A flash of green here, a yellow feather there…where am I? The bird market in Yogyakarta on the island of Java in Indonesia. I had no idea this place existed, until Steve and I examined a cartoon-drawing map of the city we picked up at the airport.
Since I was a little girl, I have always loved birds. My favorite pet was Perry the Parakeet, until my dad accidentally killed him while I was away at camp…he can’t eat those empty seed husks dad! But I digress. As an adult, I am ambivalent about caged birds, but I can’t help wanting to see their beauty up close, which is precisely what led us to this avian carnival today.
As our single-toothed bicycle rickshaw driver skids to a stop, we hear the sweet songs of a thousand birds wafting on the humid afternoon breeze; their whimsical melodies instantly alluring. We amble amidst row after row of of brightly painted cages filled to bursting with parrots, parakeets, doves, hawks and finches–indeed, more varieties than I could ever possibly name.
Despite the beauty, I sense an air of desperate sadness permeating the hundreds of cages packed with fluttering wings and squawking beaks, as they wait for their fate to be determined. Will they become a birthday gift for a bright eyed child? An ingredient for the family dinner? I discover that the poor bats have the worst fate–they are taken home to be killed, their skins boiled with lemon grass to make a tea that allegedly cures diabetes. I wonder how that unusual concoction would sell on a TV infomercial?
Cages full of wide eyed, watchful owls–considered a symbol of good luck by the Javanese–wait in suspense for a peek at their new owner. Across the aisle, skittle colored baby chicks can be had for about $3 a piece, then bundled into a brown paper bag like a takeout lunch. The saleswoman assures me they are purchased only as pets. After hearing the fate of the bats, I can’t be sure.
Baby komodo dragons, squirrels and tropical fish round out the creatures on parade at this famous Yogya menagerie. Here’s to hoping I don’t come back as an Indonesian bat in my next life!