Monday, December 29, 2014

Photos & Epilog

We're back!  And we're almost over our jet lag.  Kathy came down with a bad case of bronchitis, and I've been nursing a sore knee tendon.  Coming back has been difficult.  We're just not adjusted to the fog, the cold, and the general emptiness and isolation.

Walking a half mile to dinner in Bali, we would  have been warmly greeted by 25-50 people, plus a handful of friendly dogs.  We would have heard the sounds night-time insects gamelan practice,  and of people going about their lives in their homes, and on their front steps.  At home, walking a half mile to a friend's home, just cars. Everyone is inside, somewhere.

However, there are trade offs.  Our own bed, our own cooking, clean tap water, friends and co-workers, back to the gym, communicating easily in English, and the feeling of being useful at work or other endeavors.  And we must admit, high-speed internet is so very nice!

Posting photos on Blogspot takes time, especially with slow overseas connections.  So here is a link to some of our edited better and best photos--perhaps only 10% of what we took.  Many of them were never in our blog posts, so we encourage you to scroll down and look at the few photos in every blog post.  These mostly new photos are now on Facebook.  You don't need to be a Facebook friend, or even on Facebook.  Simply click on this link, and enjoy!  Thanks for reading these posts and for your feedback.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Good Bye, Bali--Trading One Paradise for Another

As we fly to Taiwan, then to Seattle and Portland, we are filled with emotion and gratitude over the wonderful experiences we have had and the anticipation of going back to the world we know much better.

It’s been the best vacation of our 37 years of marriage.  Perhaps that is because Shanti and Skyler joined us for the first week and because it was the mellowest and most stress-free trip we have ever had.  In four weeks, we accomplished less than we typically do in a one-week vacation or one weekend at home, but that was okay.  It was part of the plan. 

We learned to savor the moments, the beauty, the people, the smells, the music, the food, and our time together.  And to be content with getting just one or two things done per day, like a hike, Pilates, a Rotary meeting, an excursion, nap, writing, photo editing, more book chapters read, etc.

We will miss the extraordinary tropical beauty, the artful architecture, the people, the evening walks through the village to dinner, the food, the spiritual pageantry, mangoes for breakfast, $12 massages, the torrential monsoon showers, and interesting conversations with just about everyone we met.

Doorstep offering
We will also miss the small things—the roosters crowing at dawn, Balinese smiles and courtesy, the friendly Bali dogs, the sounds of birds and insects, small offerings to the gods at every doorstep and rice paddy, and the sweet smells of incense and fragrapani trees.  And big things, like our plunge pool and air conditioned bedroom which made the heat and humidity bearable.
Travel and living in Bali is relatively easy, compared to most other developing nations.  We can see why many western ex-pats live here year-round.  We first fell in love with it in 1979 and elevated it to a romantic pedestal. We were shocked to see how it had changed by 2008, and even more since then.  But like children, places grow and change.  Some of those changes aren’t necessarily good, but of all our travels, it is still the one place other than Oregon that we will always love.  Goodbye was hard, very hard.

Clean Water is precious
As we leave one paradise, we look forward to returning to another—Salem, Oregon in the good old US of A.  We’re looking forward to returning to our friends, co-workers, responsibilities, drinkable tap water, our own cooking, our regular workout routines, speaking English all the time, Great Harvest bread, good red wine, a nice martini or Manhattan, our own bed, high-speed internet, understanding what is going on, and above all, feeling needed and productive.  And maybe even cold, mosquito-free foggy weather.

The rice just beyond our plunge pool is now amber and ready for harvest next week.   It’s time to go home to our other paradise.

Rice paddy from the edge of our compound

Monday, December 22, 2014

Between the Cracks--Odds & Ends

Old Vespa in nearby alley
Comedian Louis Black occasionally does a commentary on Jon Stewart's Daily Show entitled, "Between the Cracks," about news items we may have missed.  Well, here's our version, probably not as funny and definitely not angry.  These are just little things we found delightful or amusing that we either forgot or that didn't fit into the narrative of the day. Enjoy!
Man stroking his (fighting) cock

Sign outside coffee shop
Typical rules about entering a temple

Modest? Optomist? Wannabe?

Waiting for the shelter to open
Right next to our lunch table.  Appetising!

Entrance to Pilates studio

NOT a bannana
Downward dog, Bali style

Neighborhood pool hall

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gili--Our Vacation from Our Vacation

Watch out, these guys move fast!
Beer wagon

What kind of a place has no cars or motorcycles, but pony carts, three miles of beautiful white sand beaches, scantily-clad Western tourists with a mix of headscarf-wearing Muslim tourists from Jakarta, dirt roads, 22 dive schools, mosques, no dogs, but lots of tail-less cats,and a vibrant outdoor nightclub scene?
Mt Agung in distant background over Gili Trawangan

Going snorkeling
The answer?  Gili Trawangan, the largest of the three main Gili islands.  They are located between Bali and Lombok Islands, about a three hours by the 'fast' boat from Bali's east coast.  They are definitely not Bali, especially the Ubud area where we have been staying.

Ticklish fun on the fast boat
Not ones to sit still in one place for very long, we thought we would take a four-day excursion to this popular Indonesian tourist hotspot.

We rented a one-room cottage in the heart of town, about four blocks back from the waterfront along dirt roads and ordinary homes.  (Cost? $34 per night).  The constant sounds of chickens, crying babies, playing children, the blaring mosque loudspeaker, and non-motorized streetlife came free of charge.

Our Street
We rented bikes (the best rust $2.50 per day can buy), chartered a private boat and gear for snorkeling ($50), walked around a lot, watched the sunset near Bali's sacred Mt. Agung, ate like kings at the waterfront and the night market and drank our share of Bintang  beer. We also had long naps every afternoon because of the oppressive heat and humidity.
The squid satay was fantastic

Night market--so many choices!

Waiting for the sunset @ Plucking Good Chicken

Sunset over Mt. Agung

It's been interesting being back in an Indonesian Muslim culture. The people are very friendly and we can more easily understand their dialect of Indonesian.  They are not as reserved as the Balinese.  We've had some fascinating conversations in Indonesian with locals who have migrated from other parts of Indonesia to work.  However, unlike Bali, the place is devoid of of art and adornment.  The standard of living and cleanliness is much lower.

Also, except for the Jakarta tourists, we seem to be the oldest people here.  It paradoxically made us feel both younger and much older at the same time.  One young man shouted out to us in Indonesian from a waterfront food stall, "Hello Mom and Dad!"  To his surprise I replied, "Hello, little child!" All three of us got a good laugh out of it.
Sunset over Lombok Island

As Kathy said in her Facebook posts, "...Ah, the island life! Tonight promises free viewing of young travelling westerners exhibiting exotic mating rituals which seem to require alcohol, tiny disco balls and loud music. Somehow I doubt we will blend in...We are, after 2 days' observation, officially the oldest tourists on the isle. Too tired  to party at the bars until dawn. 

And as a nod to our Peace Corps training about being  CI (Culturally Insensitive) she went on to say: "...Have to stifle urge to tell young'uns to "put on a bra, Dearie, cover your bikini bottom as you walk down the road, your mother would be shocked.  And are you wearing enough sunscreen?"  

We've done all there is to do here, except for get sunburned and destroy more bain cells at night clubs long past our bedtimes.  So, we're cutting it short by a day and returning to Ubud Bali later this morning.  Nice vacation--especially to get away from cars and motorcycles, but it will feel good to be "home" again, if only for four more nights.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Balinese for a Day

Leaving the temple
"Now you are Balinese," a young Balinese man said to us as we walked home from the semi-annual Galungan festival last evening, dressed in appropriate attire for temple admittance.  Well, we certainly don't feel Balinese because we will never understand all of their complex culture, rituals, and religion; nor could buy into their belief system or ever be completely fluent in the Balinese version of the Indonesian languages.

However, we do feel welcomed into their lifestyle, if only for the short time we are here.  Once you get out of the bigger towns and high-rise tourist resorts, there is nothing plastic about Bali, except for the water bottles and bags choking the rivers and irrigation canals.  The Galungan festivities in our village (and thousands all over Bali)  wasn't staged for us but rather it was an organic event staged by the Balinese for the Balinese.  We were allowed along just for the ride, and what a ride it was!

The excitement started the day before as people started decorating the panjores (see our December 15 post), slaughtering pigs and preparing elaborate offerings.  By yesterday morning, everyone was dressed in their finest temple garb and joyfully heading for the offering ceremony.  It was a sensory overload of color, incense, music, rituals, happy voices and pageantry.

Morning prayers & offerings
After that they got on their motorcycles, sometimes 4-5 on one, and visit friends and relatives, bringing beautiful baskets of food.

We didn't get invited into a home, but we enjoyed seeing families all decked out in their finest on motorbikes as we walked into Ubud for an excellent traditional meal, minus the babi guling (roasted pork).
Food porn!

Later in the afternoon, everyone spontaneous materialized at the temple and the procession through village commenced.  Here's a good clip of the start of the procession.

Procession through the village

The barong is a mythical lion-dog in the form of a two-person puppet, like a two-person horse costume.  It stops and does a dance in front of homes that have large offerings, the money in them is used to help finance temple operations.
Barong house call

Texting the Apple God
The gamelan marching band plays loudly the whole time.  After three hours, our ears were ringing from the mesmerizing music, which to our western ears, seems to lack structure and our harmonic scale.

I encourage you to play this short YouTube clip.  The first part shows the amazing virtuosity of the players.  Take note of their left hands, which work harder than the right hands holding the hammer.


                                We aren't Balinese, but we were for a day, and it sure was fun.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Of Obituaries, Flyovers, and a Cremation

Cremation of a Balinese Prince
Kathy and I like to read obituaries.  Is that morbid or what?  Not really, as they remind us that every day we aren't in one is a good day!  Sadly,we start to see more people we know in them.

But the older we get the more we learn from them.  We learn about fascinating people who have done amazing things, yet they lived, loved, laughed, cried, aged, and cherished causes and family relationships as much we do.  They are fleeting mentors, who remind us that our time on this planet is short and that we stand on very broad shoulders of those that preceded us.

One of those people was the person whose funeral procession we attended last week and blogged about in our December 10 post.   He's the one going up in flames in the top and bottom photos.  Since that time, we have learned more about him.  Tjokorda Raka Sukawati , passed away November 11 at age 85.  Although born a Balinese prince, he spent most of
Prince Tjokorda Raka Sukawati, PhD
his life as professional civil engineer in Jakarta.  While working on his car one day in 1988, his hydraulic jack slipped in some oil.  However, he could still rotate his car on the jack. He wondered if that incident could be applied to the construction world.  He soon introduced a technique that would enable flyover (overpass) construction to continue with minimal disruption to traffic on the road below.  It involved a tiny hydraulic platform able to support and rotate 480-ton pier heads.
A pier before rotating
 His innovation was quickly adopted in the US, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

If you ever go through a freeway overpass project without too much delay you can thank him.  Some day, as you swim at a beach, you may actually encounter microscopic particles from his ashes.

are a couple of remarkable photos from Getty images from that day from different perspectives, including the cremation itself.  And oh by the way, have your read the obituaries today?

The 7-tiered, 3 ton tower that followed the bull coffin
Unfortunately, we left before the actual cremation

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like....Galungan!

along our street
Clark Griswold would be proud here in Bali as the every 210-day Balinese New Year feast of Gulangan  is about to happen on the 17th.  But he would also have a lot of competition, not for Christmas lights, but for holiday decorations.

Downtown Ubud
Instead of Christmas trees and lights, the Balinese take large bamboo poles and decorate them into what is called panjures.

The base at eye level
And like at home, it seems to be a guy thing.

Dressing outside a home

We guess that the women are inside cooking and preparing special works of art for the offerings (See our post on Offerings, Big & Small).    They are also decorating the temple and home carvings.

And these little piggies went to the market
In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (the movie I've seen more times than any other), Clark Griswold carves a turkey   Here, pork is the special holiday meal.  The men will slaughter the pigs, probably tomorrow.  There are four large-but pathetic-ones hog-tied in the community square, about 50 yards from our house.  We've been hearing their  miserable squeals all afternoon.    We'll spare you their photo.

Keep in mind that Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, more Muslims than in all of the Middle East combined.  Bali is a Hindu/animist enclave that is tolerated --perhaps even embraced--by the rest of the country.

One more thing--three nights ago we serendipitously came upon a temple procession, which is part of the Galungan festival, which by the way celebrates when all the gods and spirits return to earth for 10 days.  What an awesome site and sound to behold!   Here's a very brief clip (27 seconds) from our YouTube channel.   Enjoy!