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Indonesia

The Rite of Passage

There were thousands of people surrounding the race track, they were packed in the stands and pressed in crowds ten deep around the edges. They sat on top of the walls and some had even climbed into the branches of the tall trees overlooking the field to get a better view. This was the big event of the year and nobody wanted to miss out on the races.

As the flag dropped there was a roar from the crowd. Two pairs of bulls pounded down the race track, kicking up a cloud of dust behind them as they hurtled for the finish line towards the crowd standing at the finish line. The race was neck and neck, but with just five metes to go, one of the teams pushed slightly ahead and then it was chaos.

From where I was standing it was impossible to figure out who had won and looking back it was difficult to believe there hadn’t been any casualties. The crowd had parted for an instant enveloping the racing bulls that just seconds ago had been running full speed.

I walked towards the finish line and watched as a small boy who couldn’t have been more than twelve years-old walked rowards me. An enourmous smile was spread across his face and people were running up to congratulate him and pat him on the back. He had won the race and the prize money that went with it; today he was a hero.

For the people of Madura, there is nothing strange about letting a young child race bulls. This is a rite of passage, a chance for the young generation to prove themselves. Although I might find the custom strange, who was I to judge? I come from a country where turning into a man involves drinking so much alcohol that you might forget simple things like, your name or what planet you live on.