I stepped carefully over a cement barrier into a luminous sea of green, making sure I had good footing. I continued to walk, step by step in a focused meditation. I allowed space between my guide and myself, as I shared this field only with him and a few birds. Sunshine and silence and the green sea enveloped me. Within my view were rows and rows of rice fields. I tracked along for almost an hour, in this silent communication with nature. In the distance you could hear the repeating rhythmic sound of clank-clank, it reminded me of the man I had seen in a different field. The man had two large empty water bottles that he banged together. I imagine he was out there in the early morning scaring the birds from his field. This clank-clank sound was similar and automated by the wind. How clever, I thought to myself.
I noticed a large white bird in the distance, probably an egret. With quiet slow steps I came closer to the bird, and just as I raised my camera to capture its beauty, it took flight.
“Maybe later”, I said to myself. Smiling, seeing how I have become part of the culture. “Maybe later” is the phrase I have used over and over, as I am approached by taxi drivers, and shop owners. “No thank you” was never enough, as the taxi drivers and shop owners would push for a purchase. They would question, “maybe tomorrow”?
So my new phrase became, “no thank you, maybe later”, which I ended up saying every two minutes as I walked through the little “town of Ubud”. And now, the phrase has become a part of me.
My “Bali blog” wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make note of the rice fields.
Rice is a very important aspect of Balinese life. These rice fields not only dominate the countryside but also the religion and culture. It is the major crop and the main diet of the Balinese people. I have enjoyed rice with every meal, including breakfast! A typical Balinese breakfast is called Nasi Goreng, and it contains fried rice, an egg and a piece of cucumber.
The growing and cultivation of the rice is a large factor in the strength of the Bali community life. As I understand there are four words for rice; Padi is the growing rice plant (hence paddy fields), Gabah is rice after harvesting, Beras is uncooked grain and Nasi is cooked rice, as in my breakfast rice, Nasi goreng (fried rice) or nasi putih (plain rice).
They use the method of wet rice cultivation. The fields are organized by a Subak, which is made up of all the people that own the land, and each member from the community has a responsibility, such as guarding and cleaning the water canals, regulating the water flow, etc. The Subak dam may be divided into dozens and even hundreds of channels to irrigate to terraced sawah (Rice field).
The crop is harvested with the help of friends and relatives. I watched one morning as a line of people came out of a building with baskets on their heads, and went into the field. I asked Berut, my new Bali friend, “What are they doing”? “They are harvesting the rice,” he replied. “All by hand”? I questioned. “Yes”, he explained. “During the rice harvest a line of harvesters work their way across the field. They cut the rice this way because there is no so much loss of the rice”. I nodded to Berut, indicating that I was following his broken English. he, continued, “and once all the rice is cut it is gathered into bundles”.
Then Berut got up and walked over to the end of the field and came back with a handful of golden yellow rice strands. “They hit the rice and open the, what the word?” “Shell?” I questioned. “Yes the outer shell, and inside is the rice”. I watched as he demonstrates this with is beautiful brown hands. “Oh, I see!” I said with delight, for here in front of me, Berut had produced a piece of rice!
Yesterday during my travels, I did see a machine with a gasoline engine, similar to the shape of the grain thrashing machines of America, but much smaller, only shoulder height.
After questioning Berut about the machine, I was assured that the machine was used to “get the rice”, after the entire field was cut by hand, in the 86 degree hot sun, I might add!