Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shattered silence ... and window

Video of the "da-da-da-da-da" guy.

We heard his voice the first night we slept in Labuanbajo, and we couldn't believe what we heard. We thought it was a one-time affair.

But we heard his voice again the second night, and the third night afte
r that. And we heard it during the day, sunrise to sunset. His tone never changed. Nor did his words.


He repeated that phrase, day in and day out. We asked around; we discovered that he is a mentally handicapped 21-year-old man whose affliction causes him to be handcuffed to a bedpost. And from that bedpost, day and night, night and day, he repeats the sound, "da-da-da-da-da-da-da."

By the time our Group of 8 finally left Labuanbajo, we agreed on two things. One, we felt sorry for him and his family. It must be awful to be, or to care for, a mentally handicapped person in a country where resources are practically nonexistant. Second, on a more selfish level, we agreed hearing his incessant "da-da-da-da-da" was driving us bonkers. We were glad to have a peaceful night's sleep in the next town.

When Sara and I returned to Labuanbajo -- a small port town on the western coast of the Indonesian island of Flores, an island which rose to fame as the archeological site where the the three-foot-tall "hobbit" was discovered -- we checked into the same hotel and didn't hear his voice. One night passed, then another, without disturbance. Silent night.

Then the sound of "da-da-da-da-da" shattered the day. Sara was in the room when the sound started, but she felt confused. The sound wasn't coming from its usual direction. She went to the window to look out, to see where the sound was coming from. She spotted the guy. It was the first time she'd ever laid eyes on him. He was standing shirtless by the water, flailing his arms, chanting "da-da-da-da-da." Strange, she thought. How did he get untied from his bed? She looked away for a minute, and then, fortunately, looked up just in the nick of time.

He was standing 10 feet away from her, outside her bedroom window, swinging a stick through the air. She watched as a split-second later, he reached his arm back and hurtled the stick toward the window. She covered her face with her arm as the wood shattered her bedroom window. Glass shards flew everywhere.

She caught her breath. Except for a few minor scratches on her back, she was uncut. But glass shards were covering her room, her belongings. It would be a long, cautious afternoon of cleanup and moving.

By the time she looked out the jagged hole where the window had once been, the man was gone. But his voice carried through the distance.