When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


Bali - Part I

I have been trying to write about our trip to Bali for weeks.  There are so many wonderful things I wish to remember that it's too much for one post.  So here is part one of our series...

We had the privilege of visiting Bali over the kids' Christmas break.  If you are anything like me, when you hear "Bali" you think gorgeous, exotic, faraway island.  Well, yes, yes, and no.  Thanks to our relocation, Bali is relatively close…It is one of the thousands of islands that makes up the Republic of Indonesia, located northwest of Australia and south of Singapore.

We stayed in a town called Ubud (pronounced oo-bood) in the south central part of the island. Words cannot capture this place.  It was incredible.  Lush and wild and wonderful.  Frightening at times (especially on the roads and in the Monkey Forest), but so beautiful it made my heart ache.

I was giddy with excitement as the plane landed on the runway.  My head whipped around trying to take it all in.  Even the kids were wide-eyed as the bus took us from the tarmac to the building.  I thought they were enjoying the scenery, but no….They were more interested in the people.  Loudly, "Mommy, why is there a ninja on our bus?" "Honey, that's not a ninja, that's a Muslim woman."  Perhaps we should have had some cultural training before we arrived.  *Sigh*

As we neared the airport, I was struck by the beauty and intricacy of the architecture.  I wish I had snapped a few shots, but we were too busy herding children, locating luggage, and trying to get two cabs to take us to the hotel.  My heart was racing as I piled into the car with two kids and lost sight of Aaron and the other children in a cab behind us.  I couldn't reach Aaron on his cell, our driver spoke broken English, I couldn't remember the name of our hotel, and I didn't happen to have any Rupiah (local currency).  My excitement was beginning to give way to panic.  Just breathe. 

I repeatedly asked the driver, "Did my husband tell you the name of the hotel?"  "Yeah, yeah."  I couldn't tell if he understood me or just wanted me to shut up.  So I shut up…and prayed.  Visions of the movie Taken flashed in my mind, but I pushed them aside and instead focused on the road in front of us.  Big mistake.  Apparently traffic laws in Bali are merely regarded as suggestions.  Our driver weaved in and out between cars, motorbikes, stray dogs, and spent a great deal of the time on the wrong side of the road.   Okay, maybe looking out the window was a better option.

Wow!  Bali was barely-contained nature.  It was evidence of man peeking through wild rain forest in the form of statues and temples around every turn.  It was impossible to tell if the structures were ancient or recent given the way moss and foliage crept over anything and everything.  It was terraced rice fields dotted with gatherers bending to the earth.    Women carrying baskets on their heads while balancing babies on their hips.  Motorbikes everywhere, many carrying small children on the front or rear, zipping around so quickly, my heart caught in my throat.  Roosters pecking in the dirt and stray dogs stretched out on sidewalks, oblivious to passers-by.

I was intrigued by the plethora of small, square baskets that appeared to be everywhere.  On the streets and sidewalks, on shrines and statues, on thresholds.  If there was a flat surface, it had a basket on it.  They were made of woven coconut leaves containing colorful flowers and food.  I learned they are called Canang sari and are daily offerings made by the Balinese to express thanksgiving and praise to the supreme god of Indonesian Hinduism.  Clearly, the Balinese were a thankful people!  And why not, they obviously lived in paradise!  (By the way, I totally stole the image below off the web…didn't get a good shot of these baskets myself!)  

Partially clothed statues caught my eye, as they stood perched at gate and temple entrances.  Sometimes grinning, sometimes scowling, but always modestly covered from the waist down by a checkered patterned cloth.  It is a simple pattern of white, black, and gray.  Apparently the solid colors stand for good and evil, and the blended areas stand for the belief that sometimes things are neither good nor evil but a blend or the two.   

I was just in awe of the beauty of the place.  Long, tapered bamboo poles lined the streets, bending at the top and drooping over the road like natural street lamps.  Only instead of lights on the ends, they had rounded baskets, filled with more offerings.  They are called penjor, and the offerings were for the spirits of deceased relatives.  It turns out we had arrived during the Balinese holiday of Galungan.  During this time it is believed that ancestral spirits revisit their earthly homes and are offered hospitality via prayers and offerings.

What an amazing ride!  I felt like I had landed on another planet.  I couldn't wait to see what else was in store!

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