It’s a seriously hot day in Bandung (well, for Bandung that is), and I’ve just finished making and eating breakfast with a few of my Bandung friends. At the horrendous hour of 6am we had decided to go to local markets run by the ‘Agritektur’ group, which promotes local food. We were able to buy local eggs, coffee, vegetables and even sourdough bread. So with all this produce we decided to cook up a big breakfast for a lazy Saturday morning. It goes without saying that it was pretty delicious!
The Agritektur team – all dressed up as Japanese cartoon characters!
And now I’m at the café next door, sipping on coffee and listening to the local guys playing their guitars, and doing not much else. I make no apologies, because the last three weeks have been really quite exhausting.
Almost as soon as I got back from Jakarta, I found myself leaving again. This time it was for the ‘Ubud Writers and Readers Festival’, for which I was a volunteer….but before making my way to Ubud, I did manage to fit in a quick visit to a local community event…ram fighting.
It’s a little bit of a long story, but as part of my research I have started to volunteer for a local organisation that works to conserve local Sundanese culture. As part of their efforts they have chosen a plot of land to convert from subsistence agriculture in to a cultural centre. It will act as a modal for ‘sustainable living’, so things like organic vegetable gardening, recycling and water management will all feature.
Part of the planning process has involved getting to know the community that currently makes use of this plot of land. One way to do so, is to attend their community events, one of which is weekly ram fights!
What does a ram fight entail? Well, owners of these rams (apparently almost every family has one) prepare their rams for the event. They are washed and clipped and well fed. They are all tied up on the edge of the outdoor ring for the day, ready for their turn fighting! I know rams are designed to charge at each other, but I couldn’t help wince every time they locked heads.
A little boy watching the competition – in uniform!
As the rams fought I watched the people in the audience. It was a family day, with singing and dancing and eating and chatting. It reminded me of weekends at polocrosse – where we all rotate between the campsite, the canteen, and the polocrosse field.
But it wasn’t long before I landed myself in a completely different environment, because the following day I flew across to Ubud. I had organised to stay with some other volunteers – Lia and Igna from Jakarta. Our little guesthouse was tucked down a lane and was part of a bigger communal complex – complete with the family temple. Despite the fact that Ubud is very touristy, I still find it beautiful – these quiet little family complexes are everywhere – you just have to find them. And I’m not joking – people are constantly making offerings. Without exaggeration, there is always the scent of incense in the air, and you can see little offerings at almost every single place you visit.
One of the bazillion temples in Ubud
For our first day of volunteering, Igna, Lia and I sped up the hill on Igna’s bike – excited to start the day. My role as a volunteer was simple – I had to greet and sit the front row guests before each event. Which meant I was free to listen to all the panel discussions at my venue. I was lucky enough to hear talks by Robyn Davidson, Kate Holden, Amitav Ghosh and even the fabulous Mem Fox!! The whole festival buzzed with such a lovely, inspiring atmosphere.
After a week of listening to writers from Australia, Indonesia, Iceland, East Timor, and India (to name a few), of eating raw vegan food and of practising yoga every morning, it was time to fly back to Bandung.
And what was waiting for me in Bandung? Our new little kitten! Christina and Kate had found him outside our house and had decided to take this little monster in. He is beyond tiny, and beyond cute. Which is lucky, because so far he has woken us up at 5am every morning…
So back to now. I’ve finished my coffee (enak banget, btw) and the guitarists are taking a break.
I guess it’s time to continue my research (only two more months until it’s due…trying not to panic).
Hope you are all well,