The Sultan and the Puppet, Part II

Astoundingly, psilocybin mushrooms, a.k.a. magic mushrooms, abound in Indonesia. They are grown in buffalo dung and you could eat them in front of a police officer without facing reprimand because they are completely legal.

I was wholly ignorant to this fact until a few days before we’d arrived in Bali. In this region of the world, drugs are generally looked down upon from both a legal and a cultural standpoint. You could get up to 7 years in prison in Indonesia for simply being caught with a marijuana joint. For whatever reason, though, mushrooms are A-okay. Several of the artists we’d met in Yogyakarta chose to immerse themselves in the psychedelic experience in order to influence their artwork. Looking at the pieces that Teresa and I wound up buying, this notion doesn’t stretch the imagination too far:

yogya 3

yogya 4

It’s been over two years since we bought these, but we haven’t hung them up yet, and as you can see they both need a good wash and iron. Up until the beginning of December, we weren’t too happy with where we’d been living and didn’t really care to hang them anywhere in our dingy basement apartment. As of December 1st, we’ve moved on up to a 3-bedroom house and are still in the process of organizing, arranging, painting, purchasing more furniture, etc. These beauties will be up in no time; I truly can’t wait.

Teresa and I haggled hard to buy them; the original asking price was somewhere in the realm of $300 apiece. We wound up talking them down to about $45 each. They were very pushy about us buying the artwork. In fact, their attitudes, while always pleasant, seemed somewhat contrary to the serene, transcendent, and carefree nature of the art on exhibit. Desiree felt especially uncomfortable with the hard sell, which included a mug of tea, a history lesson on the art scene in Indonesia, a lesson on how to clean and maintain the artwork, and a drawing board in which “original prices” were written down, crossed out, and replaced with the “discount prices”. Thank goodness Teresa and I had been doing this for months now and we knew better.

We walked out more than pleased with our purchases. We were getting towards the end of our trip now, relatively speaking (there was still about a month and a half to go, though). We were also getting a bit looser with our expenditures. At the beginning, we had no idea what this would all cost us and we cut every corner to save as many pennies as we could. Now, we had a broader vision as to our economic situation and what would be required of us for the remainder of the trip. I’m never big on buying souvenirs, especially those that are made specifically to be souvenirs, but this was different. We wanted something tangible to bring back with us that would put a smile on our faces every time we looked at it. We now have an entire stand in our living room that contains our travel memorabilia. I gaze at it every evening.

Later that night, after dropping everything off at our guesthouse, we walked back down in the direction of the Sultan’s Palace. Just before the entrance, we made a right turn into a small theatre where we’d purchased tickets earlier in the afternoon for a shadow puppet show. It was quite an event to behold. There were about 25-30 people in the audience. As we walked in, we got a view of the performers behind the screen in which the shadows are displayed. There were about 20 performers with varying instruments and tools, either to create sound effects, music, or to actually manipulate the movement of the shadow puppets.

Yogya 1

The entire show was in Indonesian and it was a wild ride. The puppets bounced all over the place, especially this one monkey character which had the three of us in stitches like little kids at an elementary school assembly who can’t contain themselves when one of their friends keeps making funny faces at a moment when everyone is supposed to be quiet. I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t hold in laughter when I was supposed to be composed and mature. The show was so entertaining and we didn’t understand a word of it. At any time, the audience could walk behind the screen and watch the performers do their thing. Half the time, a musician would be beating on the drum with one hand and eating a bowl of rice with the other. It was so casual and fun that we couldn’t help but enjoy ourselves throughout the entirety. To this day, I don’t know much about what the show was actually about. Something about a royal family, a princess, and a warrior.

This was our last night in Yogyakarta, and we would be on our way to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, in the morning on an economy-class train. This would be Desiree’s last stop before she flew home to Canada a few days later. The three musketeers would disband and it would be back to just Darcy and Teresa, as it had been for the beginning and most of the trip. The two of us still had some epic plans ahead, including the jungles of Borneo, the serene placidity of Samosir Island, and the tsunami-struck region of Aceh Province, Sumatra. Things were winding down, indeed. But looking back, my life didn’t really begin until this trip did. Nothing’s been the same since.

 

6 thoughts on “The Sultan and the Puppet, Part II

  1. I remember few shadow puppet shows in China, somehow they seem to be very popular in “ancient towns/ mansions” wheras I never see them normaly at other places. They can be rather interesting but sadly my grasp of Mandarin has never been sufficient to understand the entire plot of the stories

    Liked by 1 person

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