Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sang Pemimpi

Last night I saw a wonderful Indonesian film at the opening of a South East Asian film festival at the ARC theatre.  (phew! what a mouthful!).

The film Sang Pemimpi, is the second part of a trilogy based on the very popular books about growing up on an island off Sumatra, by the Indonesian writer Andrea Hirata.  While the books were set in the 70s and 80s there was much that reminded me of the Indonesian villages I saw in Sulawesi last year - the markets (pasar), the school (sekolah) and the mosque (masjid).

It was a delightful story about boys in high school and their dream to go to Paris to study.  Despite some distractions, the two main characters Ikal and Arai did eventually make it there.  The film's title translates as The Dreamer, and refers to Arai who was always encouraging his friends to dream and then working hard to deliver their dreams to them.  This was in the face of losing all of his family when only still a child.  Did I say it was a lovely film? one I think that reflects the humility and optimism of many Indonesians today.

The director Riri Riza, and the producer, Mira Lesmana, attended the screening, and took questions from the audience.  I was taken by a comment from Riri, that when they had screened the film in Europe, a common response was that the film was very nostalgic, and I had to agree.  It captured something of simpler times, when the small things people did had huge effect,.

In the opening scenes when we see Ikal's father riding a squeaky bike on a lonely road.  Later in the film we learn that this scene was repeated each year, when the father travelled from his village to the school to collect the school reports, handed out in order of achievement.  Ikal called him the no 1 father, who did this year after year, only to stop, congratulate his son briefly, then head back off on his bike.  It was even more poignant the year that Ikal's grades dropped, and he only did that once.

Aku senang sekali yang aku melihat bioskop ini.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A day in the sun

Yesterday the sky was sunny and blue.   It was good day to get things done.  In the morning I:

  • read the Saturday papers
  • went for a run
  • started the washing
  • looked at two houses for sale to see if they were for me (not yet)
  • did the grocery shopping
then in the afternoon, I:

  • finished the washing
  • caught up with a friend, first at her spiritual centre, and then for ride around the lake
  • did some drumming (or tried) at a Mother Nature festival
  • forgot to take my camera so couldn't photograph the pagan ceremony that opened the festival
  • stumbled home to sleep
It was a fun ride around the lake, with people out everywhere enjoying the aforementioned beautiful day.  Many like us were cycling or walking on the bike paths.  Hundreds went to the National Gallery to see the French Masterpieces exhibition - meaning our usual parking spot was a traffic jam.  Then we passed a wedding in one of the parks, a rowing regatta on the lake, and folk streaming into government house to sit on the lawns and enjoy the local symphony orchestra.  Whatever the weather the lake ride is always enjoyable, but yesterday it was lovely, and great to see Canberrans out celebrating the last days of summer.

The Mother Nature festival was something else.  I was there because I do drumming classes and our teacher is sometimes asked to put together a group to perform, and when he does he sends the invitation out far and wide.  I discovered last year when I said yes to one of these that it can be a lot of fun.  I'm not a serious drummer though, and had only been able to make it to one of two rehearsals, so was a bit rusty even on the rhythms we had practiced.  The core group really did a fabulous job though, and the sounds of the dun duns and jembes really caught the attention of the crowds.

Then we sat and watched the opening ceremony for the festival, which involved five maidens in flowing gowns, carrying sprigs of leaves, and a smoke filled bowl, and annointing the crowd with water.  Fifty or so people formed a circle around them, and the girls led a yoga like breathing session, ending with arm raising and a group hum.

This was (at least) my second spiritual event for the day (or third if you count drumming), as I had also been 'given light' by my friend at the centre.  This involves sitting and lying on the floor while my friend performs reiki like moves on my body.  I don't have any strong belief here, but I don't mind the opportunity to relax and to catch up with my friend, hopefully respectful of the good that is in her practices.

It was a day full of the kinds of experiences I enjoy - to observe the things that engage people, and to see how it gives their lives meaning.  I like to let my soul be in different places, to see what will seep under my skin, and hope that some will resound to others.  I will have to do more drumming practice though, if I have any intention of doing more public drumming!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Edges straight and true

The truth is that most edges are not straight.  Borders marked on maps wind and weave alongside rivers, around mountains, and along the shores of oceans.  Just like the sea ebbs and flows, so the borders change and drift over time.  Sometimes they are lines on maps that bear no similarity to the cultural flows and drifts that set down roots in centuries long past.

Last night, in the early evening, and after a productive day doing household things, I decided that dinner would best be served from a stall at Canberra's Multicultural Festival.  And seemingly thousands of other Canberrans had the same thought - as they crowded into what was a cross between street market and folk festival.  I moved through the crowds trying to decide if I wanted Vietnamese, or Thai, or Indonesian or Sudanese.  Part Octoberfest, part folk festival, it was a lovely way to sample cultures from around the world.  And it was delightful to see people in national dress, singing and dancing, on the stages, and in impromptu groups near each country's stall.  There was joy and pride among each of the groups getting to show something about the place they've come from, rather than what must be their everyday life adapting to the world they are in.

As a poignant prequel to this blend of Arabian night and South Pacific hangi, I met a lovely girl from Krygistan yesterday morning in the carpark of my local gym.  Also a local pool, she had been there taking her daughter to swimming lessons.  Driving forward from the carpark next to me, she had accidently driven over a concrete bolster.  We called the gym, who called security, who were very helpful and removed said bolster from under the car.  While I waited with her I learnt that she had only migrated to Australia 4 years ago.  It was interesting to talk to her and quite clear that for her the borders between the two worlds were merging well.

In the conversation she mentioned Mark Twain, and it made me think about the hooks that grab us when we learn new languages or visit a country.   In travel, sometimes, you can only catch a glimpse of what a country is really like, and when you are learning a language what you learn about the country is often guided by the interest of the teacher or text book author.  There are many cliches that we learn about, and see when we travel.  Sometimes we learn through the lense of past decades, because the materials or the people come from those times.  But if we really want to know a culture all we can do sometimes is butt up against it through these portholes until the vision widens.

And it is the blending of old and new, the memories of expats and the challenges of the day, and the truth that sits behind the songs and dances that helps us live within these worlds.  Before I left the festival, and as day became night, I watched a calypso band sing Kingston Town (a Western radio hit in the 60s) with the Carribean singer and drummer backed up by a grey haired muso who looked like he learnt the song in a garage band, way back then.  It wasn't pure, but like the kids in saris playing with their mobile phones, very true.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Here it is, the first day of the second month of a year that is now no longer new.  I went back to to work in the first week of January, and it has been a good month, but the time is coming to firm up some plans for the year, and maybe some plans for a replenishing break - perhaps a few weeks over the end of Feb and early Mar.  Or one in Sep and Oct.  Or both.

My weekend was busy and fun.  Fri night saw a lovely impromptu dinner at a friend's house.  Then we saw Fred Smith and the Spooky Men's Chorale at the Canberra Playhouse, a theatre designed along the lines of Shakespeare's globe.  Buying our tickets on the day for this popular local performer (and accompanying and very funny men's choir) meant we sat up in the high stalls on the side.  There were just five of us in our box.  It was cosy, and quite fabulous to look down on the full theatre, and wave at friends, and watch the audience participate in the show - standing up and swaying on command when Fred asked.

Sat night joined friends for a picnic in the botanic gardens for jazz in the Eucalypt lawns.  It was a lovely atmosphere, quite cool (for a change) and lots of groups of friends, and families, and work mates.

The year ahead offers more shows at the theatre as a group of us subscribe.  Also films at the local university's film group, and I'm sure some folk music from time to time.  And there is a program of books for book group to fit in around the other books in the pile.  In other ways too the year is beginning to settle into its usual patterns.  Yoga classes start again tomorrow night, and I am looking forward to it after a month's break.   And I have opened the pages of the new music book - to hopefully let my fingers and my mind stretch into the new tunes I hope to learn.

With all of these rhythms taking hold, I think though, that I still need that longer break, to rest, refresh, reorganise some things in my life, and perhaps indulge in travel or other new adventures.