At first it was just a small tap on the metal gate to our compound. Then a bit louder and a whispered ‘Ibu?’. Whoever it was peeked through the latch, reluctant to push the unlocked gate. Not somebody we knew then. Investigation revealed two very muddy teenage boys pointing to the overhead wires and their tangled kite string and reel. ‘Layang-layang’ they said in unison. Kite.
It’s the season. Look up on any fine afternoon and see a virtual city in the sky. Big kites, small kites, all shapes, all sizes. Some elaborate, others simply ingeniously shaped plastic bags and bamboo offcuts. The wind whispers through the strings like a celestial harp, the sound of a chorus of doves.
We haven’t seen too many girls engaging in this typically Asian recreation but the boys start very early and carry on until it’s no longer perceived as cool to do so. Maybe it will be another decade before they have boys of their own and can get back to play. Unless they have the excuse of the annual Kite Festival when villages compete for size, ingenuity and creativity. The commentary at these festivals is like listening to the call of a football match. You don’t need to understand the words – intonation and emotion tell the story well enough.
These boys at the gate were about 15 and the state of their legs indicated they had been in a rice field nearby. Little English on one side, broken Indonesian on mine but the problem was evident and Eddie was not around. First deployment was safe enough: a bamboo pole used to bring down papaya from the trees outside. The function of the troublesome wires was unclear. Electricity? Hopefully not. Telephone? Certainly safer. There was no option but to bring the ladder into play. The metal ladder. Heart in mouth I watched as one of them climbed, balanced and jiggled from inside our compound. To no avail. Outside there was a bit more success as the string (actually fishing line) cut through the banana plants and with one boy inside the gate, the other outside they poked and prodded and twisted and loosened until the tangle was no more.
All this time there was no sign of the actual kite. It had escaped and what we were dealing with was the bamboo reel that had taken off at the other end, the trailing string developing a mind of its own as it flew across the rice field. A lot of effort goes into each layang-layang and cutting was not a consideration. Having successfully recaptured the reel and rewound the string as far as they could,the boys raced down the gang, a hasty ‘Tenk u’ over their departing backs.
Simple, timeless pleasures.