We woke up to the sounds of croaking voices singing through a rustling PA system. It was the end of Ramadan and the celebrations were starting. The singing went on constantly for two days and two nights. Children would roam the narrow streets in a drumming procession while fireworks went off at random intervals from every direction. We were asked how the march at 2am outside our window didn't wake us up.
Tucked away in a beautiful small village in Java, we were staying just off a small horseshoe shaped bay. Hidden behind a series of narrow broken roads and smiling locals, the bay was something from the sketches I would make in my old school books. Two perfectly groomed waves breaking seamlessly off a cliff at either end. A few faces from every corner of the world roamed amongst the Indonesian tourists that were scattered along the arc of the shoreline. Walking down the beach you would be stopped multiple times to pose for a photo with entire families. They don't like group shots. You smile politely as eleven people take turns standing beside you, laughing loudly, trying multiple poses and then shake your hand in sincere gratitude.
The busiest area in the small village was the bustling fish market which went from about 6am to 11am. The fishermen would start at sunrise, going out in small engine powered boats. On their return, men from all over the village would help carry the boats back up the beach, claiming a fish or two for the trouble. Blood and water lined the floor of an open ended building as boxes and nets are dragged constantly in and out. The fish were weighed then sold instantly or packed.
The nearest town with internet was an hour scooter ride away over the broken and winding terrain. The son of the homestay brought us the first time to show us the way. As I jumped on the back of the scooter with the words, 'don't worry Mr. James', from the slightly confident sounding but none the less friendly nineteen year old we set off along the narrow winding roads. Petrol was sold in small wooden stalls that you would pass along the road. You could fill the scooter for roughly 20p.
The swell dropped and the crowds rose so we went in search of a waterfall that we had heard about down the coast. After writing down the directions on what I was told was, “a pretty impassable road at times', I heard the friendly Puerto Rican voice of one of our homestay neighbours suggest that we take a boat. A smile, three quick visits to some local fishermen and thirty minutes later we were sailing down the coast.
Going to a local shop, a small room in a front of a house, darkly lit and packed with boxes and hanging merchandise, I met a local bodyboarder who started talking to me about my glasses. He spoke of how the wife of the family that he stays with used to have glasses but after eating a local remedy her eyesight was restored. Curiously, I found out that the dish consisted of carefully prepared shark heart in a type of bolognaise. It was suggested that I try it as I smiled and nodded nervously planning my escape.
I woke one morning to the sound of someone banging on our front door. It was a nice change from the usual choir of roosters but the irritated banging had my curious mind wide away. Saying a sleepy hello I suddenly realized that it was an earthquake. About ten seconds passed as I lay down watching the walls sway and the roof move giving the feeling of being back in the ocean. The calm voices of the neighbours in the surrounding houses gave the impression that everything was ok. As everyone joked in the restaurant that day about the bodyboarder who packed his bags and headed for the hills, it left the remanence of how fragile and likely this country is to a tsunami.
The houses consisted of minimal items placed in a large open space with high ceilings surrounded by concrete. On one of our last days in the village as we sat outside our homestay we heard a shout from some of the locals that were working on a roof directly across. As Conor and I tried to decipher if they were either asking for help or making fun of us, deciding it was probably a healthy mix of both, we put on shoes and walked across,. The laughs and jokes ceased after about thirty seconds as we started to help dismantle a roof. Thirty minutes later we were bombarded with tea, sugar and cigarettes as we heard the words, 'Irelande', being said around the group. Back on the roof, we were then stopped again in thirty minutes for a bag of fresh nuts and banana chips that were dropped off. Nine of us worked on the roof as the lady who seemed to own the house would balance her time between preparing food and carrying massive sheets of metal across the front yard. A few hours later, when the roof we gutted, we sat down and had lunch. Tea was drank, cigarettes were smoked and everyone went their own way.
An over booked flight lead to us getting a taxi through the night along the sleepless broken roads. Asking three taxi drivers the length of the journey and getting three very different answers made the drive that little bit even more uncomfortable. It was the perfect close to the bones of three months in some of the most beautifully contrasting places that I have been fortunate enough to work in and explore. As my eyes would close and my head would smack against the side of the car, I smiled at the memories that already had a firm hold in my mind.
A series of upcoming screenings, a little article about our India project and online release dates for all the projects coming soon! Thanks for reading!