Slipping away into Balinese life is quite easy and rewarding. Every day is an adventure as we uncover secret white sand beaches, black sparkly beaches, ancient temples, volcanoes and lakes, and artist communes deep in the jungle. Yes please!
I’m always amazed when driving down the road that at any moment 100s of people may go past by the busload flowing out and over the top, carrying offerings, dressed in matching outfits, playing instruments, or perhaps surrounding a 20 ft cow in transit decorated in a golden crown and neck piece or a huge beastly god or goddess with fake fur dripping from the bed of it’s fingernails fighting off some crazy demon. It’s a choose your own adventure book that you are reading over someones shoulder and they are picking all the right options you didn’t even know were possible.
One day we had a beach day even though we will be spending much of our remaining time here on epic beaches-we just needed a lil sand and sun. So we drove east and stopped along the coast and visited super black sparkly beaches and then snuck away to one of the few white sand beaches.
A lot of the southeastern part of the island is eroding away. The water has crazy rip tides and at one of the beaches the ocean came all the way in and through the the market and up to the main road at high tide- but then washes back out in a few hours. The lil white sand beach we found is in a protected cove and not so fierce. Perfect for flying kites (shaped like sailboats!!!) drinking coconuts, and jumping in the waves!
We have driven in every direction on this island and have gone to many Balinese ceremonies-and even attended one at the largest temple here, Pura Besakih, that goes on for 11 days so that all the people on the island find the time to pilgrimage there and pay their respects. Once in the temple complex which is nestled into the side of the largest mountain on the island- you move temple to temple -ceremony to ceremony- through the different colored areas until coming upon the final area where all the triple stacked parasols and flags are all the colors representing all the gods as a whole. Their was an all female gamelon playing at the last stop and they were INCREDIBLE!!! All their children were about and were very cute too-repeating every word I said in English at the top of their lungs in unison and then rolling to the ground in laughter. When you exit the temple you walk down the face of the mountain trolloping between beautiful fabrics blowing in the wind overlooking the whole island.
On our way back to Ubud we stopped at Pura Goa Lawah-which is an ancient bat temple. When you arrive it seems like any other temple-but once you step through the gate you hear the cluttered chirping of thousands of bats coming from the altar. Bats closest relative, rats, are also on hand- 9 or 10 deep snacking away on the evening offerings. I was a lil freaked out – but then put at ease they weren’t interested in leaving their evening dinner in the middle of the altar. As the sun goes down the bats chirping and flapping of their wings get louder and louder and they start flying small circles within the cave and then-right at dusk- all the bats fly out together. It was fascinating! In general there are a lot of bats in Bali, flying around your porch, over the rice paddies, visiting the restaurants at dinner time- but to see so many in one place for so many years that they had their own temple built for them- kind of takes the cake for my experience with these lil flying mammals.
Heavy machinery is not really present in Bali and the primary means to complete most projects here has a simple answer- just use your head! No, literally, they carry most things on their head. Offerings, sure, that didn’t really take me off guard, rice, okay, but then- you start to see large piles of earth laying around. . . Then you start to see people carrying baskets and shoveling the earth into the baskets- then all these baskets of earth- boxes of goods-bags of rock- they all get piled – on your head! Arms free- posture good- items balanced and transported successfully. I still haven’t gotten over it and I see it all day every day lol because it’s not 18 year old boys carrying baskets of rocks on there head in the middle of the hot hot day- it’s 40 and 50 year old ladies! They are buildings roads, building temples, tending rice fields, and making things happen. These ladies are super hard core! It’s inspiring.
Speaking of hardcore – I have been taking Balinese dance classes! Wowzer! That shit is difficult. Lolol despite the intricacy, combination of movements, and foreign postures -I have really been enjoying the classes. My teacher is amazing and has been teaching a balinese, odissi, tribal fusion mix of techniques in an open air studio on this amazing valley in the jungle on the otherside of the rice paddies.
Tonight the moon is glowing so bright. Even in it’s lil Cheshire moon crescent it lights up all the flower vines and all the roof tops in the neighborhood. I hear there have been 3 earthquakes on Bali while I’ve been here- which I very thankfully had no idea happened (as I’m not comfortable with them- tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding- I can deal with- earthquakes not so much) and 1000 Balinese people went to the top of the mountain to let the earth know it’s okay and bring her offerings and ask her to calm down. Trucks and trucks of people made there way to pay their respects and asked her not to be upset anymore.
Every day is blessing, and the people here give blessings every day. It’s something I hope to
incorporate into my everyday life upon my return. It’s easy to do when it surrounds you- and I hope to make it easier for others by surrounding them. I think a lot of it is about taking time for those around you. Society here is built around others, the greater good, the group collective accomplishing more- and that does exist in NYC- in a different way- but just like any other thought, idea, or vision you want to share- you first must take the time for yourself to be prepared, to be nourished, to be ready to carry and share that flame. Age old lessons we already know – but it’s the power of practice that allows us to achieve.