the other night i was taking a candlelight mandi in a small timorese village close to the south coast. for those of you who are not familiar with the term,its indonesian for washing oneself in the traditional way by scooping cold water out of a basin and pouring i onto oneself.
as i was washing myself in the candlelight i was reminded of a mandi which i took a few years back in aceh, in ujong muloh, a small fishing village on the west coast, down the road from lamno. the village was completely destroyed by the 2004 tsunami and about two-thirds of the population had been killed. i was staying in the idp camp with our project workers there and in order to wash, you had to go to where the village had been before it was wiped away by the waves.
there, in between the ruins of the houses and the odd palm tree, we went to one of the wells and washed ourselves in the moonlight. washing myself under the stars in the ruins of what was once a house, taking water from the well of a dead man was a calm, surreal, almost mythical experience. it felt almost like an epiphany, though i don't know of what.