Monday, July 6, 2009

Bali Part II

Rooby-dooby-doo. Bali Part II.

Krisha Twittering in a dingy internet cafe in Ubud.

Whoa. There are a lot of motor bikes here. Probably 10 for every car. Probably more motorbikes than people. I loved seeing people whiz around packed on the seat, clenching on to each other to stay on. Always with big smiles. One night, I saw a bike with four kids packed on + the adult driver. (My mom would never let me ride a motorcycle!) It was really cool to see huge groups of people in their temple attire-- sarong, white shirt, and udang-- while they all vrooomed down the road like a huge motorcycle gang headed off to worship. I desperately want a motorcycle in Bali.

Balinese women carry things on their heads.

Beautiful offerings, huge buckets of dirt, cinder blocks. . . whatever it is, they make it look effortless. I would trust a balinese woman to safely carry me across a river of hot lava on her head. . . but only on her head.

Allrighteee, while we were at the shadow puppet play, there was a cremation ceremony announced for the next day. I knew that my aunt and uncle would be all over that. They love the cultural experiences. The cremation was to begin at 11:00 the next morning in a large courtyard in front of some religious structure. At eleven, the place looked like a ghost town. Not many there, except a few vendors and the Wall's ice cream man with his musical ice cream bike. We cam back at 12:30 and it wasn't much better, but we decided to stick around. We became skeptical. Nothing was happening, and Krishna and Purni had flights to catch in the afternoon. When we were about to reach the end of our rope of patience, we heard this coming. . .

The video quality isn't great, but what you are seeing is the procession enter with a huge, white bull structure, a white tower containing the body, followed by a gamelan orchestra and all the guests/spectators. I have never seen a place fill up so quickly! It went from ghost town to a crazy raucous in about 20 seconds. It was really magical to watch. With the shimmering music accompanying the symbolic rites, the cremation ceremony was like nothing I had ever seen. I felt like I was watching a ritual from some ancient world. In a way, I was. It is amazing how they have preserved their ancient traditions into the 21st century.

This is the tower that carried the body in. You can see the man's picture on the front of the structure. Sometimes they don't hold the cremation ceremonies for years after someone has died because they are very expensive.

These adorable children were standing behind us during the ceremony. I couldn't understand what was they were saying, but they seemed very excited about what was taking place.

These kids were super cute. They saw me take a picture of them, and they became amused. I gestured at them with my camera to take another picture. They understood and looked at the camera, but they seemed uncertain. When I showed them the picture they bursted into shrieking laughter. They were very amused with themselves! I pointed my camera at them again, and they did this. . .
This is easily my favorite picture that I took the whole trip. When I showed them the picture on my camera, they broke into even more hysterical laughter. Cute kids.

They are moving the body into the white bull structure for the cremation. Purni thought that the white bull represented Brahma, a Hindu God. I think he's the creator in Hinduism.

Ice Creeeeam! Pizzzzzaaaaa! Get your Cremation Pizza!
With the vendors, children playing, and jolly atmosphere-- it was quite different than any funeral service I had ever been to.

I was obsessed with this little kid in his traditional clothing and pink crocs.
Just precious.

Burning the tower.

Burning of the bull with the body inside.
There was no mourning at this service. In Balinese, grieving is done in private. Apparently, it makes it more difficult for the spirit of the person to leave. I didn't see one tear shed. In fact, everyone looked like they were having a blast.

That night we went to Ubud Palace, and watched traditional Balinese Dance. These Legong dancers had it going on! I envied their grace and beauty.

I really liked the warrior dance.
Do you see how the entire stage and the steps of the stairs are lined with flower petals?

This is an example of the many little offerings that were left around our villa by the owners throughout the day. They are everywhere. In the street. In shops and restaurants. Around every home and important statue. Everywhere you go smells of flowers and incense.

Ever heard of this book?
It's only on the front counter of ever major book store everywhere. A major craze.
The first time I heard of it was when my grandma gave it to me to read the section about Bali. Since, I have seen it all over the place and the author interviewed on Oprah. I read the whole Italy section-- it's about eating good food. I sort of skimmed through the India section. And I relished the last section about Bali. I didn't care much for Gilbert's personal life, but I loved her descriptions and stories about the locals and the culture.

I decided-- Hey, I'm in Ubud. Why shouldn't I go and meet a few of the local people that I read so much about? I went to Gilbert's website and found information on how to find two of the locals. The first one was Ketut Liyer-- the famous medicine man. For him, all I had to do was ask any local, and they could tell me where he lived. It worked. My driver knew exactly where to take me, and he insisted that we stop to buy a book for Ketut to sign. He informed me that there was going to be a movie based on the book.

Our driver took us to the little village of Pengosekan, where Ketut Liyer sits on his porch daily in his family compound. I asked the driver if he was sure Ketut would be there. "Yes. He is always there, " he answered. This is an exotic-looking bird outside Ketut's patio.

This is "Reggae," our driver. Many Balinese have the same names, and so there are many nicknames to avoid confusion. I asked him how he got the name Reggae, and he told me that his uncle used to play reggae music when he was a baby to calm him and make him sleep. Reggae music was his lullaby. I thought that was sweet. We are looking at Ketut's artwork, and Reggae told us about the gods depicted in the best English he could muster.

I thought it was funny. When we asked a group of drivers about Ketut Liyer, they got excited and confused. "Yes! Yes! Love, Eat. . . Love, Eat, Pray! . . .Pray, Eat, Love! . . . Love, Pray Eat!" It's okay guys, I understand. Here, Grandma and I are waiting in Ketut's courtyard while a camera troupe from Bali TV interviewed him. They are making a documentary about the man. They had their camera on me when I met him. Hey, maybe I'll be on Bali TV!

Ketut's woodcarvings.

He was a very sweet and friendly old man-- just as I imagined him from the book. He said he was 93 years old, but in the book Gilbert says that he says a different age every time he is asked. Most likely, he doesn't know his age.

He signed my book and told me that I was lucky and would live to be 100. . . but that's not very long, he added. haha. 100 sounds good to me! He also told me that I was a gardenia perfume lady. I'm not sure what that means!

He took such time and care to print his name neatly, and then swiftly signed it underneath in one fancy doodle. "Good signature, Yeah!?" he laughed.

Ketut showed grandma his artwork.

When we left, he said "seeya later alligator!"
Just like the book.

On a bulletin board in a village alley, I spotted this flyer for a Michael Jackson tribute party in Ubud. He is truly missed all over the world.

Next, we headed to Wayan's healing shop from the book. I didn't take a picture of her because she seemed busy, and it would've been weird of me. She was very pleasant for the brief moments I met her though.

We had her special vitamin lunch. This guy is grating raw turmeric in front of us.

Here is the Vitamin Lunch-- a nasi campur of nutritional goodness!
The lunch took quite awhile to prepare, and so I had a casual conversation with a man who was seated across from us. We talked about his raw food diet, Michael Jackson, and his experience in New York City the day of 9/11. Gradually, I found out he was a retired businessman from a large company. I had the impression that he was somebody important. . . Then, I found out that he occasionally teaches business at a University-- but in the Music Department. THEN, I found out that he is the former PRESIDENT of Warner Brothers Records from '89-2001. I tried not to drool. We had an interesting conversation about the music business and Warner Brothers bands. I told him about my little brother's band, and he gave me good advice to pass along to the young, aspiring musicians. When it was time for us to leave, he gave me his email. Thanks, Mr. Klein. We shook hands and he bowed his head to me in a namaste. Who knew I would meet a big hot-shot from the music business at a hole-in-the-wall, vegetarian cafe in Ubud? So serendipitous.
Dinner at a place called "Dirty Duck." I really liked eating in the bungalow on pillows, overlooking the rice terraces. They had some weird new agey music playing, but Don requested some gamelan music. It fit the mood way better.

Sam loves the camera. . . NOT.

After dragging him through lots of cultural activities, temples, and our Eat Pray Love day, we decided to give poor Sam a day of fun. Twelve year-olds need an adventure day, and so we hit up the buggy adventure tour! I'm not twelve, but I quite liked it myself. there was something very Jurassic Park about bumping and turning through the jungle terrain. Here I am with my guide/passenger, Franky. He was a funny guy. When we went up hills he would yell "FULL GAS!!! FULL GAS!!! WHOO-HOO!" and when I sped too fast down the hills it was "BRAAAAKE! BRAKE, GIRL!" I like speed.

Sam behind the wheel.
Our driver for the day, Agung, also managed to get into this pic. He is a very kind and legit man.
I'm not Megan Fox.
But I've gotta try.

Don took a turn at the wheel, as well.
These two had a few vehicle malfunctions. . .

It started raining, and so we took a break to put on out raincoats. I made friends with the two biker-safety guys trailing behind us. Meet Madde and Wayan.

While we where driving, Franky was constantly was talking on his walkie-talkie in Indonesian. Then he handed it over to me. He put it to my face and said, "Say 'Hello Choy!' [I repeat] Say 'Apabakarableeblop. . .' [I do my best to yell it back into the walkie-talkie, laughing] Say 'Suksidadurubleepblorp. . .' [I yell it back the way it sounded to me. More laughing]. This became a funny game. there was a lot of laughing coming from the walkie-talkie, and I was laughing hard because I had no idea what I was saying or who I was saying it to. I told Franky to have them sing me a song, and soon I could hear laughing voices from the talkie belting out Balinese lyrics with feeling. Franky made me sing back to them. There was something very funny and childlike about this sport. I later realized that I had been talking and singing to the safety-motorcycle guys following us. They gave me a few funny looks after the tour. . . haha.

This picture concluded the fun with Franky and Madde at the Buggy adventure tour.

Whew! That was a lot of pics and info for three days.
Blogging isn't for babies!
One final Bali post is on its way.


Kristine said...

Holli! i'm dying cause I'm reading Eat Pray Love right now and have just started the Bali section. So So So cool you are there and expereincing it. And you met the medicine man. Radical.

I love seeing your fun adventures!

Jane said...

Those children!!!! adorable.
I love all the colors in Bali. How wonderful. Thank you for your documentation of your trip. I think it's so awesome that you are there. Kristine keeps telling me I should read Eat Pray Love. I think I will!

Amy said...

1. cutest kids ever!!
2. little kid in pink crocs--he's after your heart.
3. dude i can't believe you met the guy from eat, pray, love! i read that book last summer and thought it was pretty good. awesome!

Courtney said...

Wow, Holly amazing experiences!!! I love reading your blog. I am curious, what brought about this amazing excursion to the east? PS we totally studied Gamelan music in my world culture music class by a musicologist who specializes in it. It is so crazy!