|Traditional style windows in the upstairs family room.|
Eko is a very interesting young man, about twenty-six years old. He works with his father in a wood products company, and I believe he is one of the buyers, that is, of raw lumber. I wanted to visit their company with them, but on this trip there wasn’t enough time. During dinner, one of the subjects that came up was the Chinese zodiac. ‘I am a metal rabbit,’ I told them. And we each went around and told the others our animal. Then, spontaneously, Eko started telling us a tale.
Jade Emperor, Yu Huang Shang Di, decided there should be a way to measure time. On his birthday he told the animals that there was to be a swimming race. The first twelve animals to cross a fast-flowing river would be the winners and each have a year named after him.
All the animals lined up along the river bank. The rat and the cat, who were good friends, were worried because they were poor swimmers. Being clever they asked the ox if he would carry them across the river. ‘Of course,’ said the ox. ‘Just climb on my back and I will take you across.’
‘I shall be very happy to call the fourth year after you,’
the surprised Jade Emperor explained.
As for the cat who had been pushed into the water by the rat, he finally crawled out of the water but was too late to have a year named after him. He felt very cross with the rat and since then cats have never been friends with rats. From that day to this the Chinese Zodiac has followed this cycle of years named after these twelve animals.
We all thanked him and congratulated him for telling this tale, even though only a few of us could understand it—he spoke in rather excellent English—and I decided then and there that I would include it when I wrote the story of this night.
All too soon, the supper was over, and we slowly got up from our seats and made ready to depart. The rain had by now died down again, and the night felt crisp and fresh. I think there were even stars visible in the sky. The city had quieted down too, as we drove through the streets to drop off the Auntie and others who were not staying at Andreas’ house. Then, we were home, bid goodnight to our hosts, and Yudhie and I followed Dwi up to the second floor where we would sleep.
Home again, at last, in Purwokerto.
Next… Mother of hot springs