Superstitions lead the way

People in Panawangan are afraid of ghosts. Like, really afraid of ghosts. Like, lights on, curtains are drawn at night to keep out the darkness, kind of afraid. When the evening call to prayer, Magrib, begins my host family bounces up out of their chairs, the laundry is brought in, the windows and doors are closed, and all the curtains are pulled. They do not hesitate. Close the windows to protect from spirits.

I join to protect from the bugs that are a much more pressing issue in my life.

My family even sleeps with the lights on, something I’ve been told is common in Panawangan. The first night I lived here, My Ibu noticed the lights were off in my room, when she woke me up in the morning, it was by pounding on my door and yelling my name, concerned that the lamp may have died and I was alone in my dark room terrified. 

They’re still concerned something bad may happen to me because I sleep in the dark.

When I turn the lights off as I leave a room, they ask why.

The many abandoned houses along the main road through my village are said to be haunted. In America, that would lead to children breaking in to “hunt” the ghosts, vandalize, or other rambunctious things.

Do delinquent kids these days break into places to simply take selfies? What are they up to?

In Panawangan, kids cross the street to avoid walking near abandoned houses, so ghosts don’t kidnap them. It’s happened before, they’ve been told.

Anyone have a seizure? a twitch? a cold that has come on unexpectedly? Those are spirits taking over the body, don’t go near the person or you may catch it too. Wait for the spirit to leave on its own; the person probably caught it when sleeping near an open window. 

It’s hard not to laugh when people sometimes tell me these superstitions, or when Ibu yells for me to close my window the moment the sun begins to set. Then I remember when I moved to Korea and warned against sleeping with a fan on or my soul will get pulled away. I think about how I’m deathly afraid of oujia boards, I’ve always slept with a dream catcher above my bed, and let’s not forget my favorite American classic:

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.

That one lit a fire in my heart until middle school. Suddenly leaving the lights on doesn’t seem so odd. 


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