Sunday, 28 November 2010

Blog challenge Day 17 – Your favorite memory

Many years ago in the Dreamtime I went to Australia together with Anton who was then eleven years old. The proper age for initiation rite. We had been in Australia two years before, travelled around from Ocean Road to Barrier Reef, from Penguin Island to Jacob's Creek, and we had also been to Ayers Rock. We had called it Ayers Rock because we knew no better. But we wanted to know. So we went back to stay for a longer period and try to understand. We would write a novel about an eleven-year-old Swedish boy's encounter with Dreamtime.

The people at Ayers Rock resort thought I was crazy when I wanted a place to rent for three weeks. They told me nobody ever stayed there for more than two days. We rented a caravan and a car. Every morning we went either to Uluru or Kata Chuta and walked and talked. We saw Uluru at sunrise and sunset and even in the rain, which we were told only happened once every ten years. We read stories and made stories. In the evenings I wrote down our made-up stories and read to Anton who would say that I had got everything wrong.

I had a permission to go into Aboriginal lands which I had applied for and was granted six months before. The community where I could go was three hundred kilometres into the desert, and you needed a 4x4. There was no guarantee that we would even be allowed to fill the car with gas. I didn't take the risk. Well into the second week, when we thought we had read every piece of information available and taken every guided tour, we saw a small inconspicuous ad promising an unforgettable experience. The understatement of the millennium.

We joined a group of five and a female guide. The other people had booked years in advance. We went five hundred kilometres into nothing in a vehicle that looked like a merrily painted tank. We slept in swags on the ground and cooked over a fire. Water for personal hygiene was rationed to a little bowl every morning. The Milky Way rotated over our heads at night.

On the second day a group of Aborigines approached slowly. Linda, the guide, had told us that we had to be patient. They would come when they decided we were ready. There was no point trying to rush. Meanwhile we gathered seeds and made bread. Not the way they show you in tourist resorts: here are some seeds, try to grind them on a stone, and now taste the bread. It takes hours to gather enough for a very small loaf. It takes hours to grind. You get a new sense of time.

Then finally came the storytelling, moving around, observing every detail in the landscape. Where we only saw sand and stones, suddenly there was a waterhole. There were five kinds of edible tomatoes and fifty deadly poisonous. There were honey ants to dig from under the sand. There were kangaroos to hunt. Not with boomerangs, but with rifles. One of the elders made a spear for Anton. I wanted a spear too. He said, through Linda, that women did not have spears. We women were taken to women's sacred places. Anton was allowed to go to some men's places because he wasn't smoked yet. We danced the Lizard dance. We followed the Lizard Man's tracks across the country.

Eight days in the Dreamtime. The Aborigines have a special tense to indicate Dreamtime, something like “he has always been doing...”. Anton and I have always been walking through the desert listening to stories.

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