Jed Appelrouth

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Bali

Travelogue: Bali

Motivation behind the trip

My first real exposure to Bali, apart from listening to the allure of "Bali Ha'i" in Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, came in my World Music and Culture class during my senior year at Penn. I will never forget the chapter on this small community of people who lived and breathed art. According to the course's text, although there is no Balinese word for "art" or "artist", in Bali everybody was an artist. The Balinese all had their day jobs, but when the work day was over, every single person on the island took up his or her craft, whether it was dance, theater, mask-making, painting or sculpting. I was entranced. How did they pull this off? What would it be like to find a place where beauty is held in such high esteem and aesthetic considerations are primary. Where do I sign up?

When I was participating in a men's retreat in September of 2006, one of the presenters, Doug Von Koss, threw out the question. "Have any of you ever had an inkling of a desire to see Bali?" Instantly Doug had my attention, as Bali had been top on my list for 10 years. Doug went on to describe a trip he was arranging that would give a small group of men a meaningful exposure to the culture of Bali. I had already booked my trip to NZ, and I hemmed and hawed for weeks over whether I could take these 2 major trips in such a short period of time. Finally I called Doug and told him to save me a spot. I couldn't turn down this kind of an opportunity. New Zealand would prove to be a trip about external beauty, hiking through an epic landscape. Bali would prove to be a trip about culture: how a people can create a web of beauty that permeates life and is embedded in every level of a society.

Travel and First Days in Bali

"In Beauty It's Begun": This phrase concludes every one of Doug's e-mails. Towards the trip his closings shifted: In Beauty it's about to begin...In Beauty it's beginning. I began to get excited about Bali. The actual trip to Bali (using skymiles) took me from Atlanta to JFK to Frankfurt to Singapore and finally to Bali. Though it was a long trip, Singapore Airlines lived up to its outstanding reputation and made the trip as easy as possible.

Upon arrival in Denpasar, the capital city of Bali, I paid for my tourist visa, and walked outside to meet Yasa who would be the Balinese guide for our group. We hopped in the van and began the one-hour drive north to Batuan.

We arrived at our home base, an artistic center called Bali Purnati. www.balipurnati.com. Thoughtfully designed by a collaborative group of architects, designers, and artists, Purnati boasted acres of well-tended green space, a temple, a theater, and a giant structure that would house our morning mediations. It was a vibrant place. Lilies, lotus flowers, fields, sparrows, dragonflies, geckos, spiders, bugs and acrobatic bats abounded.

I met all the guys on the trip and was surprised to find that almost all of us were tied to the healing profession. I'm wrapping up my masters in counseling in May, and in the group we had another counselor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist, an internist, a cardiac surgeon, and a dentist. A solid group of guys, we were all connected in various ways to Doug.

A few words about Doug

The fact that Doug Von Koss was leading the trip was a major factor in my decision to take this trip at this time. At 74, Doug is a profoundly generous, expressive, positive human being. When I saw him earlier in the year in Minnesota I learned that within the span of 4 months prior to the conference he had lost his wife of 50 years, his sister and his brother. His mother passed soon thereafter. In spite of all this tremendous loss, Doug was not in despair; far from it. He was still shaking things up, giving to others, making music and adding beauty to the world. He grieved in his own way, but he remained connected to others, to the world, to his work. I was so inspired by this. Obviously this man had figured something out about life. I have met few people with inner reserves that run so deep. In addition, Doug is constantly trying new things on, exploring the world, taking on new challenges and helping to move people beyond their limitations. When people are worried about taking a risk- Doug always asks: Well who says so? And what do they know? And who cares! I love it! At 74, some people are living vicariously through their grandchildren. I imagine that Doug's grandchildren may be living vicariously through him.

First night at Purnati

I crashed fairly hard after the 30+ hours of transit, and was awakened abruptly at 4:30 am by the initial cries of the rooster jamboree. Some of the guys could sleep through the roosterish cacophony, but I was not among this lucky bunch. Each day I awoke to the pre-dawn symphony of roosters, dogs, and the beating of the ritual drum- the Kulkul- that echoed from surrounding villages, calling to life each community.

First Morning

The first full day on Bali commenced with music and meditation. No better way to begin a day than with morning harmony. My life in Atlanta is surrounded with music- in the car, at work, at home- but I so miss the chance to actually create the stuff. Doug is a master at getting non-musician types to take the risk of making music. He establishes a "perfection free zone" (I realize I need more of those in my life!) and leads all the guys in a series of moving parts and layered harmonies. So much fun to start the day with sound. During three of the days we would also add in a moving component. One of the therapists also teaches movement classes- learning how to move with more expression. This was really fun and playful as we experimented with different ways of moving around a space and practicing being present with our bodies rather than just living in our heads.

We proceeded from the "temple of melodious sound" to a decadent breakfast of fresh fruit, salad, cooked vegetables, omelets, home-made jams and breads, and fruit smoothies. I hardly missed my normal bowl of high-fiber no flavor cereal and soymilk. And I'm a huge convert to salad for breakfast. Who knew! The fruits were also interesting. Jackfruit, Breadfruit, Snakefruit- and my favorite of all, the Mangosteen . So incredibly sweet and flavorful. I will miss those.

After breakfast we met back in the temple of sound to pick up our ritual gear, the Pakiyan Adat, consisting of a sarong, temple sarong, sash, white shirt, and a head wrap. Doug wanted to show us the behind the scenes Bali, and he wanted us to dress the part: Wearing the ritual dress would open up opportunities for us that we would not have had if we were clad in shorts and T-shirts. He arranged for a priest to come to Purnati and give us the first of several blessings we would receive.

The religion of Bali

Water, water, everywhere water. From the sky to the flooded rice fields to the priestly blessings-the Balinese hold water in a state of reverence. Even the water that falls from the sky-Tirta- is holy. Otherwise the priests can make water holy through their incantations and offerings. The Balinese also hold rice in reverence as it is their primary staple. The official religion of Bali is called Hindu-Dharma which is really a conglomeration of several religions underlying an animistic base. The Hindu structure is intact with the trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the Protector and Shiva the destroyer. But so many other deities are at play as well. In the rice fields offerings are made to the creator of the rice. The highest of all the temples are the Sun temples. The Balinese have integrated Hinduism and elements of Buddhism, and they continue to fold in a wide variety of influences into their ever expanding faith.

The priest guided us through the blessing, splashing us with holy water, and burning incense as we offered up the various flowers from our small personal offerings. As a sign of the completion of our blessing, we placed several grains of rice upon the throat and third-eye chakras. As we walked around Bali- we would see many people wearing similar marks of blessings.

After the blessing we hopped in our little bus and drove to our first water temple. On the way Doug and Yasa gave us all kinds of information on the culture. We learned that we were to do everything with our right hand (the good hand) and we were never to point, as it is offensive and too aggressive. As we drove along we took in the life of Bali. It was a striking place. Clearly this was a third world country, and though we were in Bali, we were still in Indonesia. People were bathing and washing their clothing on the roadside streams. Trash abounded and dogs ran amok.

Driving in Bali

Driving in Bali is clearly a zen experience. If you don't achieve a zen mindset you will either run off the road, hit a dog or a motorbike or experience any combination of similar misfortunes. And if you were looking for street-signs to guide your journey, you will be hard pressed to find them on any but the most heavily trafficked streets of Bali.

Driving through Bali, it seemed that the 3 primary forces of the country were the dogs, the mopeds, and the roosters, probably in that order.

Dogs

The dogs of Bali are ubiquitous. These are not your garden variety, cute and cuddly canines; these are road weary, sometimes mangy/bony, life-hardened beasts. "Ridden hard and put away wet" kind of creatures. I am a dog lover by design, but I was only inclined to pet 2 or 3 of the thousands of beasts we saw on the Island. I was amazed to see the dogs lying in bizarre positions on the road and side streets. Some dogs were busy eating the offerings, sniffing out the fruit and rice. Others were doing their business in the street. Several pairs of dogs were stuck back-to-back in the remains of a post-coital connection. It was good to see that true love was still alive and well in Bali. The locals had mixed feelings towards the dogs. Some locals viewed the dogs as the doorbells of Bali. Few if any of the compounds had gates or doors, but many had dogs who kept watch over the comings and goings of visitors. So the dogs had their place: in the home and all over the roads. As our drivers negotiated the small streets, they had to regularly slow down and issue gentle horn taps to dismiss the meandering mongrels.

Mopeds

The moped is a highly utilitarian device in Bali. The limits of its utility are bounded only by the limits of one's imagination. In Bali the moped is rarely a single occupancy vehicle. It was not unusual to see entire families crammed onto a single moped. Husband, wife, child; Mom and 2 daughters; Mother, Baby, Grandma. Brittany Spears would have been easily vindicated in this culture. And this vehicle is used to transport all manner of payloads: we saw bikers transporting 5-foot wicker hutches, surfboards, live ducks, sacks of overflowing produce and many other interesting cargoes.

The motorbikes held dominion over the road. It was not unusual to see mopeds 4-5 abreast at a stop light. And there were very few stoplights on the island. The bikes darted back and forth between and around cars in an intricate dance of merging and yielding. The lanes were never wide enough, and we had to maneuver around parked cars on both sides of the streets while mopeds scurried between the lanes, fitting into the smallest of spaces. To alleviate my own anxiety, I had to stop imagining that I was driving, and trust that the drivers knew the subtleties of this vehicular choreography.

Roosters

The roosters owned the night, and during the day they could be seen wandering through family compounds, perusing the side streets, and resting in wicker cages along the roadside. The men still fought their prized roosters in the highly "illegal" though highly popular cockfights. The fighting roosters sat in the wicker cages by the side of road, staying "stimulated" by the coming and going of the traffic, in anticipation of their upcoming matches.

Roadside

The road was peppered with stone statues, some 40 feet tall, depicting various deities or epic battle scenes. Other military monuments commemorated the revolution of 1945-1948 in which the Indonesians broke the back of the Dutch colonial rule.

Cigarette ads marred the visual landscape, and we were disturbed to see children smoking on the steps of their homes. I was continually taken aback by the ever-present swastikas that punctuated the landscape. They were literally everywhere, and I kept having a knee-jerk reaction to them. For the Balinese, the swastika is an ancient symbol that signifies happiness and blessing. A standard greeting in Bali is "Om Swastiyastu" translated as "may the gods bless you." The swastika's message of peace competed with my own culturally assigned associations.

We had several instances where we came across the great cremation ceremonies that are typical of the island. In a ritual which combines the five elements- earth, fire, water, wind, ether- the bodies are buried, the bones are exhumed and then burned, and finally the ashes are transported and scattered to the ocean and to the wind. It's a beautiful idea to return to all the elements. And the celebrations we passed were truly village-wide festivals.

As we drove through the towns, we came across many groups of uniformed children walking to and from school. We had so much fun waving to the kids. They were so happy that you were waving to them that they amplified the wave right back: by the end everyone was happy and smiling. It was a fun game. The psychologist from our group got wave-happy and was ready to wave at every passerby, basking in the warmth of the response.

This warmth and receptivity of the locals was fairly constant during our travels. When you interacted with people there was a feeling of Namaste: a meeting between two divine equals. Namaste translates roughly to "that which is divine within me acknowledges that which is divine within you". When these people smiled at you so completely, it was such a nourishing gaze that you felt uplifted as a result of the interaction.

We continued to drive past miles and miles of rice fields, often terraced along mountain sides. Alongside the road farmers were drying out the freshly harvested rice on giant tarps. Women walked by, gracefully balancing 50-100 pound loads of rice and other produce on their heads. Truckloads of boisterous children smiled and laughed and waved at us as we drove by. In the road, on the side of the road, in front of every store, we saw the traditional religious offerings of palm leaf, rice, flowers and incense. Even in the department stores and the fast food stores, there was no question that a portion would be left for the gods.

The Balinese religion was also manifest in the countless temple festivals that we passed along our journey. We regularly had to slow and stop the bus as the processions of people filed past in full temple regalia, accompanied by music and offerings.

We eventually arrived at our first water temple. It was truly a celebration of water: ponds, fountains, ducks, fish, statues, flowers, offerings, people bathing off to the side of the temple. It really awakened my senses, and I began to search for interesting angles and compositions with my camera.

The Art of Balinese Commerce

After an hour or so in the water temple we tried our hands at bargaining with the locals. Everything in the tourist markets is marked up, and you must learn to play the negotiating game. Cut the price in half or by 2/3, listen to the merchant's protests, counter, recounter, threaten to walk away, sometimes walk away, let them come after you... and finally agree on a price and everyone is happy. If it's early, you ask for "morning price," a deep discount for the first sale. Apparently the vendors have a system of signaling to other vendors what kind of price to offer you. If you receive a black plastic bag for your merchandise- you are an easy mark and don't know how to negotiate. If you get a red bag- you played the game reasonably well. If you are honored with an elusive white bag- you were a worthy competitor, a hard-nosed negotiator. At least that's what we heard. It was fun aspiring to the level of the sanctified white bag of Bali.

Economic Development, Kuta Bombings and Changes to Bali

I was a bit taken aback at the sheer quantity of tourist-oriented establishments we passed during our travels. Sometimes the strips went on for miles and miles. Doug said these streets were totally undeveloped as recently as 3-5 years ago. I could understand why a developer would want a piece of this beautiful island, but I hope parts of the island are protected from over-development and are maintained in their pristine state.

Tourism remains the number 2 industry after the export of raw materials, and many Balinese see the tourist trade as their only means to earn a good living. Surprisingly, the increase in tourism has led to an increase in interest in the Balinese culture and to a strengthening of cultural awareness among the young. Tourists flock to Bali to see the dances, the performances, the rituals; consequently, there are more performance groups today than ever before.

The impact of the Kuta bombings of 2002 and 2005 could be felt in many places across the island. We came across boarded up shops and empty establishments at various points throughout our travels: Basakih, Lake Batur, the north shore. The quantity of tourists who still venture to Bali is no longer adequate to support the tourism infrastructure that existed prior to the attacks. Drivers, restaurant owners, vendors, service providers alike spoke of the scarcity of customers and the economic loss they have suffered since the attacks. Doug encouraged us all to buy little things from different vendors to support them and their families. When I began to realize the high quality and value of the crafts, it wasn't long before I filled a cargo box with masks, sculptures, and paintings. The merchants were incredibly grateful to have the business, and I can't wait to create the "Wall of Bali" in my office.

Masks and Paintings

We visited several workshops of painters, mask makers and other craftsmen. There are certain circumscribed styles within which the artists must work. From different regions the work all looks very similar in style, but there are tremendous variations in the quality of the workmanship: the surety of the line, the elegance of the gesture of the artist. Art in Bali is less about being original, more about excelling within the confines of an established form.

Dramatic Balinese Art forms

The stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabrata are alive and well in Bali. The Balinese don't simply keep their stories tucked safely away in books; they breathe life into their stories. The stories of the great epics permeate village life and are re-enacted again and again in various forms in an integrated tapestry of culture.

Legong and the Gamelan

We attended several performances of Legong, a highly stylized dance form in which young women acted out stories from the Ramayana and Mahabrata. The dance was unlike anything I have seen in the west, as the women moved their bodies in very controlled angular movements, rapidly oscillating their fingers, shifting the position of their heads, their eyes and their facial expressions. The gamelan orchestra accompanied the dance with eastern musical scales and multiple, overlaid staccato rhythms. We also saw a "Jegog" style Gamelan orchestra in which the musicians played giant bamboo instruments, some 20+ feet long, rather than the traditional metallophones, drums and gongs of the gamelan. Jegog musician/athletes sat on top of the massive bamboo instruments and hammered out musical melodies, creating a resonant sound that filled the theater.

The Barong and Rangda

Another Gamelan-accompanied show was the dramatic play of the Barong, the giant happy dog-like dragon, and Rangda, the dark witch. The Barong danced around playfully and snapped his jaws while protecting everyone from the evil Rangda. The Barong and Rangda battle away as mortals unsuspectingly get mixed into the fray. In the end, neither creature ever wins a decisive victory, as the battle of good and evil must continue in this world.

The Kecak

The Kecak was an a capella theatrical performance, performed by torch light in front of a glowing temple edifice. 100 men from a village near Ubud reenacted a scene from the Ramayana in which my favorite monkey, Hanuman, helps Rama rescue his beloved Sita from the clutches of the evil King of Lanka. The Kecak vocalizations involve many interlocking rhythmic patterns something akin to "Ketchak, checka check." In a wondrous cacophony of sound and motion, the 100 men move and chant as one organic body. You can see a really cool version of the Kecak on the visually stunning documentary film, Baraka.

The Shadow Puppets: Wayang Kulit

Another Balinese art form is the shadow puppet theater, Wayang Kulit. The holy story tellers, the Dalangs, are masters of the epic tales of the Ramayana and Mahabrata and are able to entertain a crowd for hours on end with their shadow plays and their humor. We had the chance to visit the home of a Dalang during a festival day upon which all the puppets were to receive blessings.

At the family compound of the Dalang we were exposed to the time intensive process of creating the puppets, and we were witness to cultural transmission at its finest. The elder Dalang was there with his son, a fellow Dalang, and his grandson, a Dalang in training. The little boy, 8 or 9 years old, came out and performed a dance for us while his grandfather sang a melody to accompany his grandson's performance. Afterwards the grandson took out several of the family's shadow puppets and proceeded to colorfully recount a tale from the Ramayana while his father accompanied him on the metallophone, his Uncle the drum, and his Grandfather another percussive instrument. Everyone was there to support this young man, and then everyone burst into loud applause when he finished his story.

This was a moving experience for many of the men, myself included. We witnessed how much energy and affection was directed towards this young man, how the family so thoroughly supported and encouraged his efforts to be expressive and carry on the family's traditions. Marty, one of the group members on our tour (who was incidentally about to enter his 5th marriage) commented that we wouldn't need men's work if our culture looked like that. Seeing children openly validated and blessed by their elders left quite an impression upon us.

At several points in our journey we were able to witness cultural transmission of this sort. We witnessed older women teaching the younger women the positions and movements of Legong. We saw boys learning to play the melodies of the gamelan. We spoke to mask makers who were part of a long heritage of craftsmen. These people would keep the traditions of the island alive.

Children

It was clear that children on Bali were not only blessed with the gifts of their culture, but were also blessed with wonderful, warm dispositions. Everywhere we went we loved witnessing groups of kids playing. Marty showed us the simple trick of giving a handful of balloons to the kids we met along our travels. It was so easy; just give them a handful of uninflated balloons and the kids were delighted, as if they had been given a handful of something precious. This practice spread in the group as others got in on the gifting. We had to reign in one of the members who started giving the kids balloons at a sacred ritual. Doug had to set some boundaries on our expanding balloon fest.

We were not the first to realize that there is something wonderful about the children of Bali. Margaret Mead came in the 1940s to study the Balinese and commented on the high level of bonding between mothers and infants. For the first 3 months of life, children are continually held and never touch the ground. And the closeness does not abate after three months. The children are supported by all the members of the family compound and are especially close to the grandparents who spend much time with the children and even sleep in the same space with them. This takes a lot of pressure off of the parents. During my entire stay in Bali, I cannot remember a single time I heard a child crying, and we were regularly around families and children.

One child we met in a village was wearing a chain which held a little metal locket which contained part of his placenta. Most Balinese simply bury the placenta in a coconut in front of their family compound. There is a superstition that if you bury the coconut at an angle, your child may become cockeyed. Our guide, Yasa, admitted that he made this mistake with his first child who ended up a bit cockeyed. His wife gave birth to his second child during our trip, and this time he was very careful with his coconut placement. Continually we were exposed to the high level of superstition and magical beliefs of the native Balinese.

The naming system of children was unique in Bali. Until the children reach the age of 3 months, they do not receive a name. And at three months, their first names are culturally determined depending upon which caste they are born into. If you are first born into a lower caste family, your name will be Wyan; it will be Putu if you are born into a middle or high caste family. Second borns are Kadek (l) or Maday (m-h). Third borns are Koman or Nyoman (l) or exclusively Nyoman (m-h). Fourth borns are Ketut in both classes. And then things repeat. Fifth borns are Wyan/Putu. Sixth borns are Kadek/Maday, etc,...Often people call each other by some variation of a middle name or last name or just a nickname. And beyond this, people often receive new names at various stages of life.

When children hit adulthood, age 15 and beyond, they participate in a ritual that consists of filing down their sharp teeth until they are totally flat. Sharp incisors are for the beasts rather than for humans. And you do not have the option of using anesthesia. Ouch! Once you file down your teeth, you officially join the community and must act in a more responsible manner, as you begin to serve the community in addition to your self.

Seeing the life of a village

We were exposed to two different villages. One was a famous old village, Tenganan, a Bali Aga village whose people practiced a pre-Hindu, animistic religion.

We were given a thorough tour of a village called Kaliki, north of Ubud. In Kaliki 200 families, roughly 3000 people, live in a closely- knit community. The people are connected to each other, support each other, and are connected to the three components of village life: the house, the temple, and the field.

The house, the family compound, supports several generations. There are almost no homeless people in Bali, for people who are struggling look to their relatives for support and rejoin the family compound until they are back on their feet. The family compound is organized like a human body. The head is the temple or family shrine; the body contains the living quarters; (we did see a TV in the living quarters and learned that many Balinese love to watch the 3 Stooges and Mr. Bean); the anus is the giant trash pit in the back often afowl with roosters and chickens and burning piles of trash.

The field is a sacred place for the Balinese. The Balinese treat the rice with great reverence, even going so far as shielding the knife from the young rice shoots so as not to scare them.

The Balinese system of agriculture underwent dramatic changes during the Green revolution of Suharto. He introduced pesticides and fertilizer and new species of rice which increased the yield of crops, but killed off many of the edible animals that naturally accompany the rice paddies: frogs, eels, snakes and fish. The Balinese were not happy with this. They chucked the pesticides and instead brought in ducks, "nature's vacuum cleaner" to eat the weeds, grasshoppers and other insects. The ducks are trained and each day they waddle in a highly organized, yet comical fashion from the house to the field, unattended, to do their jobs, and then they diligently return home in the evening: thus displaying the high art of Mallard management. And rather than use fertilizer, the Balinese are revitalizing the soil by rotating in peanuts for one of the 3 annual growing cycles, to give the soil a chance to recover. It will still take 150 years to cleanse the soil of all the pesticides and fertilizer residue, but already the animals are beginning to return.

The volcanic soil and steady rainfall make Bali a very fertile land. As a testament to the fecundity of the land, the Balsa wood trees grow like grass- sometimes growing 7 cm higher with each passing day, growing to an astounding 4 feet in diameter within 5-7 years. Other food sources grow at every turn: coffee plants, bananas, vanilla plants, chiles, coconuts, palm trees, grapes and many other species. The family we visited also kept bees for honey, chickens and pigs for protein. The families in the compound did not feel the need to harvest all the plants on their land or turn them into profit centers for the village. Their philosophy was simple: "take only what you need and don't be greedy." Let some things grow wild to maintain the natural balance.

Blessing of the High Priest

We had a chance to visit one of the 300 high priests of Bali and receive a priestly blessing. We were amazed by the opulence and beauty of his family compound, and a bit surprised by the juxtaposition of this holy man sitting in silent prayer less than 40 feet from a flat screen TV which was blaring western commercial programming for the entertainment of the children. We had an audience with the high priest and had a chance to ask him questions about life and religion in Bali and the world. His advice was simple and made sense: regardless of your religious orientation, be closer to your faith; if you desire to help the world, be closer to your children; don't be sidetracked by the desire to have more or the quest to compile money at the expense of time with your children.

Visiting the holy places: Remote Water Temple and Pura Basakih

We grabbed our temple gear and headed north to visit a remote water temple several hours from Batuan. After several wrong turns and attempts to locate this off-the-map location, we finally arrived. We found the women of the village were setting up the offerings, and the men of the temple were preparing the Gamelan to accompany the ceremony. As it was raining, we took shelter under a giant Banyan tree, the Balinese symbol for eternity, and did a quick change into our temple gear. The villagers couldn't take their eyes off of us, this strange gaggle of gringos, fresh off a tour bus, putting on the Balinese holy gear. Doug said we were clearly the best show in town, as there were no other tourists for miles.

The locals truly appreciated our efforts to participate in their culture, and we were invited to watch part of their ceremony against this beautiful backdrop of mountains, before the massive holy reservoir. This was such a peaceful moment, in this expansive natural environment, with a light rain falling, and the sounds of prayer and Gamelan music floating in the background. I could have spent much more time there.

After we finished our lunch, we headed "north," which in the Balinese culture, always means towards the highest mountain. We approached the greatest mountain of the island, the looming volcano, Kanung Agung. Midway up the side of the volcano was the site of the mother temple of Bali, Pura Basakih.

Sometimes during a trip there's a small opening where spirit sneaks in, where there is a momentary shift in consciousness. I had one of these moments atop the highest temple of Purah Basakih. I broke off from the group and wandered alone to the highest temple, the sun temple. It was empty, except for a solitary man who was cleaning up after a festival. He was impressed that I was wearing the appropriate temple gear and allowed me to ascend the 3 levels of the temple, to the place reserved for those who have come to pray. I was inspired by the temple, the energy it contained, the feel of the wind, the massiveness of the landscape, the sound of the white fabric- wrapped loosely around the statues- whipping back and forth in the air. The temple worker blessed me with the holy water; I made my own prayers, lingered for as long as I could, and finally returned to the group with this beautiful moment to add to my collection.

Final Thoughts

This was a wonderful trip. I now appreciate the richness and beauty of the Balinese culture. And I will never forget the warm interactions I had with so many of the Balinese: our staff at Bali Purnati, the drivers, merchants, priests, children, the strangers we met along the way. The people are what make Bali so special. I hope I can take even a little of their view of life and integrate it into my own. Go a little easier, be a little more connected to others, and spend a little more time adding beauty to the world.

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