Pyre provides. And we twirl some hula hoop.

Play it out and then read the following.

It’s the same pyre that tries to burn down the man, the MAN representing the machine behind the neoliberal market system, the MAN as the elite, the MAN as the those with evil power, the MAN as the First World ego, the MAN as the sexist asshole, the MAN. At the Burning Man, the pyre provides. It’s the pyre connecting all those wonderful people and that makes things happening. You through a wish towards the universe, and you get what you deserve.

Me, for example, got myself a hula hoop. Never in my life had I twirled a hula hoop like this before. This blond sweet girl taught me a quick lesson and I was in the hula-hoop-mode for the rest of the eternal afternoon at the Burning Man Decompression party in San Francisco – one of the epic parties of the year, as they say. Whenever we stopped to catch up with another friend, I rolled my golden hula wheel around my waist, keeping it tuned with the beat of the band of seven drums.

As I entered the festival, impressed by all the colorful crowd who had certainly taken some time to dress up, acting out a fantasy, a joke or their deepest desire, I immediately remembered a song by Mr Bungle from his album California – Vanity Fair. And it is hella vanity fair here, as we all live it out, embody and FEEL that we’re somewhat awesome today.

hula2 burning man decompression my white rabbit

Pics by Jocelyne Hershey

Of course there could be many ways to be critical of the whole commitment around the Burning Man – “it’s just a party scene, it’s all about vanity, drugs and alcohol”, right, that’s what some say. People decide to be part of that scene for various reasons, yet all of these reasons are just reflections of what they had heard or thought about it previously. But once you’re in it – the essence of it all starts suddenly emerging. You might not even get it immediately, but there will be moments when you do, and it will change your life as all the intensive, beautiful, fun, heartily experiences might do.

Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin worked on the concept of carnival describing it as the sphere where our fears and desires, social tension and inner imagination come together and manifest through the carnevalesque. Carnivals have been held around the world for centuries in very different cultures, and no-one doubts their ‘reason’.  Burning Man – the annual artistic event and temporary community held  in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada  is a rather contemporary manifestation of such drive, originating from the hippie movement and artistic circles. No spectators, only participants.

Then the hipsters took over, then the yuppies took over. Well, better that than nothing. Let the yuppie burn his Man.  You already might be a member. And we twirl some hula hoop some more.

She’s a hippie girl

By the second day it was pretty much clear to me – she’s a hippie, a hippie girl. When I told her that, she took it as a surprising compliment and blush. N. is 20 years old lady from East Coast hanging out around California. Daily she goes out on the streets, plays some guitar, meets people, talks to them about her hopes for the better world order and her concern about the third world was which supposedly is happening now. “With all the Syria and all that…” She tries to make some money, as she’s not on benefits anymore. The day has been successful for her when she gets some free food from People’s park or from the people she meets or at the public eateries for homeless people.
When I got here, there was a white rabbit on the yard, a lonely white little bunny, so sweet. I was surprised again how well the Goddess Coincidence can play it out for you – the memory of Jefferson Airplane and their White Rabbit activated in my mind, as well as the mystery Rabbit Hole of Alice in Wonderland, as a warm welcome from San Francisco. The white rabbit was in the garden also the next day, how cute she was. But I was surprised that N. didn’t know anything about Jefferson Airplane or the song.
I like her desire to make her way within the system, and thus change it from inside. She would like to work in the NGO sector, work with foundations, organizations, for the human rights and social justice, but first she wants to make documentaries about her travels. She knows she deserves money and she wants to make her contribution to the society, not sitting passively on drugs, neglecting all the world around you which turns out to be actually turning you into an ego-freak.
But she’s a hippie girl, a child of a drug addict mother whom she considers her friend. She wakes up in the morning and get’s her first high. Always makes new friends and looses old ones. Will she make it?

IMG_8935

When the trajectories of two souls meet in a geographical point x

 

While thinking about Monica, whose photography was briefly introduced in my previous post, I first get a warm feeling in my stomach. This feeling is usually yellow and it knows that some interesting time with a steady partner is now guaranteed for me, and it radiates simple love and respect for each other, support. This is friendship in its wonderful form. We share, we support, we’re proud of one another’s success.
Monica and I have born the same year, only about a month apart. She was born somewhere on the West coast of the USA, in San Francisco, I was born in Eastern Europe, far in the North, in central Estonia. The paths of our lives have run on absolutely different geographical radius, we grew up one on the one side, the other on the other side of the world. Despite this we share a lot. Starting from the cultural room – we value similar music and understand certain things in visual culture, and finishing with the fact that although  we’ve experienced different things we’ve separately reached the same things. We’re both radicals what comes to certain things, and absolute relativists what comes to some other things. Sometimes I’m more radical than she is, and sometimes I learn from her radicality. I believe she’s right. I know she’s right.
I also believe a person has a good nature – our souls are good, like angels are. When thinking about several global issues it often rises a wish inside me that people would shape themselves according to their souls, and not so much according to the external pressure.  If they don’t do it, they’ll shape too much according to the hopes and wishes of the society, where certain groups of power have gained strength on discursive surfaces, which would do everything to paint a picture which would be beneficial for them only. Who once has the power will create the world according to their face, just like gods, or they’ll do it so that the latter would remain pretty – this means well rested, healthy and definitely in a big car.
As this picture still motivates many, they work endless hours to achieve it. In order to enjoy even a little bit of luxury they take loans to have a big car and to spend each year a week i Egypt. At least your face is pretty.
Or they take alternative genders and sexualities and place them into the box of sins, they pee on them, and this is how power structures that are harassed with “morality” are kept alive – the structures where too often a woman is below and a man is above. And those harassed souls accept the forced shapes – like proper women they wear head wears, men marry women, although they’re MSM (men who have sex with men), or look for jobs that’d bring more in, forgetting to do something else besides shopping.
And every time I enter a shop in Estonia I see how a father padding before me sighs. Once again he has to start the saga, he’s in the current of his own desires, clogged by the size of his wallet and yet dumbstruck by all of it.
In many cultures they talk about a human being as a trinity which consists body, mind and soul. The body keeps us on the physical surface, it offers us pleasures and carries our mind and soul through this world. Our mind is our intelligence, our culture. But our soul is something more abstract, it’s our living force, it’s also love, friendship, power, light, balance. And since in modern society dealing with our soul has been left behind the other poles, it’s more difficult to shape ourselves – our identities and it’s different expressions – so that the shape would also correspond to our souls. What I mean here is something like : you do what you r e a l l y feel, you say what you r e a l l y mean. If you don’t pay attention to your soul then how can you know what your soul is like, where are you from, what do you feel and what is your consciousness capable of. Alas we are shaped in conformity.
See-you-soon-party, no farewells
But Monica is a woman who has her tanned thigh covered with tattoos showing her city experiences (a chair, a mail box etc.) and plans to cover those with her future tattoos depicting fleshy plants. Monica says that this is not alright when there’s someone who fixes misunderstandings with money or doesn’t show respect towards her as a woman. Or more precisely, towards her as a human being. But as we know it’s true that a woman’s respect quite often gets scratched when a man looks at her in a way as if their communication was based on the fact that the other side is a woman – as if only the difference in sex would bring the chemical attraction about. Usually an interest of that kind, which is often constructed socially, turns the preceding events lame, violent or boring.My friendship with Monica seems to show that physical distance and cultural roots are no longer the most important, because the world is more and more connected. Although everything gets more balanced, it still erodes differences and peculiarities. When the trajectories of two souls meet somewhere between the rice fiels in South Yogyakarta, build themselves a nice home in a haunted house with high ceilings, and melt into Indonesian everyday systems but still keep alive this something that makes those souls Monica and Terje, or Monica and Ce in the Indonesian context. And this homely feeling was exactly what led me to ask Monica to edit “Seven worlds”, a soon coming book written by Berit and me.

We have to meet again, no matter where, no matter how.

Between the worlds: airport in Dubai

My love for Papua will never cease

Dragged into silence over the mountains in Papua, which has over this one and a half month become so cozy and sweet for my soul. This here is the new world, and a powerful one – the mountains, seas and desperate heat, clouds lost in bright bleu. When you climb down from the hills or swim up from the depths of the sea, then also the land is bubbling in its juices and massive strengths, where Papuan curly hair, shiny dark skin, smell of the sweat resembling some dry coconut, loud motorbikes and market counters loaded with fruit get all mixed and shaken. This is where the colors of Sulawesi, Javanese charm and the very Indonesian everlasting wish to be friendly are melting together with so rich local heritage, multiplied with all its 300 tribes.

Although all this intensity caused some trouble for my body and health, my mind was still sharp enough to travel along all its wonders and woes, especially to the mystical realms of genders and sexuality. Oh such passion! Such stories! It really took me a lot of effort to go trough all the energy the stories of the waria bear. Riding the hills on my motorbike, music in my ears, waria stories in my head, picturesque views around, heading on another meeting.

I have a flight tomorrow back to Jawa.  Now i’m up in the hills of Jayapura CITY, the view over the town and the mountains that set the setting stage for the sun – the hot sun, I adore every morning I wake up, and which I start to despise only a few hours later. I have never been to a place more hot than Papua.

I drink Coca-Cola and eat banana. Indeed, sadly, there’s probably no more corner on the earth where people wouldn’t drink Coca-Cola or at least wouldn’t know anyone else who hasn’t had one.  But the bananas here are sweeter than anywhere else. I even bought a separate cluster to take with me on the plane as my hand-luggage to my friends in Yogyakarta.

There’s some certain force, enlightenment, life and desire to get along with each other that is so remarkable in the city cultures of Papua, as well as the new world’s desire to make things better, than maybe in some of the old worlds. Yes, my love for Papua will never cease. Terima kasih, teman-teman di Papua, aku pasti kembali lagi! I’ll be back, sure.

The island of Doom

“Doom, doom, doom, doom, doom, doom….” the guys at the harbor were shouting. And it’s not that somebody is doomed or this is the doomsday or there’s some great doom rock gig around the corner (wishful thinking, eh), but indeed – there’s a small island just some 20-minutes boat ride from Sorong and it’s called DOOM.

So the guys shouting “Doom, doom, doom, doom, doom, doom….” are just trying to find people that would land in their boat and take a ride to this spooky doomed island.

Doom is the island with Dutch heritage. You can walk around the circular island within an hour – it’s just 4,5km long – and take a look at some dutch influence in architecture and in city planning. It used to be the center of their settlement in West Papua, at the top of the so-called Bird’s Head peninsula, in early 1900s and it played an important economic role for Chinese settlers. Although I remember hearing the stories from the locals that the island used to have a prison, after which it was called Doom, I  have also read that the island known as Dum means that the island is full of fruit in Malamooi tribes.

We also met an older brother of my friend in Sorong, who has lived in Doom his entire life of around 60 years. What intrigued me was the way he explained the island’s lost wonders: “The Indonesians! Since the Indonesians came everything has changed – here we used to have crystal clear water with bright white sand, but now it’s just an extension of Sorong here.” Well, after all, the island still seemed exotic for my eyes, but I could have only imagined the picture he was trying to paint for us from his childhood memories preceding the year of 1969 when Dutch New Guinea was annexed and it became known as West Irian, later Irian Jaya.

I went there to meet a Papuan waria whose family lives on the island. There, sadly, she could never dress up nor express her gender identity, but when she leaves the island for a weekend in Sorong, or travels to other cities such as Jayapura, she feels free to open herself up and enjoy the fruits of life as a waria.  But in front of her local community, she remains this androgynous weird boy, leading double lives and trying to cope with it.

Flesh and blood, earth and divine: game of status in Toraja

It is midsummer. People in many parts of the world, most likely where I am from, eat a lot of meat now. Here’s a story from another meat fest in Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia. We drove off on motorbikes up to the mountains to the world, which doesn’t know the price of the respect for their ancestors. This is proud Toraja, above the green hills in Central Sulawesi, where life and death get another meaning.  Rumors that right now there should be the largest ceremonies of the years had reached me already earlier. They said there’s gonna be 500 buffalos sacrifices, not just 5 or 50, but as many as 500 oxen, plus thousands of pigs. After arrival I couldn’t question these numbers. There was three big funerals going on in the area, one more ambitious than the other. Yes, all these hundreds of oxen, plus thousands of pigs are to be killed for the glory off dead, in order to ensure a smooth movement to the next world – to the world of spirits. Here when the body gets quiet by death, it doesn’t actually mean the death in our sense. People can keep the body in their house for about one year or so, treating it almost as if he was still alive.  But when the family doesn’t organize such funeral, the dead will be dangling somewhere around the village, and probably merge into one gang with all the ghosts that make up Indonesian everyday experience. The entire site of the funeral service is slightly hilly because of the piles of the pigs laying down in the mud, in pain of the heat. There’s a team of men around them, one stating loud in the microphone who has brought the pig here, another one is marking the pig with spray color. Again and again there are three-four men entering, a shouting pig on their shoulder, lips already foamy. Again and again some of them move a step away and there’s a knife thrusting into the throat of a pig, followed by intolerable squealing. Blood splashes around, the butcher pushes the vein with his toe. Then someone grabs a flamethrower and burns the pig into crispy pork. The bloody action is passed by a column of beautiful ladies with bleached faces and cherry red lips. I hear the trance-lifting mantras of Toraja. This here is some other world, which has evolved so bizarrely on this island with strange shape somewhere in the mountains. The buffalo-fetish of the community is also looking back to us from the houses of Toraja, shaped as if they were ships and topped with a head of a bull and many horns of sacrificed buffalos hanging over the doorway. The more horns hanging – the higher the social status of the household.

“And who was that woman?” I asked after hearing more about the market price of buffalos.

“The dead? Oh, she was a housewife. “

The next burial is particularly spectacular. There are tens of people with tens of buffalos in the huge square surrounded by thousands of spectators. At the same time, hundreds of men try to push the shell of the corpse to the top floor – in order to be closer to the natural world. Later I hear from kepala adat (cultural head of of the community, in other words, the most important man in region), that these white oxen cost about 350 million rupees each (about 35,000 euros!) There are some 24 of those, in addition to the normal buffalos, which cost around 20-40 million each. “We can estimate that the total financial budget for this ceremony can reach about 40-50 billion rupees. But nevertheless, this amount does not express how much the people of Toraja respect their ancestors, “said the man of importance. Namely, the white bull is especially considered a sacred animal, whose cost can be ten times more expensive than of usual bulls.

Why is that? Mostly the locals justified the high cost, because a white bull is just a rare occurrence. So the owners of the white buffalos stand proudly next to their animal, until it will be killed a couple of days later. I also confirmed, that there is no difference in the flavor of the meat. For this special occasion there are lots of media representatives around and every other visitor reaches out a hand with a smartphone to hit some shots of this bloody action or pose with a bule-buffalo, (or with me, as I’m also a bule – white person- here). Thousands of eyes recognize the sacrifice of the next bull – an arc of blood erupting from the throat cut wide open and the animal staggers between the worlds of the living and the dead for several minutes. Ugly. The dead used to work as a school teacher. She raised up 12 children.

In the next funeral there’s a family of our local friend, whose family automatically became our generous host. Thousands of people have gathered here, so the funeral place is surrounded by kilometers of deadlock. Before the comménce of the fierce bullfight, the men are singing mantras, holding their hands together in a circle. It even creates a certain sense of majesty. “At least once a year we gather together in such a funeral, there’s certainly someone who passes away every year,” says our friend’s cousin. “This time I brought one buffalo. But anyway, oh well, this is such a status game,” she laughed. “Everything here is publicly announced, who brought how many buffalos, all written down!”

After a few days in the funeral in Toraja, where according to the custom, I tried a bit of buffalo meat, I did not want to eat a single bite of meat for several months. The experience of Toraja can be a challenge for a fan of vegetarianism in principle. Though I must admit I was enjoying it in a sense I like blood and human perversion for example in the films of Jodorovsky or the revenge of inBOIL to iDeath in Brautigan’s “In Watermelon Sugar”.