Dream or reality? A story by Hans Smeekes
On one of our trips on Bali we arrive in a palace where we get a warm welcome by the head of the royal family and his son. After a nice conversation, in which they tell us many stories about the good old past, the prince shows us our room for the night. We are very surprised and delighted at the same time. Never seen such a room before. Two big beds of which one is a romantic four-poster, mirrors and furniture in art deco style and paintings everwhere. The artist of the family is the prince himself. Who has the looking of just jumping off from a painting with his long black hair and skinny partly tattooed body.
As soon as we are left alone in the room, we notice apart from the romantic scenery the darkness, which makes the place very mysterious. Daylight is scarcely coming in. In front of the lower bed, which will be mine for the night, is a window. A window with curtains. It forms the opening to the bathroom at the other side. And from a gap in the high wall close to the roof of this bathroom the only light is coming inside.
And this bathroom is not different from the rest. Also covered with many decoration, paintings and mirrors. Brown clay tiles with frog design. On the slippery floor small blue glaze ones. It also has much of an inside garden. When you want to take a shower you have to put some ferns aside. But what most strikes us is the pond just a few centimeters from the lavatory pan. A pond with flowers and yes: with frogs. One is just jumping into the pond with a loud splash when I enter for the first time. And when I take a closer look I see many tiny tadpoles, swimming wildly around in groups.
Before I go to sleep I write sitting on my bed in my diary about what I see around me. Behind me a big painting covering the whole wall with Balinese women in a ricefield. Nice company for the night. At the other side scenes of buddhas and hindu gods. So it takes some time to write all this down. Fifi tries to fall asleep in the romantic bed next to mine in the upper part of the room.
Round midnight I hear a tokeh making his recognizable sound of which the animal derives the name: tokeh. A number of times. It is my habit to count how many times the sound is being made. I count eleven times. I always count an odd number. Fifi has the same experience. Maybe it is just wishful thinking based on some earlier counting. But what I know is that the number of meru roofs in the temples are also always odd. With the maximum of eleven. Remarkable anyway, that this tokeh do this number just now. And Balinese people told us that they only make this sound of “tokeh” when there are friendly people around, a kind of welcoming, saying hello to friends. It makes me very happy in the midst of the night.
After a short while another sound is reaching my ears. The remarkable sound of the bullfrog. But this one has not the tendency to stop. If it is one bullfrog or more I do not know. And after some time when I realise that the sound is very much like English, I join in, say it loud and write the text down: ‘ Twenty time, first time, third time, twènty time, twènty time, third time, eh, eh, first, eh, eh, first time, first time, first, first ...’ Then it stops. Fifi who just slept for some minutes, is awakened by the noise. And has exactly the same experience about the similarity with English, when I mention it.
And then with a much softer sound a frog starts croaking just in front of me on the rim of the window. It stares at me and starts talking: ‘ Hello, how are you, where you come from?’
Before I am able to answer this usual Balinese question which I know from the street I show my astonishment about all these English phrasing, made by animals.
‘Because this is a magical room, that’s why and also you are on Bali .... you know,’ is the reaction of the frog.
Yes I know we are on Bali and we have experienced already some unexplainable things, but this strikes everything. After coming back to some normal senses I can answer the question: ‘We are Hans and Fifi of Belanda.’
‘And I am Tu Kodok,’ says the frog.
‘And I am Tu Tokeh,’ joins the tokeh in, who also is suddenly there on the the same rim.
But this action makes me not surprised anymore. I am ready for everything.
The two animals explain us that they always meet each other at twelve o’ clock in the night here at the window. And the eleven times sound of the tokeh is the sign. A kind of ‘kulkul’.
‘How long you will stay?’ the frog asks.
‘I hope you will stay for a while because we have a lot to talk about.’
‘Yes and nowadays not so many guests are staying here anymore, because most tourists like surfing, snorkling and rafting, that sort of thing, so we are happy that you are here.’
‘I really enjoy meeting you two, but we are very tired and we have much to do tomorrow, so maybe next night we meet again?’
And just as sudden as the two friendly animals appeared they are vanished.
We look at each other.
Dream or reality? What’s the difference?
Published in "Ubud Community" October 2011.