It’s winter in the Gers and although there are some beautiful sunny days, I find myself thinking of the warmth of Bali. In the summer of 2017 we visited as a family. It was full of new sights and sounds, smells and tastes. In fact, it was a lovely sensory over-load especially when coupled with the warm, balmy, sweat-inducing weather.
BROOMS AND ROOSTERS
One of our first destinations in Bali was a coastal town called Sanur where we chose to stay in an Airbnb in a suburb. Each morning, people would step outdoors to sweep the front of their homes. The swishing of the grass brooms was a repetitive, reassuring sound to wake up to. And the sound of the rooster – morning, noon or night – made me giggle a little.
Gavin struggles to fall asleep at the best of times and his tirades against roosters started back in France. Our first rooster in France got a fright for some unknown reason, did a mighty back flip and died. Our next rooster made so much noise that it didn’t last long and landed up in the pot. In Bali, the saga continued and Gavin threatened to scale walls to silence the Bali rooster / roosters. I think there may well be more than a few at local homes.
When we walked to the beach we saw a collection of roosters under grass-woven shelters and learned about the illegal rooster fights that take place. Judging by the number of roosters we saw (and heard), they must be popular. We’ve been told that the roosters are groomed, hand-fed and lead a very pampered life until they are put to fight.
Another sight that we could not help but notice during our walk to the beach was the kites. Look to the sky at any time of day in Bali and you’re bound to see kites flying. Even as the sun sets and darkness falls, the kites are still there – some people tie them to a balcony only to take them up again in the morning while others have night-time kites with little lights on them. The beach at Sanur is a lovely place to fly a kite as is almost every soccer field.
Be careful where you step in Bali as the daily offerings to the gods – colourful flowers in green leaf holders are placed in front of most buildings and homes. Most often, they are created, placed and blessed by local women, but the task is given to men when women are menstruating.
When we were at Green Camp, we had an opportunity to create an offering and learnt how the colours are placed and how they are representative of different gods. It takes time to create these offerings and one can see how it becomes a meditative daily ritual.
A GENEROUS PEOPLE
While we were in Bali, we met many Balinese who were so generous with their time and so present in time. In fact, I’ve never met quite such generous people as the Balinese. I only hope that with the coming years and the influx of tourists (we were four of too, too many…) that the local people retain this beauty and generosity and that it is not exhausted.
I know I’m looking at the situation from my own perspective. I feel that that amount of people and the need and the waste that accompanies western people, ourselves included, is overwhelming.
But, I recognise that many Balinese see things differently and see all that tourists bring to their lives. Once, we visited a temple and asked the guide if he feels that the sacred space is impacted negatively by tourists. But no, he felt that sharing the space and the beauty could have a beneficial impact on people and that it was better shared.
Our first taxi driver in Ubud was yet another example of generosity. He wanted to show us his land and at the same time, collect a coconut or two for us to enjoy. We agreed and off he drove to an off-the-beaten-track location, he tooted to a couple of people, stopped the car at the side of the road, opened the door, took off his socks and shoes and scuttled up a coconut tree for his haul! What an impressive welcome!
The way people look after children is also wonderful. When we went to yoga, the boys stayed with local people. One bought fishing rods for them and taught them to fish. He even placed umbrellas into the trees to allow them to continue their adventure despite the rain.
Another discovered that R has a sweet tooth and subsequently bought him mini jelly pots every morning. I was a little less happy about encouraging his sweet tooth, but he was in his element! People take the time to notice each other and the time to notice children. It is very beautiful and so simple really.
BALI FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS
There are many festivals in Bali. All the local people including the taxi drivers dress in traditional dress on these occasions and there is an especially colourful and festive atmosphere on these days. One of the festivals while we were there was the “money festival.”
Coming from a western culture where money is complicated, I was interested to know what the thoughts are around money. The person I asked replied simply: “It’s like everything, that money be useful.” How simple and how profound. Everything just needs to be useful. I absolutely love that.
Other celebrations like birthdays are also different in Bali. Up until the age of four, each child has a birthday celebration and, from then onwards, the tradition is to celebrate everyone’s birthday together. One party for everyone every year. A Balinese calendar year is not the same as a western calendar so, it is rather difficult to keep track of just how old people are and the older generation are certainly not keeping count!
Cremations too, are shared for most Balinese except the wealthiest. Every few years, a whole village comes together to honour those who have died. They dig up the bones of the deceased and place them into large animal-shaped statues according to their caste. These are then burned in hired furnaces. The villagers prepare offerings for the gods and share a feast together.
It really is a humbling place – it makes you see how complicated the west has made life and how simple and connected it all could be.