I have been traveling in Indonesia for October and November.
I know I am in the developing world there because I can’t get a stable enough internet connection to blog on the Cultural Weekly. Tough luck, Trules.
It’s the other side of the world, about 13,000 miles away. About 24 hours by plane. We leave on Sunday at midnight and arrive on Tuesday afternoon around 3PM. (We lose 15 hours crossing the international dateline.)
But those are some of the wonders of travel. Time changes. Perspective changes. You get to see the world differently. You get to see your life differently.
Padangbai, Bali, Indonesia
My Indonesian wife and I own a little piece of paradise in Padangbai, a small fishing village and ferry hub on the east coast of Bali, island of the gods. It is light years away from the tourist hordes of Kuta and Seminyak near the airport in the south of the island, and equally far away from Eat-Pray-Love, Ubud, in the center of the island.
We live amidst the locals in the middle of a banana and coconut tree field, and modernity vanishes there, almost altogether. Roosters crow all night long, dogs bark, cows moo. There are daily Hindu Bali ceremonies that stop work for days, showing you very quickly what’s important on this side of the world.
Two things, in particular, don’t matter here in Padangbai.
1- America doesn’t matter. That’s right. You heard me correctly. Nobody thinks or talks about us here. It’s not the center of the universe. It doesn’t define the conversation. It’s some place far away.
“Where you from, Tru-les?”
“Cal-eefornia. Los Angeles.”
“Yes, far away.”
That’s what Kadek and I said to each other this morning. In English.
It was true. We were very “far away.” As I said, about 13 thousand miles, as the crow flies. Where there are absolutely NO newspapers (that I can understand). Where, like I said, there is a very slow, unbearably… slow… internet connection. Where electricity fails during rain storms. Where you shop for food at 6AM in the local market in the middle of an empty field to get freshly slaughtered chicken, freshly caught barracuda, to buy freshly picked fruits with names like rambutan, mangosteen, and oh yes, mango and papaya.
All resulting in the fact that one is… pretty much… completely…. isolated here….
…and delightfully so.
But forget about me. Here in this banana & coconut field, it’s more about the now, the culture, the weather, the gods, ceremonies, family, children, jobs, food on the table, than it is about the international price of oil, the whereabouts and danger, danger, danger of ISIS or ISIL depending who’s spelling it, the next scary flare up in the Middle East, or the new “petro dictator” in whichever oil-rich desert America is currently hostage to. Oh, and how could I forget, the Ebola terror-scare that I haven’t heard about since I went through customs over ten days ago.
Sure, America has created Iron Man and Spider Man and Starbucks & McDonalds, but there’s not one to be found in Padangbai. Maybe in a few more years, but I’m hoping it doesn’t happen.
2- Time does’t matter. That’s right too. Because here, in the middle of the transcendent coconut and banana field, there is no sense of time. Just place: Here. Time: Now. Do this. Then that. Wake. Clean. Shop. Cook. Clean again. Swim. Shower. Go to town. Try to connect to the internet. Go home. Swim. Prepare food. Eat. Clean again. Swim again. Rest. Sit on the porch. See the stars. Hear the hypnotic, marimba-like gamelon music off in the distance. Hear the jocular geckos; small lizard-like chameleons on the wall, making their strange, repetitive, chant-like chirps, “geck-o, geck-o, geck-o, geck-o, geck-o,” at least 5 times in a row. All day. All night. Whenever they feel like it. Enjoy the green, green jungle, the spider-like fishing boats, the toil and the devotion in your neighbors’ faces.
People who see you as a stranger. Which you are. Or maybe a visitor who comes and goes. Occasionally. Not someone who really lives here. Not yet.
Here there is only “local” vision. People don’t grow up, move away, and leave Bali. They stay a member of the banjar (community) their entire lives. They have to. It’s expected in the culture. It’s very important. Very strict. There’s little I, mostly we, in native Bali. There are only 4 names for children: Wayan (1st born), Made (2nd born), Nyoman (3rd born), and Ketut (4th born). After that, repeat with variation. Karma rules people’s actions. There is little theft. But a lot of smiling. A great deal of smiling. It’s infectious. And beautiful.
The big town is 15 kilometers away. It’s called Klungkung, and it’s where you get the piping and the tiling and the refrigerator and the toilets and sinks and the chemicals for the pool. There’s unfortunately very little “formal” education. Many don’t finish high school. Maybe that’s why there’s no “bigger” vision.
Take, for example, today. All work in the village stopped dead. Why? Another ceremony. Maybe a wedding, a birth, a death, a cremation, a graduation, a baby naming, a tooth filing. I can’t tell. But traffic stopped too. For how long? I don’t know. But… the ceremony is going on… right now… as I tap on these touchscreen keys.
People are at home preparing meals! Or burning incense and making flower and rice offerings to each of their gods. It’s also sort of beautiful. At least to us “bules” (pronounced “boulays), the non pejorative word the Balinese call us Westerners.
Of course, and perhaps inevitably, there is now a growing “outside” vision for the East Coast of Bali, specifically for Padangbai, where I’m living. Money is coming in from all over the world. Not particularly from America, but more from Java, the next Indonesian island to the West, where the capital, Jakarta, sits with its 20 million hungry and busy people.
But POW! The east coast is exploding with projects.
Land is being bought up by the bules like it’s going out of style. There’s not much left. There’s evidence of big foreign-owned hotels being built overlooking the immaculately-undeveloped white and black sand beaches (“Padang Bai” literally means “Glass Bay” in Bahasa, Indonesia, the local language spoken all over the 17,000 island archipelago).
And now there’s talk of a touro-friendly international farmers’ market going up on the Black Sand Beach just down the dirt path from where we are.
Hard to believe when I still have to ride my shaky motor bike over a rocky road full of potholes, where women still carry vegetables and water on their heads.
But, hey, it’s also a place where I can just call a local boy over… to gladly climb a swaying coconut tree for a dollar… so he can, well…. get me a coconut.
To read more about Trules’ trip(s) to Bali and to many other places on the planet, please visit his WordPress blog, e-travels with e. trules.
And for more “Trules’ Rules”, please visit his personal WordPress blog.
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