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Adi & Praja 118

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 118: Moimoi’s life

It was awesome for them – there, in the dark with only moonlight or not even that, and a small wood fire in the middle under the roof. And that is how they learned the stories they would later tell to the next generation, their children.


(Moimoi’s family life)

If the family walked into the opposite direction they would come to a large river. Where they reached it was a calm and wide river, and trees were growing on their banks and hanging over the water, so that you could not even see the river banks on the other side from where you stood. The banks were like closed walls of green leaves, dark green and shining emerald. But behind that wall the forest was not dense at all. One can easily walk through the forest, because down in the forest there are only stems, no leaves and flowers, of high crowned trees – their crowns being 70 to a hundred feet above you. So walking through such a forest is quite easy in may places, especially where many feet had made pleasant trails on the smooth soil. Occasionally you had to climb over the big trunk of a fallen tree – and the kids, especially the boys, always hoped that there would be many fallen trees. But of course you could also walk around them, or cut them away if they were on your path – but that is not for kids. You had to be careful though, because many types of insects and spiders liked the fallen tree trunks as well. Sometimes you could meet with a big black ant, and if you happened to disturbed it on its path and it would bite you, a part of your body might be paralyzed for three days.

By the way: these trees were the greatest danger for the people in the forest – much more dangerous than snakes or spiders or insects or jaguars. If a sudden wind came (quite fierce sometimes, just before the onset of a rain or thunderstorm), trees of age might reach their moment of death just then and fall over with their full length and their tremendous weight of wood and their widespread branches. If you happened to stand there – well it could well mean the end of your life! It didn’t happen often that people were hit, but it could happen.

Once on their walk they found a turtle who had not been able to run hard enough when a tree was falling on his back. His carapace was cracked, but the turtle survived, but could not continue his walk with the heavy branch laying on his pressed-in back. He might have been sitting there for 3 months without eating, but because some turtles are very hardy, he had not died. He just seemed to wait until the wood would rot away, to then continue its journey. Whether he actually made it, I do not know. The children and the mother tried, but were unable to lift the heavy branch to set him free.

Eating and drinking was never a real problem in the forest. There were dozens of different fruits which fell from the trees on the ground. Sometimes they were dropped by monkeys who are not very precise in what the eat and not eat. And there are monkeys that just don’t like people (maybe they are jealous for the people’s intelligence!) and they purposely throw down nuts from high up in the trees to the people down below. Water was always everywhere. And at home there were the collected vegetables, often meat, and, last but not least: honey. Honey bees used to build their beehives high up against tree stems or hanging under thick branches. And there were plenty of courageous and strong and lean young men who could climb the trees is a minute with their bare hands and feet, and, with sufficient care and skill, steal the honey from the bees. You shouldn’t make a mistake though, because then you would be in trouble with the bees – and some frightening stories went around about failures.

It would have been paradise (except for the flies and mosquitoes at some places) for all creatures living there, would it not that people are people. And people have minds, and minds always worry. Even if you can’t miss your train or plane or you have no computer that can crash, no bosses to scold you, no tax collectors and no government officials, the human mind wants to worry and ponder about something. That is how minds grow: by worrying and then solving the problem. Of course mothers would be worried about their children – they could fall and drown in the creek, or step on a poisonous snake or other venomous creature, or swallow a poisonous fruit falling from the crown layer of the forest. The parents had to teach a lot to the children before they could safely be left to their own; and once grown up, the children worried about their parents and ailments and peculiarities. Then there were a very few really evil people also – in their village it was only one man. He had been born like that, and he got angry sometimes about seemingly nothing and then he would hit everyone he could get as hard as possible, especially children. And there were crazy women and men – one on average in every village – who had to be taken care of. And of course boys could fight about girlfriends, and girls could be jealous with someone else’s boy friend. The result was that even in that pristine forest some people felt psychologically suppressed, or haughty, sometimes depressed, aggressive, naughty or simply bored. And of course there were sicknesses also: upset stomachs, vomiting, small wounds and inflammations, and some more serious diseases caused by insect bites transmitting parasites (but most people had never pondered so deep as to make a link between insects and diseases). Only doctors had some knowledge about these things. Diseases were usually contributed to evil spirits, or to neutral spirits made angry, or to practitioners of black magic. This last category was most feared, because such people would work in the dark (preferably at new moon) in secret places, and use nauseating rituals and sacrifices. Even though these witches and sorcerers where not very powerful most of the time, and rather rare, they kept psychological fear alive: they could always be asked to secretly put a spell on someone, and thus cause disease, disaster, accidents and even death. These same sorcerers and witches might openly pose themselves as helpers who knew spells again black magic attacks during the daytime, and thus could ‘cure’ people when sick or possessed. It was not for money because money didn’t exist there. The result was also that some people always were suspicious of others – it had become a apart of their psychology that they could be accused of entertaining a sorcerer without having done something like that at all. Then the whole village, or even several villages in cooperation might turn against them. They might be beaten up, exiled or even killed. So that’s how they kept up fear – what would have been 100 % unnecessary had they been more rational.

So in this way, by their, for the greater part self-created superstitions, by misuse of nature’s invisible powers and psychological intrigue they kept themselves in a continuous mood of uneasiness, like modern people who always fear a traffic accident or mortal disease without ever getting one. And then, stories about these dangers were told even to small children, so that when they became of age it all had become a part of there psychology.

You see, even if paradise were on Earth, people would not live in paradise – they would just create a little hell for each other and for themselves – and thus ban themselves from the paradise that had been provided to them by the gods.

But despite these self-created disadvantages, the dominant mood was cheerful and careless for most people, and certainly during day times. Midnight and the hours after were not a time someone would want to think about – but most people slept then anyway.

Going to sleep itself was a joy – before dreams came – because these could be happy as well as scary. Some men would just lay on the ground in the clean sand in their hut (the people of the forest were extremely proper and spend much time cleaning, and bathed and swam in the creeks every day) – when very tired they just dropped down and slept. But more decent was to sleep hanging. Through the ages people had learned to use the forest in an inconceivable number of ways. Some palm fibers were so long and strong that they could be woven into flexible mats, and in such a form that on both sides a long string could be attached, which could be knotted to a pole of the shelter or to a tree. Thus they had invented hammocks. A most useful provision: they safeguard you from most creatures crawling on the ground and most tree creatures such as insects and snakes. During strong rain rivulets of water might stream into the huts, but could not touch those who were laying or sitting in hammocks. And if it happened to be a little bit colder than usual you could pull the flexible material around you. They are clean and cool and dry compared to the ground due to air from below, and they give you some feeling of ownness, of hiddenness, of pleasant comfort. And sometimes a boy and a girls would secretly spent their night time together in a hammock, if it was large enough for two. So hammocks took care that being in bed was a pleasant event as much as being awake.

Nobody wants to stay on the same place forever, and people liked occasional travels and adventures. Apart from the regular walks, a network of trails led through the forest and shallow places in rivers over distances of dozens of miles, connecting to other networks. These trails had been made by the feet and axes of hunters. The hunters knew these trails and they could guide travelers if necessary. Thus people kept in contact over rather large distances – and this also prevented cross breading within too small populations. But more exciting were long trips by boat.

Because villages were never far from rivers, rivers were their highways. People had learned to cut rather thick tree stems with stone axes, and then, with tools made of pieces of river rock, scratched and cut for days in the middle of one side until it became hollow. The bottom side was made flat. And the front and back sides were made somewhat pointed. Thus they had invented boats. Flat pieces of wood or palm sheaths could be used as paddles, or also long sticks which would reach to the bottom of the creek or river so that the boatman could push the boat forward. The invention of boats – nobody knew how long ago – was done by the forest and water gods, it was told, and they had been kind enough to transfer their knowledge to people. Only one who has ever traveled the water in such a tree trunk boat knows how that feels. The wood, the water, its movement, its stability, its unity with the elements all work together to make it a different experience from a plastic canoe or an iron row boat. Perhaps the forest and water gods really had had a say when this boat was invented. This invention had widened the scope of the forest culture enormously. One was no longer confined to walking distance. The boats could also be used for transport of people and goods over much longer distances of course, and such trip could takes day or weeks. Thus various cultures had come into contact and begun to intermix.

Once in a while people would go for big shopping to the ‘supermarket’ – these supermarkets were open and dry meeting places with many storage shelters, shops and hotel-shelters, near where several big rivers and many trails came together, and were people from all directions and from large distances could meet and exchange goods and ideas. Money didn’t exist, but people would bring mutual sacrifices to get things according to their needs, and ‘prices’ were also determined by their pride of having made something special. At such places one could get virtually everything that had been invented by the world and the universe in that part of the earth. Some rivers led to the sea – but these were jealously guarded by watchmen of the coast people. The coast people themselves brought shells, salt, dry fish and other edible creatures, turtle eggs and special vegetables and sometimes even dry fuel wood – which was very useful for people living upriver in the wet forest.

One day Moimoi – when she was seven – and her mother and two brothers and some other children – went by boat almost five days traveling over several rivers. Shelter had to be build at every stop along the river (unless you found an old one) to put up your hammock. On the way back, against the slow stream, it took seven days. It was a complete expedition in which a group of men and women of several villages worked together.

The trip was exciting, and the men caught fresh fish while going, and the women, if they could, would roast some of the fish. One time a man shot an unlucky sow for dinner – and her baby boar was screaming like hell and got lost in the forest – no doubt to die of loneliness, or hunger, or more likely as victim to some other creature’s hunger – most probably a caiman.

Even more exciting was the market itself. You saw things there you had never even heard or thought about. Strange fruits and fish and meats to eat, unknown vegetables, sugar and sweets, salty products – and people which spoke different languages – and people who were wearing cloths. Cloths were not a necessity there, so they were mostly meant only as adornments for women. In some tribes from afar women had the habit of covering themselves with nothing but a few long chains of small beads in various bright colors. Others were made of small shells. The women of Moimoi’s area couldn’t believe their eyes when seeing such beauty – and the people of those tribes made very good business. Everyone wanted to have such adornments, in their ears, around their wrists, their bellies and hanging down from their neck. ‘Prices’ went up quickly. Even men couldn’t resist buying these things. You can only buy something if you have something to offer in return. In case of the inhabitants of Moimoi’s region these were various types of rare wood to make various instruments such as bows and arrows, and wood carvings, baskets, strong fibers, hammocks and a variety of nuts and seeds.

Another tribe had specialized in making paddles: well shaped efficient peddles, either nicely carved or painted in various natural colors. In the region where they came from a lot of light wood that was especially fit for that purpose grew naturally, and so they had invented and elaborated on the skill of making various objects like peddles and flat wood carvings. Most of such tribes came from the east. From the west came women and even man who were wearing cloths, made of some fine colored woven fibers. The textile was so soft and pliable that it could be made and sewn into various forms fitting around the body. The women of the forest villages had never seen such a thing. They found it extremely beautiful, more even than the beads. Also they noticed that the women from the west were covering especially the lower part of their body – and that seemed useful, because too many men from other tribes who they didn’t like would look at the lower parts of the bodies of the nude women. And for the first time they experienced some feeling they had never felt before, and that feeling we nowadays would call shame. So a number of women bought some textiles, but most found it unnatural and crazy (but secretly were jealous – what woman doesn’t like colors, after all?). The result was that within a few years cloths became trendy, and you were old-fashioned if you wouldn’t at least have some strips around your waist. And then of course competition was born between the women, and therewith came the seed of social distinction. However, these days were modern times in that world, times of change, and nobody can stop time.

The men were more interested to import technology, such as paddles and bigger boats made of shelves. Children likes shells, especially the ones you could hold against your ear and hear the sea – though they hardly new what was meant by ‘sea’ and soon they started making collections and exchanged shells between each other. The grown ups discovered that shells had different values – some were rare, other common, some small, other big, white or colored. Thus a primitive type of exchange currency was invented – in our days long replaced by money, cards credit cards and electronic transfer devices made in a factory.

Moimoi and her mother were strolling around near the bank of one of the rivers, and from the west came a woman with a child on her arm. Moimoi immediately liked the child. It was a beautiful boy, sitting on the woman’s arm, the lower part of his body covered with some colorful textile.

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