POSTCARD #235: Bali, Indonesia: Twenty past midnight in Delhi, colorless and cold. Headache-bewilderment due to heavy meds; postponed boarding, delay before the story begins, before the catapulted leap up into the night, and a single star seen through my cabin window twinkling above the clouds of pollution. Four hours later down again to Bangkok where it’s six in the morning, stumbling in through security portals and out again then we’re up once more, into the clear blue sky where it’s still the same day. Wonderful to see, slept deeply through the five hour flight and woke only as we were falling out of the sky, down through the rain clouds into Bali.
I hadn’t realized how close we are here to the Land of Oz, where things are so far down-under, most of the rest of the world is up-over when you get down to that latitude. I’ve been to Oz many times (estranged father lived there) and right now I can recognize what this inverted view feels like in Bali. Anyway, I’m here for a short visit, Jiab has an international meeting and I have no part to play except to be he who is introduced in the breakfast room as, this is my husband, handshakes all round. Yes, quite nice really because I get to have a holiday while they’re all working… hooray! Scooting down the long corridors of the hotel and escape for the day.
I thought I’d be able to spend time on the beach, but it’s been raining all morning. So I get to explore craft shops for woodcarvings instead. Beautiful works of art, but then there’s the challenge of Indonesian currency; take a number with a great many zeros and divide it by 13 to get US dollars. I was doing it in my head at first until I suspected I’d given the waiter a $10 tip… generosity, ah well, he was a nice guy after all, but seeing the need to be a bit more accurate, therefore the necessity of using the calculator app, I realized I’d given the waiter $1 after all. Say no more.
More rain in the afternoon so I get to go around seeing the world through the windows of a taxi. Stopping at old temples, the puddles and mud of innumerable visitors splish-splashing like ducks, quack-quacking in the warm rain. Then suddenly, a huge noise of shouting up ahead, what’s going on? It’s a group of Chinese tourists trying to get everyone into their photo in an overly loud spectacle of disregard for their surroundings – so different from the quiet Bali people and the rest of us visiting here. I search for compassion for these survivors of a failed Communist regime. They really don’t know how to be polite… never had to learn.
Into the car again and off we go on the winding road, tarmac like a carpet on the narrow route North through Ubud town. We stop at a coffee place where they sell Luwak coffee produced by way of Asian Palm Civet cats (paradoxus hermaphroditus) who eat the coffee cherries and these pass through the animals’ digestive tract then the beans are collected and processed to make coffee. The woman sales staff calls it poop coffee, lips forming to make a delicate high-pitched plosive sound. We see the civets in their large cages just hanging out, gazing at all the visitors as if we were the ones in cages. The coffee, popular among tourists like me, costs RP 240,000 (US$ 18.00) for 100 grams – over-the-top expensive. I had a cup; it tasted like good coffee to me.
Easy going smile-a-lot local people living inside a hologram where visitors from everywhere in the world appear sometimes, pay money for goods and services, then leave. A woman gently chases a mother hen and her cheep-cheep chicks tootling around in the front of the guest house; soft handclap and gentle shooshhh sound, takes her broom and sweeps the smooth stone floor after they’re gone. And I’m in the car watching the breathless ease of her movements with the recognition of small things. All that’s required is to be fair and polite in actions, gentle and quiet in speech.
“The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.” [Swami Vivekananda]