At about 4 pm yesterday afternoon, I was lolling about on the balcony, in a pair of granny pants, and sweaty vest, sipping warm water and reading the back of a pot noodles packet – should I, shouldn’t I?  When this wonderful music started creeping towards me.  It wasn’t the deep guttural chanting I hear at daybreak, but something softer, and more uplifting.  I planted the noodles to one side, and sat upright, turning my ear towards the street.  Then I heard the drums.  I lifted myself up out of the chair, crouching ever so slightly to preserve my modesty, and leaned across the bannister.  Mawa House was empty.  The granddad was no longer watching the football on the telly, the women weren’t weaving offerings, the men weren’t hammering at the room out the back, even the young biker gang were nowhere to be seen.  But the songs were getting louder and it was then that I saw them.  The entire village of Nyuhkuning parading down the street.  First it was a few rows of men, in their festive best, carrying the flags, and then it was the women.  It was their voices I could hear.  Loads of them, looking so beautiful in lace tops and embroidered skirts, offerings crowned upon their heads.  Incense was burning, creating a mystical cloud around them.  Behind them, were these careful creations.  Were they statues of the spirits?  Upright and slightly fearsome they were placed on the ground as the congregation came to a halt.  I looked down at my patient’s outfit, sniffed my shirt, caught a glimpse of my bedraggled, sunken face, rested my hand over my hollow stomach, listened for that dreaded rumbling sound…and though – ah fuck ii!  Grabbed my camera, scraped my hair back, through some Thai pants over my granny pants, and ran outside to get a closer look.

By the time I got downstairs, the women were midway through their ritual.  All crouched on the floor and singing.  I was torn between  wanting to get as close as I could and holding back to respect their celebrations.  I took my steer from an older gentleman who nodded at my camera and smiled.  “Yes yes.  Take pictures”.  And so I did.  Not many.  Just enough to get a sense of what was going on.    Taking photos felt ever so slightly intrusive.

The celebration is called Kuningan.  It’s the last day of their ten-day celebration.  Remember that festival I was talking about…hmmmm…ten days ago.  About the good spirit winning?  Well since that day the gods and the spirits have all been coming down to earth.  They require entertainment and attention.  The offerings outside every household have been plentiful, visits to the temples frequent, and I think Kuningan is when the gods and spirits finally return.

It was such a beautiful thing to watch, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.

When I got back to my homestay I was pleased to bump into Mawa and his family.  They were all dressed up and looking merry, on their way back to the temple.  They’d left yet another generous offering of fruit outside my door, and it filled me with such gratitude, and simple happiness, that I almost forgot about my illness completely.

 

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