Cultural Adjustment

I am home, back in Minnesota (sigh). In fact, I have been here for a week. It was a hard adjustment. I don’t think it was because of the cold artic air, okay, I am exaggerating a bit, it is only autumn in Minnesota.

I noticed that I just couldn’t find the right warm clothes to wear and I kept turning the furnace thermostat up. I couldn’t sleep at night, and during the day I always felt it should be ‘nap time’.  I think the word for it is ‘jet lag’. I have adjusted, and as I pen this article I have a small ache in my heart for Bali. Would I go back? Yes.

So what was the reason for this sudden extended trip to Bali, you might be wondering? Why would anyone buy an airline ticket on Monday and then on Friday fly half way across the world? I didn’t know the answer to that question myself, until I arrived home and everything felt different. I felt as though I was waking up from a dream. I looked at the house and the neighborhood. Everything was the same, and in ‘its place’. Time had changed the season; the leaves on the trees had changed, making their yearly recycling trip. The change was bigger than that, it was within me.

When people asked me, “What was the most memorable experience of your trip?” I quickly answered, “The water blessing by the Priestess”. I knew that something had happened to me during the blessing. It wasn’t something I could feel … at that moment, it was something that I felt later … and thinking back now, maybe it was the Priestess and all the ceremonies and the loving people and the rice fields and Ubud, the little three street town in Bali.

So what did I learn?  I learned that I need much more ceremony in my life. I don’t have to make my ceremonies ‘Bali style’. In my humble opinion they spend too much time in ceremony, making ceremony baskets, cutting banana leaves, making penjors, burning 10 sticks of incense daily when they can barely afford to eat.  I watched ritually, each morning as a Balinese person stepped out of their house, hotel or restaurant and placed a prepared offering at the doorway with a lit stick of incense, after that they go through their ‘establishment’ putting offerings in every room, or at every little temple. So today I lit incense and savored the aroma. Somehow, I declared, I will begin my own daily ritual to “honor the Gods and myself” I pondered; the conscious act of ‘an offering’ declares in some way “thank you for all that I have”.

I also learned that I am too busy, and I have too much clutter and too many things. I am quiet and I will become quieter. Now, if you ‘know’ me, you probably wouldn’t say that I have clutter, as I don’t have shelves with knick knacks, and I keep things pretty tidy, but you may agree that I am too busy. I think that my trip to Bali nudged me a little, and so I can see more clearly how ‘busy’ I am. I know the changes I make regarding ‘my busyness’ won’t be sudden, but they will progress and they will be long lasting. How are you doing with busyness?  Are you still running around trying to be and do everything for everybody?

After walking in the hot sun from one place to another, only to find the ‘thing’ was not there when I got there … I realized that nothing is as important as I think it is. That might be part of the Bali life that I brought home with me. I love to read, paint, play the piano and meditate. Yet, the days go by and I fill my time with other ‘things’. So I expect I will focus a little more on the ‘things’ I really like and forget all the rest. I don’t have to be a ‘super woman’ and it’s okay if I didn’t wash my hair today, or if I wore the same clothes for three days. In Bali no one noticed. They just went on having their ceremonies, smiling at people and being happy.

The day before I left I hired a taxi driver to take me to an art museum. He talked about who he was and his family. I asked him if he wanted to drop me off at the museum and then come and pick me up in two hours. He said, “No, I will just stay and wait for you”. I questioned, “But couldn’t you have another fare in those two hours”?  He smiled and responded, “Yes, but I would loose you, and you would find someone else”. “Taxi Driver is what I do.” He took a breath, “I am not a rice farmer, I am not a construction worker, I am a Taxi Driver, and I will wait for you”.

Profound, isn’t it? A Taxi Driver from Bali taught me it is okay to be me. And for you, it is okay to be you. You are perfect just like you are and so am I. In this big world of mishap and ceremonies, everything is really okay.


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"The Priestess and I"

“The Priestess and I”

Water Blessing

Water Blessing

Too Many Zeros

After five weeks in Bali I finally mastered the financial system, well not exactly the financial system, but the money.  I can now pay for meals, massages and souvenirs from the shop vendors without having the clerk count it out for me or asking my friend.

Actually it was my friend that taught me about the money, and as much practice as I have had, I must say, I’ve finally got it!  I don’t think knowing this would classify me as a world traveler, because wherever I go they are going to change the look of the currency and how much their “dollar” means to me. Ha ha!
If you ever come to Indonesia, you will be using the rupiah, and it works like this (compared to the American dollar) $100000 means $10.00 and  $50000 means $5.00. They have many other bills and some coins, but they hardly matter, and you use mostly “tens and fives”.  I find for most meals I will pull out one of those two bills. It all depends on how hungry my tummy is and what I want to drink. Most drinks are $2.00 or $20000 rupiah.
When you first get to the country, it can be very confusing, and you could end up giving the street vendor five dollars when you only needed to give him fifty cents. Can you imagine how happy he would be if you did that?
If you ever come from America to Indonesia I have learned a simple trick that is fool safe. All you have to do is remove four zeros and the number that is left is the number of American dollars.  For example, when the currency is marked 10000, if I removed four zeros, then it would mean $1!
If you have a bill that says 2000, you can’t take off four zeros, because there isn’t four zeros, so instead you have to think of that number as “cents” and that is .20 cents, or 1000 is .10 cents. Simple, right?
Dinner last night for my husband and myself was 149.647, do you know how much I spent?
It only took me five weeks … Just kidding!
Oh, and one more thing. They list their prices with periods, instead of commas. So $10.00 would be listed as 100.000 IDR
Below is a photo of some bills, so you can practice.
I have been told that the government is working on revising the system and taking away some of the zeros … It would be a big job, but I think everyone in Indonesia would love it!
What is the value for the American from the picture  below? ……….  $13.30

A Meditation in the Terraced Sawah

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!
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image   My friend Berut Children playing Common Painitng

The Elephant Cave

There is a small cave here in Bali, they call Goa Gajah, which means Elephant Cave. It is in the calm village of Bedulu which is about 26 kilometers or 16 miles from Denpasar. In case you want to drop by.

When arriving, you first walk past the markets, where you become acquainted with the wood or ivory salesman. He holds out his wares to you and smiles, “good deal only one US dollar.”
It was a very good deal, but I didn’t buy. I am practicing restraint since i want to be able to close my suitcase at the end of the month.
First I saw these large pools of water, with fountain statues of women pouring water. Some people walked down the steps and splashed a bit in the water. I did the tourist thing and just took pics!
Climbing down the next small set of stairs, you find the elephant cave. The energy inside the cave was amazing to me.  Read: so strong, like vortex energy. The cave was small, with “offering stations” (my phrase), and it seemed like “not a big deal” to many, but I wanted to stay in there and meditate. I stayed as long as I dare, I didn’t want to lose my group and be wandering around the park for hours. Nix that thought, I will follow long.
After you climb down the next stairway you feel the very soothing tropic air and you are surrounded by the beautiful plants, bridges, a beautiful tropical panorama. Following the paths leads you to the Petanu river and a little waterfall.
Guide Robert by falls

Guide Robert by falls


In case you were thirsty, you could find a vendor here or there offering “fresh young coconut”.  He would whack the top of the coconut off with his big sharp knife, and hand the opened coconut to you with a straw. YUM!
Near there was a three branching stupa (see pic with a man sitting on it), and other beautiful old statues, ponds and this beautiful old tree with its roots climbing out of the ground offering a bench for those that pass by.
I must have lost myself in the mystery of the forest, for when I left, I climbed up and up and up so many stairs, not realizing that I had descended on them. I thought this was so special it deserved a blog space.

The Runway

Hi I’m here in Bali, taking a walk in my Kebaya (traditional lace blouse). I’ve attended part of the ceremony which was held at the end of monkey forest … which looks like a forest full of monkeys … and I haven’t visited the “Monkey Forest ” yet. I was on monkey forest road, next to “Monkey Forest”.  It is a bit confusing to explain it to you, so if you don’t get it, no worries. 
At the ceremony I took many wonderful pictures of the Balinese people. Darn, I wish I had my “big” camera, a photographer walked by and I was instantly hit with “camera envy”! Oh well, the point and shoot will have to do.
On my walk home I felt as if I was a famous model on a runway in New York.  Monkey Forest road is long road lined with side walks and shops on both sides. Often you will see the the shop owner, or people hanging out, sitting on the steps of the shops. 
It was about seven in the evening and so all the shop lights were on, and with a bit of imagination you can imagine a long runway.  As I started, a woman commented on how beautiful I looked in my Kebaya. I smiled and thanked her. 
I felt delighted and continued to walk towards home, and another woman or man would compliment me on my beauty. This happened over and over again as I walked on the “runway”! I took it all in, knowing that they were so impressed with my costume, their native dress, and maybe not my face or my outward beauty.  My smile grew brighter and brighter and stronger and stronger, I must have radiated.  I felt so loved by these people, the Balinese.  That was the best night ever!

My Pretty Place

A new day stands before me to create whatever I desire. I take a breath and smile at my surroundings.  My move was successful and I am here now. I feel quiet, to be inside by myself, to rest and stay in the moment. I vow, for whatever comes into my awareness today, I will make a conscious choice to allow it to be. I realize, that perhaps this is not much different from where I came from, only my surroundings were different.

Where ever you are, consider to place yourself in a “pretty place”!