Light

Dear All
The terrible red hats with which the staff in the supermarket is supposed to make a fool of themselves are not in sight yet, still in the box I assume and it’s questionable if they’ll come out this year. Bali has other things to do for the moment. Galungan, the celebration of the ancestors visiting and of thankfulness for all received in the period passed, is just over. Thanksgiving for Balinese. The penjors, see picture, that belong to the celebration are still erect and will stay till after Kuningan, just after Christmas; another celebration because the ancestors go home again then. The Balinese live strongly connected to all that was before, it gives them roots but, alas, it’s quite in the way of growing wings.
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Apart from some silly decorations and hats at the supermarket and a few products that, with a lot of good will, can be considered Christmas-like, you wouldn’t notice here that Christmas is just around the corner. They have no connection to it whatsoever and that’s quite understandable, considering the acts and deeds of the west that make one think that conviction is basically something for home or Sundays in church. Few were persuaded to abandon their own culture.
It’s convenient that Maria gave birth just in those days in December. That way the church was able to annex a pagan party, (some exorbitant habits excluded). Maybe they did see the hand of god in his birth on that particular day as well? The dark days before the coming of the light; very strong metaphor and no quarrels with the heathen that didn’t want to give up their solstice celebration. The meaning of it all got quite overshadowed by tree, bling, a lot of food and presents. In Europe nature helps a bit to grab the underlying picture, here we have to do without such hints, today is the longest day. It doesn’t matter really, I think. Darkness is not something I have to look for, the world offers it in huge quantities and, sometimes, it’s available in my own heart as well. (Not too abundant we hope.)
The longing for light in such darkness is know to all of us, I think. Without claiming exclusivity; where I come from Christmas is an occasion to celebrate the birth of that light.
Presents (unfortunately nothing to expect from Balinese in that respect), good food (but please, not in those restaurants that have paper hats and hooters ready), joy and a Christmas tree (but not one of those bling-noise-music-things in the Mall), it all can be part of it. What Christmas is really about happens within us and is not confined to any time of year. Christmas every day is a bit much but it can’t be the meaning of it all that we gather around the manger and, after a few days, leave the child to take care of its own.
I wish that Christmas may be a moment for you to celebrate light and love. That love may surround you; that love and light may shine from you towards others. That you will find courage and strength in the New Year to make a difference, where and whenever needed. That you, specially now and irrespective of your beliefs, will be willing to receive light and to shine in darkness.
Love, Frank

Citizen of the world

Dear All,

Leaving my house and then, 6000 miles or so down the road, come home again. A “Hi, how are you?” to the (handsome) customs officer. (I’m at an age now that the number of beautiful young people increases all the time.) He is okay and so am I. With a shuttle to Hekpoort near Magaliesburg, the driver is an ex kick-boxer and he’s full of stories. He saves money to take his wife and child to the Cradle of Humankind, such things make his wife so happy and that’s what he enjoys. I enjoy the atmosphere, the accent, his attitude that may seem simple but is in fact most mature; he focuses on what really matters, “I just love to see her happy”. People walk along the dirt roads – Africans walk. A woman carries water, a little boy is on his way to school, a group of church ladies strides as if there’s no tomorrow. I see those that aren’t there. Although, not there? Hello Africa, I’ve left you but you didn’t let me go.

The farm of Esther and Werner is beautiful as ever, almost as beautiful as they are. It’s summer and everything is green. Dopie, he was my dog once, became a muscled jack russel like and he still doesn’t know he’s a small dog. It’s been two years but the other dogs also still remember me. Two weeks Africa, sometimes with hilarious adventures. A horse that ended up in the swimming pool in the middle of the night and couldn’t get out; no way. To pump out the water and fill the pool with sand to create a way out was the only solution. That, after discharging all that water on the land, the truck with 15 cubic meters of sand got stuck, is something no one could foresee but that’s what happened anyway. Lots of commotion and only later, when the horse was safe and the pool ruined, we could laugh about it.

Two weeks Africa to soothe my homesickness, two weeks home under the endless skies, the horizon seems further away than ever; an emptiness that emphasizes the connectedness of the people with the land and underlines and enforces their beauty.

IMG_1687A trip to Madikwe, a wild park near the Botswana border. A lion took himself a buffalo as a meal and is eating for a week now to get it finished. Lion doesn’t have fridge. The smell is penetrant, disgusting, it’s fascinating to see and in the meantime I’m glad that he has food; no reason to drag me out of the safari car.

Elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, zebras and lots of animals more all over the place – we see an ‘aardvark’, an unusual creature with long, transparent red ears. Special, also for the ranger, for him it was the second time in sixteen years that such guy showed himself. A dung beetle does his thing on the road, a soft tenor sings that song in Xhosa again. Waking up at five in the morning to see it’s light already and then, ten minutes or so later, it’s again dark. Huh? Yep, there is an elephant in front of the window blocking the sun. Special, exotic but then, maybe to him, me lying in a bed, may be exotic. Together we’re part of something that cannot be described in words.

Everything is so beautiful, so beautiful and still, not the most beautiful. That is where people love you, where you love the people. Always wanted a bigger house? This is the best offer we have; the world – to be a citizen of the world. Funny phrase in fact, as if one could be anything else than just that. Citizen of the moon, mars?

True, so many rooms stink with misery. The house is big and far from neat but it is our house, our home. Give me one valid reason why I would have more right to a safe and warm place than others and I won’t bleat anymore. Till then, work to do.

There are, admitted, rooms that are extra dear to me. Not because they are better but because I know them – problems, ideas that are maybe hard to digest, desperate trying which often fails and so much beauty, all included – I know them, I know the people that live there. To recognize oneself in the other is, in my opinion, the key. To withdraw on the island of being American, Londoner or Balinese, is nonsense because you are, whether you want it or not, citizen of the world. Also Nowhereville South is nothing else but another room in the big house that’s called world. It remains our task, our being: each and everyone of us, to clean up the house. “Ubuntu”, I am because we are, is what an African says.

Via Paris – Avoid Paris! Do not go over Charles de Gaulle! – to the Netherlands; another room in the same house. One and a half day to meet friends; to encounter more good. Time is never enough when beauty is there. A good thing we can remember and recall.

And now it’s Bali again. With the rain (rainy season) so far it’s not too bad, only a huge shower this afternoon, but more is expected. Here in Bali no dark days before Christmas, Galungan starts this week and everybody is busy making penjors and offerings. At the supermarket the usual Christmas decoration is still in the box, no Christmas music and the staff didn’t get their silly red hats yet. I’m afraid that all will change this week. Merry Christmas and having no idea what’s it all about. Strange? Uhh, 20% of the British children assumed Jesus Christ is a football player, Chelsea they thought.

People are strange is what some say. It’s not too bad I’d think. That they seem to be very different is undeniable but under their skin … we are brothers.

Love, Frank