Another week in Ubud – I can’t believe how fast the time is going!
So, my second week: hanging out in cute warungs, zipping around on Irina’s scooter (I have a friend!), chilling in cool vegan cinemas that serve food to you in your seat for only IDR 50,000. Definitely living the high life, and still within my Gap Year budget – IDR 100,000 a day (only £5)!!
Add that to the promise of an amazing festival this weekend, starring authors such as Mohsin Hamid, Chigozie Obiama and Christina Lamb and I’m in heaven! And so excited about the festival – I may be working but it still provides an amazing opportunity to hear famous authors and fascinating talks on all sorts of issues.
All sorts of issues, except one:
Indonesia 1965: anti-communist purges saw nearly half a million – may be a million, nobody knows for sure – Indonesians murdered, most completely innocent. Not just by the military but by normal people, terrified of communism and the possibility of looking like sympathisers. In 1966, General Suharto took power of the country. During his 31 year dictatorship these killings were justified and the threat of communism blown to epic proportions.
Now, no one talks about it.
Half a million people were killed and yet, in a survey of students in Jakarta in 2009, over half knew nothing of this period of Indonesia’s history. The fifty year anniversary of the start of this bloody episode fell in September. President Jokowi has ducked issuing a formal apology to the families of those affected, cowed by the military establishment. Groups working on publicising the issue have to remain anonymous for fear of being harassed. And now the police has shut down all the talks, films and book launches planned to mark this anniversary at the 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.
It is a tragedy, not just for the country but for all the families and people affected by what happened, whose lives today are still influenced by their violent past.
About a month ago I watched the film The Look of Silence by Josuha Oppenheimer. It was chillingly terrifying. No special effects, no ominous background music but just people’s words; the descriptions of those who killed in 1965. What was shocking was the lack of remorse, the humour with which they told the stories. And realising that this actually happened.
But it is not all doom and gloom. Indonesia is slowly coming to terms with the events of 1965. Over the last year, Oppenheimer’s film has been shown all over the country. But just not this weekend in Ubud! The cancellations have bizarrely drawn much more attention than if the police had just left it all alone!
And even if 1965 won’t be spoken of at this year’s literary festival there are still 225 other events to attend, many of which deal with equally important issues: Timor-Leste, Papua and more.
And of course, Indonesia is an amazing country – the food, the people and, when in Bali, the yoga.
This weekend saw Irina dragging me to a three hour free yoga class (thank you… I think). It was impossible! I didn’t even know my body could fit into such strange contorted shapes until the trainee teachers pushed me in to them. And to see some people able to do all these painful positions on their own!! Crazy! But actually kind of relaxing. Afterwards I felt all sleepy and warm – all I wanted to do was shower and curl up in bed.
But no, Sunday meant waking up early and heading to the River Ayung for white water rafting with a guide who was either drunk or stoned or both. He seemed to get a kick out of causing the raft to bump in to the river banks… But still, it was fun! And absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous…
And then, because we are in Bali, it was time to head to Junglefish, a gorgeous infinity pool where people laze around tanning all day – very Made in Chelsea-esque. I even had friends to sunbathe with!
So all in all, a fantastic week and weekend – ignoring the stress of work.
And the fact that I lost my phone! So don’t be annoyed if you have contacted me and I haven’t replied (not that I am that popular). Hopefully I’ll have Amaala’s old phone and a new SIM with my old number back in action soon – I’ll let you know if it’s changed.
See you next week for more on the actual Festival and surviving my last week.
Because this is being posted a few days later than it was written, I have a new phone! (Shout out to Amaala’s classmate, Rahil, who lent me his old cracked iPhone – I know, Maleeha with an iphone???). My number is the same as before (the Indonesian version) so please whatsapp me your numbers, thank you!!