Roosters, birds, crickets, geckos, ducks, the man shaking the tin cans on the line in the rice paddies trying to scare away the birds.
But other than that silence. Which isn’t very silent. Cockerels are loud. We’ve just learnt to block them out but now on this day of silence we notice them more. I’m trying to remember what other noises I normally hear at this time in the morning. The man shaking the cans usually yells too. But today he’s silent. Even the dogs are silent. There’s no distant noise of traffic or conversation drifting over the walls from the neighbour’s house. There’s no ‘kelapa’ delivery man dumping coconuts on our porch and calling out ‘Pagi!’
This is because everyone (as in everyone except a handful of police) is locked inside their houses hiding with the lights off. We’re hiding from the evil spirits who have returned to earth. We hide so that the spirits are tricked into thinking nobody’s home and leave once more until this time next year when they decide to try again.
We have to stay inside for 24hours – traditionally a time for silence, meditation and fasting (though silence and meditation with a four year old in the house? and fasting with John in the house?) Anyone going out on the street can be fined up to a $100, including tourists, who are banned from leaving their hotels and can’t leave the island because the airport is shut.
Last night we walked up the hill to the football field in the centre of town, following a procession of ogoh-ogoh’s – these are a bit like Bonfire Guys, huge paper mache and polystyrene figures made by every village, but rather than representing some sixteenth century pantaloon wearing gunpowder plottist, they represent bad spirits (or fairies as I explained to Alula). These are paraded through town, massed on the football field and then taken away to burn.
Alula’s school made one which looked like a Zombie, which explains why for the last three days she’s been obsessed with playing zombie games at home. I had been puzzling over that one, wondering if her babysitter had shown her Dawn of the Dead whilst we were out. Glad I’ve cleared it up.
We took Lily Bo with us on this adventure to see the ogoh-oghohs. It became an impromptu party with other parents and kids. Then we walked home. Alula and Lily and I took a tumble in the crowd as a surging ogoh-ogoh carried by 100 boys came careering towards us. Health & Safety? Mwah. Kids of twelve were hoisting up the power lines to let the ogoh ogoh’s through. Crowd control consisted of one policeman blowing a piddly whistle. Still, have to be glad that they figured out burning polystyrene and paint in the centre of town was generally a bad idea.