Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Flights of fancy

In the middle of my mud tour (see yesterday's post), the driver stopped at a town to pass on some kind of message to his nephew. While I was waiting for him, I wandered around the corner into an amazing scene.

It was a pigeon race, right on the edge of the disaster zone. Guys (it seems to be a male sport) were lined up with their birds, and they'd release them on cue. The pigeons had to fly five times back and forth between their handlers and the other end of the field. The fastest bird in this particular race would win a million rupiah, or more than a hundred dollars U.S. They were even videotaping the whole thing in case of close finishes.

The little black thing near the right edge, above, is a pigeon in flight.

"This pigeon won a car," said one guy. I protested that birds can't drive, and the owner told me he was happy to handle that part himself.

I knew pigeon racing was popular here, but I'd never actually seen it. The whoops of the handlers, the speed of the birds and the overall excitement were kind of intoxicating, especially in the middle of touring a bunch of ghost towns. "Java is an amazing place," I said to the driver when he came back, but I don't think he knew why.


elyani said...

You're right Trish, Java is Java is a land of many marvels and mystical charms. Am not sure if you ever heard to be a complete man, a Javanese, must have 5 tributes, they are :

1. Curigo, meaning a kris or a sacred dagger
2. Turonggo, meaning a horse.
3. Kukilo, meaning a perkutut bird.
4. Wismo, meaning a house or a mansion.
5. Wanito, meaning a wife

Javanese big shots kept dozens of birds in separate cages to show off how much money you were able to waste.

ps : do you mind if I add you in my blogroll? you do have a nice blog.

kopisusu2 said...

Sure, thanks! Yes, one of my Indonesian teachers once told me about the five components of the complete Javanese man. It's funny that "wife" is listed alongside "house" and "dagger." But "bird" was the most surprising to me. We had a budgie when I was a kid, but in general Americans don't come close to Indonesians in terms of passion for birds.

elyani said... not sure why either but here is the tributes meaning in order . A kris is the first thing a young man should have in his possession. The young man would start to build up his career with the help of a compatible kris. He would later acquire, a horse, keep a perkutut bird, build a house and marry a woman. I think the passion for the bird here (perkutut particularly) is more on the spiritual side. It is believed good perkutut has a strong inner connection with the owner and they can perceive what is going to happen to the owner and the family. Hence the best breed cannot be measured by monetary value.

kopisusu2 said...

Amazing. I think the closest we have in the US is the "canary in a coal mine" - birds were carried down into mines because if there were poisonous gases, they would succumb first, giving the miners time to escape. Either way, the bird is something of a prophet or at least an early warning system.

By the way, for my fellow Americans, "perkutut" is translated as "small turtledove" in my dictionary.