Sunday, July 14, 2013

Murder, mayhem, love, and unicorns: Bali!

"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are."
 ~ Samuel Johnson

I met an ex-pat here in Bali who has lived on the island for many years, and we were comparing notes about India and Bali. I was saying how gentle and welcoming the Balinese are, and he said that actually they're ferocious when they get riled, and always have been. The Portuguese and then the Dutch, who were colonizers of Indonesia for over 300 years, had a harder time controlling Bali than the other islands. When asked how that shows itself in current life, he paused, and said, "Murder. Torture." Later he told a story about the local hitman from his village asking to borrow his car. [Incriminating details edited out!] All went smoothly and the next day the village was in a kerfuffle about the poor guy who got hit by lightning. My friend went to see and saw the victim with a screwdriver in his chest. I said, he killed him?! He said flatly, that's what hitmen do. Oh, right. I forgot! Apparently the victim got warned three times about some transgression, and in these parts that's enough. The lightning story was some kind of group delusion-except-they-know way of dealing with it.

The term "running amok" actually comes from the Indonesian/Malayasian language, and refers to an out-of-control killing frenzy, somewhere between a mental illness and possession by spirits. My friend tells me it's a recognized legal defense in Indonesia. "Sorry about those school kids, your honor. I was running amok!"

Apart from this hidden-to-me rough edge, what isn't hidden but feels sometimes like it should be: New Age Everything, laid on thick. I thought about writing a parody about it until I saw a poster that was beyond anything I would have dreamt up. Word for word:

  • Activate your divine blueprint and ascension codes through Language of Light.
  • Connect your heart with the morphogenetic field of Dolphin and Whales.
  • Awaken your remembrance of ancient Egypt, Atlantis and Lemuria.
  • [Anonymous Teacher] will channel and sing Crystal Language of Light to awaken your soul memory and activate your divine blue light.
  • Transmission from magical unicorns and sacred water blessings.

Oy ve. But you know what, "oy ve" sounds like it could come from a dolphin: OY-OY-OY! VE VE VE VE VE!! Hang on, did I just channel that? Contact me, soul dudes, for your ascension codes, and have your credit card ready. It might change your life. And for sure, if I get enough cash, it'll change mine!

Much love to you all, especially if you give me money,

p.s. Just kidding. Not really.

That is Gunung Agung, or Agung Volcano off in the distance. I was walking with friends through the rice fields not far from my house.

I rented a scooter and went for a little ride today, and came across the end of a festival at this temple.

Cute little guys. It was fun riding the scooter because every time I saw a child on the side of the street I'd say "Hallo!!" and they'd all say hello back with a big smile on their face. Lovely.

This hole in the sidewalk could be dangerous if you're not paying attention. But it's REALLY dangerous during a torrential rainstorm, when flash floods can cover it entirely. Just a couple months ago an Australian woman fell into one of these, was sucked under, and they found her body an hour later 200 meters downstream.

I never show pictures of my rooms because they're always so small and boring. I'm in a house of sorts now, with two bedrooms upstairs. Here's one of the bedrooms.

This is the downstairs. Coming from India, where the rooms are typically smaller than the platform in the middle of this room, I thought - how many people am I sharing this with? It didn't occur to me that it could all be for me. I'd been here for two weeks when my friend opened a door that I assumed was a closet and found a second bathroom. FYI, I'm paying $20/night for this place.

The view out the bedroom window.

There are no roads near the house, so all construction material has to be carried in. These guys are carrying a sliding glass door several hundred yards and up a bunch of stairs to the job site near my house.

The lovely Yellow Flower cafe, just around the corner.

Beautiful Balinese artwork, on display just about everywhere you go.

Contrasts. And no Photoshop.

An indoor soccer/football field.

The rice paddies belong to the ducks. They have an important function - but unfortunately that's as far as the story went. My source couldn't remember what the function was!

A Balinese woman prays at a roadside temple/shrine. Someone who's lived here for a few years was told that an amazing 30% of Balinese time and resources (money) goes into worship, donations, and festivals. Wow.

Freshly planted rice shoots.

On one dramatic day's walk the clouds are mirrored in the smoke coming from small fires in the fields.

A wind-propelled noise maker to keep the birds away, as they can eat a lot of rice.

A plant grows and floats on a small pond next to the rice paddies.

Ancient Bali - narrow paths meandering along the fields.

Rice is very labor intensive, at least the way it's grown here. You have a different appreciation for the rice on your plate after watching the amount of work that goes into it.

Excellent concentration. Good job.

Out here, everything goes on the head or on the back of a motorcycle. Nothing bigger will fit on these paths.

Beautiful green colors and textures.

This friendly woman was carrying a load of natural flower ornamentation to put on these little shrines in the fields. Does that ever happen in the West? Maybe Monsanto bends down on one knee and prays for world domination?

Cute little kid helping his mom with the shrines.

A small stone shrine, which are found all around the rice fields.

My friend Nicole and I had a splurge and went to the shmancy Royal Pita Maha hotel for lunch and a swim. This is the entrance.

Each side of the entrance had these stone beauties welcoming us.

The entrance to the spring-fed "Royal Spring Bath".

Yeah, that's pretty royal all right.

A stone character at one of the several temples inside the hotel complex. It could be hundreds of years old - but you can't really judge by looking at it. It rains so much, and is so humid, everything grows like weeds.

The Ayung River, on the right hand side, runs along the bottom part of the property.

Water-logged and happy after a long swim. I've known Nicole since 2005 in India, and didn't realize she was in Bali until someone mentioned it.

The lobby area in the evening. No, we didn't stay here, since the rooms go for something like $400-600 a night.

Man-made beautiful objects are simply everywhere in Bali. I've never seen anywhere else like it.

A statue of Ganesh, the Hindu god.

Such a brilliant green!

I was hiking along a path and wandered down to see this family fishing.

Who built that contraption over the river? My brain works like this: I'm sure it seemed like a good idea when they built it, but now the roof looks like it's leaking and the metal bits are rusting. Maintenance isn't as fun as new building. That might have something to do with why I don't own a house.

Modern technology, I guess. It beats doing it by hand or using an ox, like I saw in India. A small machine like this can get into very small paddies, like the section he's working on.

A harvest party, with about 20 women and only two men. Nearby I'd seen a machine thresher, but these people were doing it by hand, beating the stalks inside the drums with the blue screen to keep the rice inside.

Everyone was friendly and didn't seem to mind me being there. In the old days I knew enough Indonesian to at least have a simple conversation, but I've forgotten what Indonesian I used to know.

Separating the wheat from the chaff. Except it's rice. Nice photo!

The little box of flowers shows that everything gets blessed, even a Rolls Royce. This is at the fancy old-looking hotel is called The Mansion. And the owner shows off his Rolls Royce, in a country where the staff make roughly $100 a month. Ewww.

A statue at the entrance to The Mansion.

Last night I saw some people walking in the rice fields next my house, carrying bright flashlights. It turns out they are eel hunters. They use a strong battery and two poles to put a shock into the small pools of water. The eels (next picture) are temporarily stunned and are picked up and put into a bucket. It reminds me of when my Dad used to take me and brother to the creek behind our house when we were kids and go "frog-gigging".

But it's all worth it! Ewww.

I'm thinking you don't walk your pig for exercise. Farewell, fine piggy.

(The End)

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Swimming with Love

It's the 5-year anniversary of my Mom's death today, July 3rd. I can't look at the photo (below) of her in hospice without crying. 

Here's a passage from Patio's blog that I wrote about a week before this, on Mom's last trip to the hospital, as my brother Mike and I were together:

"Around nine o'clock one of the doctors who we like a lot and who'd seen Mom twice before in ER, including on Sunday, came by. She looked at Mom's distended belly, heard about the lack of pain meds, saw the unresponsiveness, and went on to describe the laundry list of the ways that Mom's body seems to be shutting down. She then summed it up by saying we might want to spend the night tonight if we'd be really disappointed to not be here when she passes away. That just hit Mike and I like a ton of bricks. We knew that was a possibility, but hours before we were still planning on a hip replacement on Friday. Now we don't know that she'll be alive Friday.

"This evening Mom woke up and kind of came to, for the first time today. She got a little agitated again, kind of wrestling with us and trying to pull off her covers so she could make a run for it when no one was looking. But after a time she got very still, even looking serene, and though she mostly doesn't know who we are, she looks right into our eyes. Her eyes are bright blue, and even now they're as clear as a bell, and she really looks beautiful. Something startled her and she said, "Oh!" and smiled. She's holding onto both of our hands, and her skin is cool and soft. It's always been nice to sit with her, but I'm sure I've never appreciated it the way I do right now. I am really cherishing this moment, appreciating it more knowing that it won't be available for much longer. It actually makes me gasp to write that.

"Mike and I are crying like babies, and I can't speak for him, but I feel like my suffering has ended, because I've stopped fighting. I'm surrendering to this inevitable moment, and this hospital room, our home away from home, is just swimming with love."

Too much love, (we're swimming in it, and sometimes we know it...)