The Festival Whirlwind

By Hannah Black

I’ve just had one of those weeks that everything seems absolutely unmanageably crazy; but looking back on it, I can’t really pinpoint what happened.

It felt so much busier than usual, but perhaps it was only because I had such a nice week off teaching, for Galungan.

There’s been a quiet madness in the compound to contend with: everyone being busy making offerings and lawar (a mix of pork, vegetables and blood made for special occasions); and family members visiting from far-flung parts of the island can really disrupt the usual routine.

I’ve helped out with a ton of offerings over the holiday, but there is only so much my soft, white fingers can take. I’m building up the hard patch of skin on the top of my right index finger, but I think it takes years to cultivate a really good palm spine-pushing finger.

It doesn’t matter how many I do anyway because just when you think they’re all done, a whole new load come out. It’s as if there is a never-ending stream of offerings during Galungan and Kuningan.

I was just about to collapse with exhaustion on Tuesday evening when my sister-in-law arrived fresh off the bus from Negara with her two kids. A lovely surprise, but it meant staying up way later than I should have to sit and be with them.

She’s quite shy and doesn’t talk a lot to me, so, as nice as it was to see her and the kids, I was getting pretty sleepy just sitting there.

It’s amazing to see how she jumps straight into work around the compound the minute she arrives. She’s my husband’s only sister and even before she got married she was well versed in the ways of cooking, cleaning and generally doing a million things at once; it doesn’t seem to faze her at all.

I went to work sleepy-eyed the next morning and put together exams until my head was spinning; and all I could think of was getting home to a large cold Bintang beer.

It was not to be, though: there were ceremonies everywhere I turned and I ended up taking a very wibbly-wobbly way home. On two occasions this week I’ve had to do emergency three-point turns on my way home from work to avoid being stuck in traffic for the whole evening.

There really isn’t anything much worse than getting stuck in traffic on your way home from work – is there?

Thankfully it was a nice short week at work with only four days, and Friday was meant to be spent baking at a friend’s house, as she has a real oven.

It was an exciting prospect, but for some reason I did a million things before going to her house and we ended up rushing thorough cake-making so I was still physically able to drive home. Luckily the amount of sugar I had consumed gave me the power to make it home before collapsing into a sugar comedown.

Saturday was Kuningan and we were back in temple to say goodbye to our ancestral deities who had come to check up on us.

With four extra people in the compound getting up, washed and dressed for temple, it was semi-organized chaos.

All the kids were happy, especially as there were two extras, and were roaming in hoards, playing and screeching. My daughter Lola, like most other kids, absolutely loves to get dressed in her kabaya and go to temple.

She follows her pekak (grandfather) around the temple, where he is priest, and has loads of treats given to her from the offerings. It’s a sweet life for kids here most of the time.

There is a great family atmosphere after a big ceremony: everyone sitting around chatting and dismantling offerings. It’s one of my favourite times in the compound.

It also rounded off the week nicely because everyone was looking exhausted.

All the kids had Sunday to rest and recover before school started again on Monday, and a lot of parents had to get back to work.

And there it is – the craziness all over again, for another 210 days.

Filed under: My Compound Life

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