Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ramadan, camels and wells...

Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

I live in Indonesia where, despite the news, it’s all rather safe and sound - chaotic, yes, but still safe and sound.

And now Ramadan is here.

Within Islam, despite the news, Ramadan is actually all rather safe and sound too. It’s a joyous and laid back time filled with prayer and good eating that my Muslim friends, both local and Western alike, look forward to with relish.

My friend Kevin, a Kiwi, a Muslim and the principal of the local international school, tells me it’s his favourite time of the year.

“It’s like Christmas and Easter rolled into one, Felix,” he says. “You should try it.”
“I don’t know, man,” I say, “I’m Catholic.”
“You don’t have to be Muslim to fast. Besides, you go places, you’d like it. Just climb on your camel and let it go…”

Kevin, of course, is being rather poetic, but I get the idea.

The inescapable urge to move towards the great void of God where nothing is hidden and all control is lost. You plunge into the blackness, fall into the well, surrender to what is, and if you’re lucky, find your star.

"The camel travels the desert at night, a star she blindly follows…," says Kevin.
“Is that in the Koran?” I ask.
"No, I just made it up."

Kevin’s youngest daughter’s pet dog, Moonbeam, fell into the well at the back of his house late last year. The well is not quite bottomless, but it’s pretty damn deep, and we got one of the local Dayaks to climb down and pull her out.

Dayaks are very agile, as you can imagine – they climb trees, mess about in boats, ford rivers and beat off marauding orangutans when necessary, so getting one to climb down your well for a few bucks and rescue your dog is no problem at all. They move better than Madonna.

As it turns out, Moonbeam disappeared a month later anyway, and was never seen again, not by us anyway.

Some people say she’s living with the Dayaks in nearby Sei Gohong village, some say she got eaten by the Dayaks in nearby Sei Gohong village, but nobody knows for sure. My personal theory is that she heard the cry of the Great Grey Wolf whilst swimming around at the bottom of the well, realised she was actually alive and so took off at the first available opportunity.

Of course, being a dog, it may have been a whiff of the Great Golden Bone she got, but it lies at the foot of the Great Grey Wolf anyway, so it’s much of a muchness.

Yeah, Moon dog, Moonbeam… she didn’t have many brains, which may account for falling in the well, and wandering off down to Sei Gohong around New Year, but you never know.

It's not brains that count.

I’d love to be able to tell you that on moonlit nights people see her striding atop nearby Bukit Tangkiling (Tangkiling Mountain), her aching howl ripping the glory out of the day. Children hide under beds, carried swiftly and without effort back to their very own first lost cry in the dark. Older, wiser men feel the cold teeth of death nipping at their heels, mount their camels and get a wriggle on. But no, I’d be lying, besides getting carried away.

Moonbeam just disappeared. Itulah Indonesia! It’s Indonesia, and you learn to live with unknowns.

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