Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bali Journals: Part IV

In less than two weeks, my english speaking/writing skills have gone from barely intelligible to atrocious. Rereading that last blog entry, my only response in hindsight is WTF? Reluctant to rely on technological assets such as spell-checker must now be tossed aside. Use the damn thing... nothing to lose, no shame in admitting failure and putting to use the tools at your disposal, eh?
Trying to immerse myself in the learning relative competency in Bahasa Indonesia & three different language levels of Bahasa Bali added to the daily conversational encounters with residents & visitors from The Netherlands, Germany, France... now finds me combining all into what amounts to something along the lines of a modern day Tower of Babel
I should go back and edit that last screed... shape it into something resembling the mother tongue, but why? It is what it is. Let it serve as, if nothing else, a personal reminder of my limited aptitude for language.
So, with all that acknowledged and out of the way... let us move on to the journal, for better or for worse. Read on...
When last I left you, we were sharpening things... daggers, weapons, minds. Oddly enough, the only thing left unsharpened during this time abroad have been my fangs, usually at the ready, as anyone who knows me well will readily attest to. They will also read this and begin to think I am far gone off the deep end into bliss-ville, and they would not be entirely wrong.
This journey to Bali has many purposes... to begin to lay the groundwork for a building project, to make interesting photographs, to sample as many local cuisines as possible from a country comprised of over 14,000 islands and nearly as many ethnic groups and to search for proof & to document things I have heard about - things that I can only describe as belonging to the world of the unseen - things I remain very skeptical about as an outsider banging at the doors to be let in.
But we can’t get into that part yet. Be patient until I can find the words...

As for the food, I am eating well, very well. Most days I can spend far less than $10 on food. I shed tears of joy over anything dipped in sauces made from fresh mint & tamarind paste, delightful heated sambals of a 100 different varieties, grilled meats of every sort... four star venues to grimy looking, ever present street carts that roam the village roads. All of it has been good and overall, hygiene has much improved here since my first visit in the 1980’s. There has been no legendary “Bali Belly” or other interludes of gastric distress. 
I am spending most of my time outside the tourist areas and in the small villages, long walks along thin mountain ridges, along the dikes of flooded rice paddies, tooling around the countryside on my rented motorcycle, wind in my face and the occasional bug in my teeth. I seek out cremation ceremonies (two yesterday nearby) & other hindu religious pageantry, wander thru dimly lit & dusty shops bursting at the seems with asian antiquities, marvel at large fruit bats emerging at dusk to dart across crimson skies, wonder at hundreds of florescent colored reptiles scurrying into the brush as I make an approach.
Things are different here, as you may have now surmised. By nightfall, I am exhausted simply by trying to take it all in. This opportunity to spend an extended period of time here leaves me hungry for more.
Saturday is the day of my Balinese friend I Nyoman Eri’s “Balinese” Birthday (their calendar runs in 210 day cycles) or “Oton”. Auspiciously, this Oton falls on the full moon - something that happens maybe two or three times in a lifetime. A big ceremony is planned at the village temple in Bunutan & yours truly, along with my cameras, have been granted entre’ to the big event. This is something I am really looking forward to, as I have known Eri & her expat husband for quite a number of years now and they accept & treat me like family whenever I visit this island. Look forward to pictures early next week.
The next day, Adi & I plan on a trip out to my village along the coast in the Tabanan Regency to spend a night or two, my first real opportunity to get the lay of the land on a 24 hour basis rather than the usual quick visits in & out of the area.
Tony, my Dutch/Balinese teacher & I are then planning a trip to the Island of Java next week, up to Yogyakarta and the ancient buddhist temple Borobudur, one of the seven wonders of the world. Initially, my plan was to fly there where we would rent a car to explore surrounding villages and temples. A recent volcanic eruption is now threatening to cancel air travel and a road trip by car & ferry may end up being the method of travel, a journey of one & a half days to get there & the same to get back, something Tony’s young driver Ketut, a fledgling Formula Race Car driver is very much in favor of. Never have I witnessed anyone so at one with a vehicle. Ketut weaves in & out of maddeningly chaotic traffic without a care in the world and with such great skill that I have now learned to trust him implicitly after the first few terrifying, death trips with him. This boy is a driver on the level of great zen-master. We will arrive safe, sound and probably ahead of schedule with Ketut at the wheel.
In between all of these activities, I’ve managed to get in a little Christmas shopping, though Christmas seems far removed in this equatorial heat in the world’s largest Islamic Country and on a predominantly Hindu Island within that country. I’ve purchased a little bit of art to ship back home, one piece, an antique wood panel... a storyboard actually from the Tanah Toraja culture on the island of Sulawesi (which Richard Branson called Tony wanting to purchase for his Nekar Island retreat immediately the day after I purchased it. Sorry Richard), and meeting with perspective architects for my own future project.
By now, I should be exhausted but all I can say is I cannot wait for the sun to rise tomorrow to get started again. But dawn cometh far to soon and it’s now time to head up to the reception area here, the only nearby spot for a decent internet connection, post this installment of "the wisdom" and then head off to sleep. Until next time, Mimpi manis (sweet dreams). I leave you with a few photos from my walk along the Tjampuhan Ridge, local “lover’s lane” for adolescent villagers that flirt (and only God knows what else) in the bushes in relative privacy. In an hour walk, I must have encountered twenty or more horny, post-pubescent couple groping in the grass... ah, to be that young again!

My Lodgings Seen From Across the Gorge

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