Tuk Tuk Timbul. Sunday 24.9.89
It seemed that every time I journeyed on a public road, as opposed to a foot track, on bike, motorbike or on foot, I would encounter large groups of children on their way to or from school, all very well-dressed in uniform. One sees these children at other times dressed very poorly, sometimes barefoot, usually working: the very young stopping the water buffaloes from straying, the early teens hoeing the sawah (rice fields), turning mud sods with a tug on the down-thrust spade.
There is a boy, perhaps 9 or 10 years old, who delivers bread. This is a large metal box strapped to the pillion area of a Honda 100cc motorbike. He drives very carefully with a crash helmet perched on top of his head, but his feet can hardly reach the ground with his legs stretched down..
2 Music is everywhere, all of it ‘live’ with no trace of Madonna or the Beastie Boys. From the gallery of minstrels at the ‘cultural dance’ at the King’s village of Samanindo to the man at the warung opposite who picked up a guitar and picked a modest yet very skilful blues rag – and then asked me if he could borrow my ‘bike to go shopping. (I said “yes”.)
When I strolled from Smiley’s to Tomok, there was an unexpected encounter with a choir dressed up in their Sunday best being filmed by a guy operating an 8mm cine camera on a tripod. The accompaniment was a bamboo xylophone with seven bars and two guitars. I sat up the hill a bit alone on my own terrace and enjoyed a free concert.
Walking up the hill into Tuk Tuk, one of the electricians currently working here sat on a balcony, picked up a guitar and began playing and singing beautifully. His voice reminded me of Elton Hayes, a popular singer on the 50’s radio programme, Children’s Favourites with Uncle Mac. I left Pak Sparks’ little concert to the strains of Please Release Me. Bizarre, I thought, so I did.
There is some canned music I cannot forget. Coming from Medan by bus, as we navigated the hairpins which afforded glimpses of the lake below as we neared Prapat the driver put a cassette into the player and a sound emerged which reminded me of the Bachelors, the Irish ‘boy band’ from the 60s: great harmonies and a histrionic solist sobbing how glad he was that Jesus loved him. It was a surreal moment.
I’ve also got a few more cassettes, not only of the indigenous sort, but also, courtesy of the tape and book library in Tuk Tuk, some unexpected finds such as John Hiatt. This has been my first Walkmanned holiday, with eight sets of batteries used up so far. I used the sounds to meld with the views across the lake, or to blot out unwanted aural intrusions.
I really regret that my schedule – last treats from the cake and coffee shop and a final meal at Antonio’s – didn’t permit me to accompany the two sisters of Mr. Jenny who live on the plateau above Ambarita. They were going to a dance four kilometres away and dressed up in western clothes and layers of make up. I watched them set off, happily chirping and anticipating – husbands maybe because at 26 and 27 they remained unwed. My deepest regret about not going with them is that this being a less-formal occasion than a ceremony, the music would have been quite rollicking, like the Chieftains on magic mushrooms.
I’d also like to know why the three villagers I met descending through the forest from up top, as I ascended, were hoping to get Rp.1.5 million for the two hundred year old sword. Was it a village or family heirloom? What would the money be spent on? A new house, a village meeting place? I didn’t ask, but shared a cigarette break, chatted about the path, and strolled on.
Not bad, but the banana ‘brandy’ went down better.