zondag 8 december 2013

Dream or Reality (21)
Open doors

“Making a superfluous statement is often called kicking in an open door, probably inappropriate in Bali, where all doors are used to be open,” is my opening remark in the direction of our dear friends Tu Kodok, the frog and Tu Tokeh, the gecko, as usual at this moment of the night sitting in front of us on the edge of the window in our fairylike room in the palace.

“That is true, but why do you say that now?” is Tu Kodok’s reaction.
“Because that is our experience in Bali in general and specially today again. 

The gates, being the entrances to the house compounds are mostly open, giving us the opportunity to get a glimpse of the magnificent gardens. And then it can happen we are invited to come inside, encouraging to make pictures.”

“Yes and then they show the children, to whom the parents are so proud and we make pictures of them too. After which we promise to come back next year to deliver the photographs. In this way, many friendships in Bali have been started,” Fifi takes over.

“And so we also arrived in this palace. The doors were open and we walked carefully inside, expecting any moment that someone would stop us. We admired the beautiful garden and the art deco ornaments, already taking many pictures. 

Then suddenly a friendly young man was standing in front of us. He introduced himself as a member of the staff and immediately led us to the head of the royal family and his son. 

They offered us coffee, we had a nice conversation and they urged us to stay for the night. So our relation started, we came back many times and so we are now sitting on our bed talking to you.

But returning to my opening remark: This morning we walked out of the palace for a little stroll, accompanied by the prince.
Our attention was attracted by a big tree, in which hundreds of small parrot-like birds were making a deafening sound. Coming more close we noticed a beautiful gate. Curious as always we looked around the corner. But the prince made it clear that going inside was not of any problem.

We have seen many house compounds or temples, but this one struck everything.

We passed again a gate which was the entrance to a narrow bridge leading over a pond, dividing it in two parts, with in each part many red and white lotusses. In the middle of the right one an elegant Saraswati statue. 

At the sides strange komodoro-like statues. And sculptures of cobras, their long bodies cycling up, with threatening heads.

A happy jumping frog on the concrete floor of the bridge looked at us and made the sign that he wanted to escort us.”
“One of my family over there!” Tu Kodok enthusiastically reacts, almost falling down of the window of pleasure.

“Yes, his whole attitude was similar to yours and he led us straight into a balé in which a remarkable man with soft friendly eyes was sitting, his legs crossed in meditation posture. 
The round face like that of a Chinese Happy Buddha, I estimated his age round the fifty. The black hair pulled back in a bun gathered at the back of his head. His brown torso bare. The only garment a white sarong.

‘I was waiting for you,’ were his welcoming words. At the same time the only words he would say in English, because he continued in Bahasa or Balinese to the prince. 

Apparently they knew each other. I heard him say mimpi, which in sound is very close to Fifi. So Fifi at first thought that he was mentioning her name and was surprised of course. 

‘Mimpi means dream,’ translated our prince. ‘He already saw you in his dream.’

The prince explained that the Happy Buddha in front of us is considered as a very holy man and people come from far to ask his advice. And if we should have a question we also can ask.

Fifi came up to the idea to ask about the lost cell phone: ‘This morning Hans came to the conclusion that he lost his cell phone somewhere the day before. So I tried to reach him with my phone, but no ringing sound was heard, so we gave it up.’

I saw the holy man nodding when the prince was translating.

Then I heard a ringing sound. It came out of my bag behind me. It came from deep down. And there it was: My cell phone. 

I was very surprised of course and looked at the number which was shown on the screen, an unknown number. When I looked up again I looked right in the round face of the Buddha, whith a smile from ear to ear, with close to his right ear a cell phone. 

He was calling me!!! But how does he know my number?

And ‘why,’ I said, ‘we did not hear it when Fifi was calling my number this morning?’

‘Because you were blocked, your mind was blocked, that can happen,’ the prince translated the words of the holy man.
And he continued: ‘It is a lesson, keep your mind open ... as the doors in Bali.’”

I look at the window in front of us, our two animal friends are silently gone, just like that, as always, until tomorrow.

Dream or Reality?
See for more stories www.ubudcommunity.com under "blogs" Hans Smeekes

Dream or Reality (19) 
Talking about masks

text and image by Hans Smeekes

It is midnight and we are sitting on the romantic bed in our dream room of the palace waiting for our animal friends Tu Kodok, the frog and Tu Tokeh, the gecko to appear.
Tu Tokeh already made his specific gecko sound, eleven times, normally the sign for the meeting.

Suddenly they are there on the edge of the window in front of us, but in a different shape as usual. And then we see what it is all about.
They are wearing masks, in the size according to the small animals, moving the heads towards each other in a funny way. 
Pretending they are each other, because Tu Tokeh is wearing a frog mask and Tu Kodok a kind of dragon mask.

To make their roles complete they are imitating each others voice.
“Hello how are you?” Tu Kodok says with the high voice we normally know to be Tu Tokeh’s and Tu Tokeh says the same phrase with the creaky voice we know so well to be Tu Kodok’s.

“You surprise us but at the same time we realise it is very appropriate, because today was already the day of the masks, as we visited a famous maskmaker, he was so nice to show us around and did some very funny performances with the masks,” is my first reaction.
“Yes and wé did also a performance,” Fifi adds, “because he put the only female mask (a friendly round face) on me and put a funny monkeylike mask on Hans, including a kretek cigarette in the wooden mouth.”

“Immediately we had the inspiration to play our new roles as Ibu Madé Cendrawasih (Mrs. Paradise bird) and Pak Wayan Bojog (Mr. Monkey),” I am taking over.
“The small play which came up spontaneously was more or less like this.
Ibu Cendrawasih was saying: ‘Why are you, Pak Bojog, smoking again? Yesterday you told me to stop today. You even wrote it on a piece of paper.’
On which Pak Bojog reacted with, speaking in a staccato way: ‘Yes I did, dear Ibu Cendrawasih, show me the paper.’
Ibu Cendrawasih searched in an overacting way for the paper and when she found it she showed it in triomph in front of the mask face of Pak Bojog, on which he reacted with, one more time taking a lazy puff on his kretek, blowing the smoke theatrically in the air: ‘Read it for me what is written.’
‘It is written,’ she said: ‘tomorrow I stop smoking.’ 
‘You see,’ Pak Bojog reacted, ‘tomorrow, not today ...’”

“It is like the Balinese do, they also make jokes of serious things, specially in the topeng dance performance,” Tu Tokeh is saying, while he is back to his normal voice and shape, the mini frog mask thrown off now.

“Apart of the joke,” I continue, “the thing is: in our normal life as Hans and Fifi, we don’t have any discussion about this, because we let each other free in this kind of things, but I know that Fifi would like very much me to stop smoking.
But I like it so much ... sitting with the Balinese, chatting with a kretek cigarette.” 

“So you were inspired by the masks, it brought the subject to the surface?” Tu Kodok reacts, also back to normal.
“Yes in a way, I remember when we were watching a topeng in a temple one of the two so called penasar mentioned our names and everyone was looking in our direction. And started to laugh. Maybe because of Fifi’s colorful featherlike crown on the head, by which the association with a paradise bird is quickly made.”

“These two storytellers in the topeng with their jawless half-masks can bring together opposing worlds, they are famous for that, they just break in their story to include current things or gossip to create a laugh. But at the same time you must never forget that for a Balinese a mask dance/performance is a very sacred thing. The ultimate goal is to restore the harmony between good and evil. 

That is why it is quite different as in the western mask play. In fact a Balinese is not playing the figure of the mask , he ís the figure of the mask, he is one with the energy of the mask,” Tu Kodok explains.

“That is true, we experienced this very well in a temple when there was a Wayang Wong dance performance. 

The actors treated the masks with so much veneration. Before putting on the mask the actor seemed to be in a kind of trance, we noticed him changing, he became a completely different person, once he had the mask on. We were very impressed by seeing this.

And that’s why we like to express we very well understand that the masks we put on today and with which we did our little play were not the consecrated and sacred ones, as being used in the temples.”

“In relation to this maybe you heard the story of the so called American mask, the Ratu Gede Amerika?” Tu Tokeh reacts.
“No, please tell us.”

“A Balinese merchant bought the mask on the famous handicraft market in Sukawati. He brought it with him to America, where he sold it. But the buyers were not happy, because the mask became very noisy once it was on the wall there. The merchant came to look what was happening and what he heard was astonishing: the mask was talking Balinese and said it wanted to go home. Fulfilling the wish of the mask the salesman brought it back to Bali, where the people put it in a shrine in a temple. So from an ordinary mask it became a very sacred one. So that can happen.”

“Oh, but we also bought a mask once, it is in our living room now in our country, up to now it made not any noise and seems to be very happy, perhaps because it is surrounded by a keris, wayang kulit puppets and Buddha statues and Fifi every day burns incense ...”

“On Bali there is the believe that spirits can find their home in many things, such as trees, rocks, but also masks. And maybe the one in your mask likes the happy two of you and feels very comfortable, feeling very much at home.”
“But now it is time to stop, we talked a lot, we go .... “ and suddenly the spot on the edge of the window is empty.
Have the two animals been here anyway? And we had this talk about masks?

Dream or reality
See for more stories www.ubudcommunity.com under "blogs" Hans Smeekes.