run over, he started midway through. To give the machine its initial conditions, he typed the numbers straight from the earlier printout. Then he walked down the hall to get away from the noise and drink a cup of coffee. When he returned an hour later, he saw something unexpected, something that planted a seed for a new science. This new run should have exactly duplicated the old. Lorenz had copied the numbers into the machine himself. The program had not changed. Yet as he stared at the new printout, Lorenz saw his weather diverging so rapidly from the pattern of the last run that, within just a few months, all resemblance had disappeared. He looked at one set of numbers, then back at the other. He might as well have chosen two random weathers out of a hat. His first thought was that another vacuum tube had gone bad.
Suddenly he realized the truth. There had been no malfunction. The problem lay in the numbers he had typed. In the computer’s memory, six decimal places were stored: .506127. On the printout to save space, just three appeared: .506. Lorenz had entered the shorter, rounded-off numbers, assuming that the difference-one part in a thousand-was inconsequential.
It was a reasonable assumption. If a weather satellite can read ocean-surface temperature to within one part in a thousand, its operators consider themselves lucky. Lorenz’s Royal McBee was implementing the classical program. It used a purely deterministic system of equations. Given a particular starting point, the weather would unfold exactly the same way each time. Given a slightly different starting point, the weather should unfold in a slightly different way. A small numerical error was like a small puff of wind – surely the small puffs faded or cancelled each other out before they could change important, large-scale features of the weather. Yet in Lorenz’s particular system of equations, small errors proved catastrophic.
Chaos theory can be applied to almost any aspect of life. This makes it vastly interesting, I mean really, if I start talking about two trajectories in phase space with initial separation 

  where λ is the Lyapunov exponent  how many of you are still interested? No, I didn’t think so, but I tell you that one of the main concepts in Chaos Theory is that fluid turbulence develops through a strange attractor (I discussed strange attractors in my post on the Higgs-Boson) to produce this fantastic picture below, suddenly it’s much more interesting.

In case you didn’t get it a strange attractor is a trajectory or path that a chaotic system runs on from one situation to the next in some sort of irregular pattern without ever settling down (which is what an attractor does).
In Don DeLillo’s fiction novel White Noise,  one of my favourite fiction novels  heavily structured on Chaos Theory, (and I mean who wouldn’t love a book whose main character is a professor who has pioneered the field of Hitler Studies – hilarious!) the need to explain patterns and locate those strange attractors I mentioned earlier is littered throughout the book. Like when supermarket shelves get rearranged and the consumers wander around aimlessly trying to work out what order they’ve been put in but unable to define the new pattern.  One of my favourites, an interior design point of view, is the complete psychological frustration experienced by David Bell in trying to decode the meaning of the colour scheme of the office environment.

‘The door of Quincy’s office was orange and his sofa dark grey. Some of us in Weede’s group had doors of the same color but sofas of a different colour. Some had identical sofas but different doors. Weede himself was the only one who had a red sofa. Weede and Ted Warburton were the only ones with black doors. Warburton’s sofa was a dark green and so was Mars Tyler’s door. But Mars Tyler’s sofa was ecru, a shade lighter than Grove Palmer’s door. I had all this down on paper. On slow afternoons I used to study it, trying to find a pattern. I thought there might be subtle colour scheme designed by management and based on a man’s salary, ability and prospects for advancement or decline. Why did no two people have identical sofas and doors? Why was Ted Warburton allowed to have a black door when the only other black door belonged to Weede Denney? Why was Reeves Chubb the only one with a primrose sofa? Why was Paul Joyner’s perfectly good maroon sofa replaced by a royal blue one? Why was my sofa the same colour as Weede’s door?’

Everyone thinks Chaos Theory is about chaos but it’s actually about order – finding order in a system. Can you think of another reason why things like Numerology & Astrology are so popular? It’s almost like it’s an innate part of our genetic wiring as humans to try to find pattern & meaning in seemingly random events. Why is religion in any guise, even the religion of anti-religion, so popular – because it produces order from the otherwise random set of events that constitute our lives. Next time you’re trying to work out a fool-proof way of predicting the stockmarket think Chaos Theory and remember everyone tries to assign a meaning to the pattern in the ink blot. Oh, and by the way, my sofa, car & laptop are all red because they are my snakeskin jacket -  'And for me it's a symbol of my individuality, and my belief... in personal freedom.' (-Sailor in the movie: 'Wild at Heart')
Chaos Theory is a new theory invented by scientists panicked by the thought that the public were beginning to understand the old ones.”
- Mike Barfield