While Madi feeds us and takes us on adventures during the day, Shaman continues to make his evening appearance at Sonrisa’s hull, too. We offer him coffee or tea and cookies with each visit, invite him aboard. Even more helpful than most, the Shaman has made multiple offerings of berries, jungle herbs, tips and tricks for Andrew, and prayers for me to fix our baby-malady. I allow this to continue out of morbid curiosity for where it might lead. I’m only mildly annoyed.
One night, he appears, leans in close to me and inhales a long sniff through his nose. “Snnnnniiiiiiiifffff, sniff, sniff…”
“What? Oh no! Do I stink?!” I ask. I am still sticky from spending my day in tropical heat and humidity.
“No, no, I’m just trying to figure out…” he trails off and looks skyward, thoughtfully. He reaches over and pinches Andrew’s foot, hard just between the ball of his big toe and second. Andrew chuckles nervously with the closer than comfort male contact, a cultural difference between Indonesian and American men. “Did you know this is a highly effective pressure point?” Shaman asks Andrew as he leans over to sniff.
“Uhg, ack! ….Aauuughh! No!” Andrew exclaims as Shaman actually smells at Andrew’s foot. “Don’t do that!”
Shaman releases Andrew’s foot and laughs a little. “I am studying you.” He says, then he turns to me. “How many chromosomes do you have?”
I look at Andrew and he looks at me. “Twenty-six, right? All humans have twenty-six, unless they have a problem or something.” Andrew nods.
“Hmmm, yeah, most humans do, but how many do you have? I think you have less.” Shaman declares this with quite a bit of certainty.
I raise my eyebrows and lean forward. “How do you know?”
“I can smell it.”
For the last few nights, Ms. Sensitivity has been peeking one eye around the curtains to look out and watch this Shaman fellow anytime he stops by. “He’s so interesting,” she tells Over-tryer who saunters by then looks over Ms. Sensitivity’s shoulder. “He seems so connected with the higher creative force. Every time he stops by, he calls that creative force to join us on the boat. His focus might be babies, but it doesn’t really matter, does it? All creative energy is the same.”
Ms. Sensitivity might like him all right, but one evening, when Madi invites us to attend his cousin’s wedding ashore in Kumai I welcome the Shaman Reprieve. We get all dolled up and climb into Madi’s big canoe already filled with fourteen other people. The canoe rocks back and forth as the slow fire diesel putt-putt-putts, and various members of Madi’s family shift around to get comfortable, but it stays afloat and we reach shore.
Andrew stands up to climb the dock. “Wait, wait.” Madi says, motioning for Andrew to sit down. “Later.” We assume this means we are going to wait in the canoe for a minute for something, maybe we are picking up someone new? Andrew sits down, then Madi says, “Okay, lets go.”
We follow the sound of music through the streets to the wedding. A big white tent is set up with lights, silk flowers, tables and chairs. We bow and shake hands with people as Madi instructs, then pass through a buffet line in which we are offered a delicious chicken soup and rice dish made with beef. We eat, then head to the front of the room where we can provide our congratulations to the happy couple and bestow a small gift in the form of cash in an envelope we place in a big box. I ask if I can take a photo of the Bride and Groom, and this results in everyone trying to organize themselves for a photo with us, not of the Bride and Groom. “Photo? Photo?”
I hand my camera over to Madi to take the pictures, and let them shuffle Andrew and I into place, flanking the Bride and Groom. Despite being told repeatedly in all manner of Indonesian culture websites: “don’t touch a muslim woman” it seemed everyone was instructing Andrew to touch this particular muslim bride for the photo. I stand and hold my smile on one side of the group wondering what all the hand waving and instructing is about. “What are you doing?” I ask Andrew through my teeth, like a ventriloquist.
“I don’t know.” He says, through the teeth of his own ready-for-photo smile “Do they want me to touch her or not touch her?”
“I don’t know.” I say. “Don’t touch her! You aren't supposed to touch her!”
“I know but they keep motioning to put my hand on her shoulder!”
“What if it’s like the go-away/come over here sign. It looks like ‘put your hand on her shoulder’ but it actually means ‘no matter what you do, don’t put your hand on her shoulder.’” I say, still smiling. Between us stands the groom and the bride, both staring straight ahead at the camera.
Andrew puts his hand on her shoulder. Everyone settles down and the shutter clicks. We shuffle around putting different people in the frame, the shutter clicks again. Sometime during the melee, Madi instructs us to tuck our wedding gifts into the box. “Now?” Andrew asks. “Later,” Madi responds. Andrew is so puzzled he forgets to put his wedding gift in the box. It’s becoming clear that “later” can mean anywhere between three days and one minute later. We need further clarification.
We leave the wedding and Madi leads us to a street with a number of food carts and women cooking with big vats of frying oil beneath canopy of tarp plastic. While we wait for Madi’s wife and extended family to finish up shopping, we nibble at street snacks carefully chosen by Madi as his local favorites: crispy fried tempe with a savory tart sauce, crispy fried tofu with a peanut sauce, boiled peanuts. Then, out of the crowd of Indonesians milling about the street, Shaman materializes. He greets us and chats for a moment. Madi is distracted by some other friends he knew who stopped by. It is then the Shaman looks me up and down and says: “There are things I know about you, that you don’t even know about yourself. For instance I can tell…” The Shaman trails off, “…no. I can’t tell you.”
Ms. Sensitivity peers outward to see what’s going on. “Did you hear that? He says he knows what we don’t know. What does he know? What?” Ms. Sensitivity hisses to Over-tryer and Over-thinker. Over-thinker smiles a little. Her patience is paying off. Ms. Sensitivity gasps, as though a new thought has just taken root. She starts feeling around in the dark to see if she is somehow missing signals from the Universe that internal bleeding is ongoing.
Ms. Sensitivity pokes me in the ribs and I blurt out “What? Am I dying?!” Ms. Sensitivity and I have been nursing a small concern of death after a recent slip and fall during which I landed hard atop my camera. The camera survived, but I’m rather sore. Broken rib? Internal bleeding? I have not mentioned this to Andrew, lest he will accuse me of being a hypochondriac.
“No, I can’t tell you.” The Shaman says, “It’s too bad. I’m going to get water.” At this, Shaman disappears down the road.
I look at Andrew and chuckle nervously. “He can see inside you; he can see Proctor and Gamble in there.” Andrew says.
Soon, Madi’s family returns, and I put Shaman out of my mind. Our group of sixteen people cluster and string out like Gak moving through the streets, back to the canoe. We pile in one at a time, rocking back and forth with everyone’s footfalls on either side of the boat. Back to Sonrisa, we invite everyone aboard for cookies and tea while they wait for the tide to return deep enough to get home. Everyone loves exploring Sonrisa, and I paint the little girls toes with my bright blue nail polish - always a crowd pleaser.