Indonesia has five official religions, and the significant events for each one are designated public holidays, regardless of whether you bat for Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed. Every month has one or more public holidays, marked on the calendar with red numbers, hence their moniker tanggal merah (date red). We don’t have an Indonesian calendar so they tend to sneak up on us. If the power is still on around 9.00am there is a good chance we are in for a treat – daytime power from the town generator. Get the ice-trays filled and in the freezer, I can sense a smoothie in my future.
The most recent tanggal merah was Ascension Day, a big deal for our Christian village, with sonorous bells calling the faithful to morning and evening mass. Everybody walks to church; the women in strappy, plastic heels and the men in their one pair of shiny lace-ups. Faces are made up with whitening powder, foundation three shades too light and red lipstick. “Sunday best” outfits are synthetic, bright, and garnished with frills, bows and lace. It is the only opportunity aside from weddings and funerals where they can show off their plumage.
Almost every child aged between two and twelve plays outside. Older siblings, socialised early into the mothering role, chase the little ones and hoist them onto their hip when tears threaten. Every fifteen minutes an adult does a lap to ensure no-one has hung themselves on the scaffolding, and wipes a few noses before returning to the sanctity of the church. The original building is hidden beneath the skeletal frame of the grand "cathedral" extension, estimated to be finished sometime before the second coming.
We made a brief visit, as we had an invite for dinner at our friends, Colin and Linda, 400 meters south along the beach. Bugger the church, I almost ascended into heaven with Linda’s frozen banana and raw cacao mousse.