Fun in the Sun

By Hannah Black
For The Bali Times

SILAKARANG ~ My adopted home village of Silakarang was at its buzzing best for the anniversary of the village youth organization, which happened to coincide with the run-up to Indonesia’s Independence Day.

There was a volleyball tournament, a birthday-cake fight, a four-village walk and – the highlight of the weekend – a slippery coconut pole-climbing contest.

The village youth organization, which my husband Ongky headed before I stole him away to be a husband and father, is a really fantastic organization. Unmarried girls and boys work together to run fundraisers, take trips to important ceremonies and run all manner of competitions. It seems generally to be an excellent way for youths to spend time and be involved in important issues in the village.

In the past we’ve had mass bicycle rides, which were hugely successful and amazing to watch. Every kid and teenager from a three-mile radius came with his or her customized low-rider bikes that are so incredibly popular these days.

This time I think the plan was to be able to include even more people by making it a walk instead of a bike ride, and it worked. There were at least a thousand people at the local elementary school for the start of the event.

Of course traffic was completely blocked on the main road to Ubud, but as you’ll know if you’ve been here for more than a day, that isn’t a big consideration when planning mass gatherings.

The youth organization are not only great planners; they also know how to have fun and showed it on Sunday evening, when on their return from the walk they cut into a great big birthday cake to celebrate and then proceeded to smear and fling it at each other. It was quite a sight.

The slippery coconut pole-climbing competition also attracted a crowd. I guess we were the only village around having one because there were people from a lot of surrounding villages watching and braving the oiled pillar of prizes.

If you’ve never seen one of these events, put it on your list of things to do because it’s a real laugh. Grown men and sometimes boys scramble over each other to get to the top of a very greasy coconut tree where there are plastic bags and bottles containing prizes or slips of paper with prizes written on them to grab.

The table of prizes wasn’t too shabby: a couple of DVD players, irons and mobile phones were up for grabs.

I tried to convince Ongky to get his bum up there and win his wife a new DVD player, but got only an emphatic and hungover “No.” He made the excuse that he hadn’t bought any clothes that he didn’t mind getting all greasy.

Watching the very brave and un-hungover guys scale the pole was great. Some laughed so hard they slipped down, taking everyone else with them; and those who got to the often top showed off doing pull-ups on the cross beams, holding the prizes, and waved the Indonesian flag from the apex to applause from the crowd.

The sheer power of some of those guys is mind-blowing. I can’t think of one friend in the UK who could make it to the top without all the grease, much less with.

The highlight of the event was a man from the next village over who Ongky said is always the star of the show. That he’s a tree cutter by trade, and scales trees on a daily basis, does give him a bit of an unfair advantage.

He made it to the top without breaking a sweat and helped those who couldn’t quite make it without a little pull or a push. He looked like the Balinese version of Freddie Mercury, which made my day just a bit more amusing.

As much fun as we’ve been having, I think I speak for my whole family when I say we’re ready for a break from crowds and eardrum-crushing gamelan. Next weekend I may have to buy a new DVD player (thanks, hungover Ongky) and relax with a movie and some food that hasn’t come from a packet or a roadside warung.

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My Compound Life

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