Star Date: July 2014
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"I'm not rich.
This is my rich."
Quiet - what is that? Asia is not quiet. Societies are communal and thus the noise of chatter, laughter, bikes, cooking, roosters, dogs barking, horns honking, construction, radios and TV all get woven into a blanket of reassuring grey noise. At night crickets, choruses of frogs all blend with distant temple chanting, bells and gamelan. Start complaining in general and you may as well start packing your bags. After a while you don't even hear the sounds. Accept that silence is an unknown concept.
Roosters. They are my exception. Kind of like the Dalai Lama talking about his respect for sentient beings, "Even I have trouble with mosquitoes at times!" In Sanur I was walking through a classy 4 star hotel on the beach when I discovered a large rooster in a stylish cage right in the middle of the expensive cottages. After all it is good luck for Abraxis to bring in the new day. My ear plugs have to be Chinese city proof, large Indian family proof, unknowingly behind a blaring mosque proof, or rooster proof. Just how it is sometimes.
Explosion. Ubud has grown in leaps and bounds but with one family compound hedged against the next it is impossible to expand the limited roads and un-clutter the 'jams'. With more babies and a population explosion, it is a joke that one day Bali and Java will just sink under all the weight. It is true that after education began in the 70's about family planning the idea is finally catching on. Many young couples are having only 1-2 children, as the older generation laments whatever will we do without any Nyomans and Ketuts? First born is Wayan, second Made, third born is Nyoman and the fourth is always Ketut. We had 4 Ketut's around our place so we nicknamed them 'coconut Ketut, builder Ketut, plain old Ketut and our wonderful owner of our place Mr Ketut. Gets a little confusing.
Life in the rice fields. We need to stay in a place that is quiet, away from road noise and so I began my quest. Knowing how life just unfolds when one remains open, I started walking. Left or right? I ended up walking down Jl Bisma, right after crazy Monkey Forest Road. I was led down a long path to the right which ended up in an expanse of green rice fields. Construction noise in the corner; I continued walking. In fact the rice fields surrounding Ubud are disappearing at an alarming rate so it is hard to find a place without construction. It doesn't make sense as the average annual occupancy rate barely touches 60%. Visiting many upscale guesthouses I was impressed with the variety but not the price. I walked left, then right then left and was led by an owner to the final little motorcycle cement strip floating in the sea of green. I was tired, hot and getting worn out. Standing on the 4th floor of Three Dewis, 'surveying my kingdom', I spotted a little house by itself, surrounded on 2 sides with rice fields and 2 sides gardens. I hurried down and smiled as a tiny little sign hidden inconspicuously behind the temple stated "FOR RENT". As if by magic Nyoman appeared and helped make this little home become a reality starting in 3 days. Nyoman would prove to be an invaluable help and friend over the next 4 months. Quiet in the midst of busy Ubud.
The neighbors were wonderful and friendly. One day I cooked with Made at their house next door and Deeta and Koman joined in for a blend of Bali infused with Hawaiian. Sweet Made worked with me every 2 weeks to clean our little house from top to bottom including doing the laundry in our 'automatic' washer. She couldn't believe it, wide eyed, as I filled the bathtub with hot water and soap and I marched around - hence automatic! The last Saturday instead of working I took Made out for lunch at Bali Buda. A relaxing, fun time together. Husband Abu would stop by weekly to visit with Joseph on the terrace, talking of local and world politics. Everyone joined in to help solve any little problem such as the time the "Dingos Ate My Tevas!" I got up one morning to find that the local dogs Blacky and/or Whitey had feasted on my shoes. Having to go out at noon I was distraught, since we now after 12 years of travel only have one pair of sturdy Teva sandals each. If I was Imelda I would have 2999 other pairs to choose from. We broke our own rule of always bringing in our shoes at night. Well I now had 1 and 7/8 of a pair of shoes. Made found Nyoman who called Mr Ketut who rode over on his motorcycle picked up the sandals, had them repaired in a little shop at the market for $1.00. So what if one back is black and the other is brown? A fashion statement!
Walking around the streets or in the shops I was greeted with "Halo, Ibuh Nancy" or Mother Nancy. Such a pleasant experience to be in a culture that honors families and respects anyone a little older. As is the custom to figure out what makes you tick the same questions were asked over and over as I walked by daily: "Where are you going?" (answer every day -"Walking") "Where are you coming from? (answer every day - "Walking") "Are you married or where is your husband?" (answer every day - "Yes, resting")
Just to balance things off I would ask Nyoman daily as he brought our coconuts over, "How are you today?" "Same like yesterday - Good" and then we would laugh.
Every day when I walked by I would greet Mom, son or fluffy dogs in one of the compounds en route. One day a flurry of activity and whirl of colors hinted of an upcoming ceremony. Devi invited us to his wedding on Monday and since my wedding attire was lacking, neighbor Made came to the rescue providing a sarong and sash for me to wear. What a fun experience to be the only foreigners, immersed in a compound full of brightly dressed Balinese; all smiling as the traditional marriage rituals were performed.
We loved our new place. It had a simple design, a spacious room with endless windows, a 4 poster bed, a large bathroom with hot water and a basic Balinese kitchen. What more could two true nomads want for a relaxing, healing time in the Bali rice fields? And it was amazingly QUIET! The front terrace was the center of activity daily. Within 2 days seeds for a salad garden of cherry tomatoes, mixed greens and baby kale were planted in pots in a place of honor on the terrace. From two large homes in Hawaii to this 12 years later it was obvious how happy we have become with the simplicity of life. Life really can be simple.! Most often the choice is ours.
This was a good place to switch from multi tasking to mono tasking.
With hectic 'modern' lives we unwittingly pile more tasks, noise,
activities and gadgets into our lives. Soon it is impossible
to connect to the simplicity that a life with a little 'space' in
the action offers. Worn out, stressed, worried, exhausted we
hit the wall or get sick. This is the place to unwind after 12
years plus of continuous travel. The rice fields promise, "Send me
Just observing life in the rice fields was like reading a book. As I sat watching a Balinese woman inch her way along the slippery muddy 6 inch wide path dividing the rice fields, I pondered life. A heavy bundle of greenery on her head, balancing a large ceramic bowl in one arm. Will she make the edge, almost 2 blocks away? One side means a soaking, the other a 2 foot drop down into the mud. Slowly. Slowly. Step by step. As with much of life, one day at a time.
Every morning the sun peered over the distant hills, casting a golden light on the verdant fields. Roosters crowed in the distance and the lovely little doves greeted the new day. Eternally optimistic these little dears already have the wisdom of life figured out. If you listen carefully whatever the problem, whatever the outcome, "It's o.k."
When healing from cancer 13 years ago, without doctors, I had an encounter with a dove in Hawaii. Not healing as fast as I wanted, fear crept in and I was battling with the possibility that I could die. Just then a dove landed on the bird bath. She was foaming at the mouth from something she had eaten. I went down to see her and realized she was really sick. I asked her whether she was going to live or die. "Whatever happens, It's o.k.." I was told. Fear vaporized. I went into the house, relaxed and smiling, knowing that whatever happened in my life, "It's o.k.." And so our little doves are a welcome reminder each morning.
What a feast for the senses living here is. Butterflies, dragonflies, birds, flowers all graced the painting before us. As night descended and the orange clouds disappeared the night shift reported for duty. Crickets, geckos, 4 or 5 different frogs (including the infamous fart frog) all joined the chorus. Even George, Georgette and the kids, large tokay geckos 14 inches long, joined in with their loud "Ka - cha!" Fireflies danced across the fields and during full moon danced in the moonlight. These rice fields were truly magical. Walking home in the dark one night, wearing my orange shirt with Buddha on it, a firefly landed on Buddha's head. It rode all the way home, shedding her/his healing light on me. As we slowed down Nature revealed more to us.
We enjoyed our yoga and fruit breakfast
on the terrace every morning just as the 2 strong, sinewy, older workers appeared.
Lean, muscular, without an ounce of fat they carried large bundles on their
heads or hoed the earth, even though over 70. Life in the open air had been hard
but good. We started waving to the rice workers, sharing food or water
and before we left we knew everyone who was part of our life in the rice fields.
We stayed long enough to watch the complete cycle, from brilliant
green fields to golden shafts ripe for harvest. Then cutting
the drying stalks they are piled and dried. In comes a crew
with a husking machine and in a matter of hours many bags of rice
are produced. The final payment for all the hard, manual
One morning a chattering, resembling a fox in the hen house, woke us up. What now? Three women giggling and talking started at the corner of each terrace and planted the rice starts in the thick mud at lightening speed. Amazingly all the fields were planted in one day. The water was drained off and the baby plants were left to bask in the sunshine and grow taller before our eyes. Within 2 weeks the brown mud had transformed once again into beautiful brilliant green fields. And so this cycle goes 3 or 4 times a year. This ritual has been carried out by these hard workers for centuries, since the land was terraced and the intricate irrigation waterways from the side of the mountains down towards the sea were constructed.
Rice is the life of Bali. Rice growing demonstrates the strength of the Balinese community. Terraces fall down the hillsides - a patchwork of brilliant green, golden, brown, and reflective pools of water. Ducks quack, feed and fertilize. A full service crew.
A rice field is 'sawah'. As the rice matures the villagers take time to do their art or practice music, a time to relax. Once the rice matures the whole village turns out for the harvest. It used to be that everyone was involved with the rice farming but now as young people are educated and taking jobs outside the home more and more land is leased out or workers hired.
In 1969 the new high yield rice was introduced; along with the need for fertilizer and pesticides. They sprayed 4 times during a rice harvest and we always closed the windows. Frogs and eels diminished and although the yield is higher at times, most agree the new rice doesn't taste as good as old Bali rice or last as long. There has been a slow resurgence of the original padi rice. Monsanto is losing ground. Temples dot the rice fields, paying homage to Dewi Sri, the rice goddess, and it seems that she prefers the traditional rice, so there may be hope for a return to the healthier ways. May she shine her light over Bali and whole planet!
Love, Light & Laughter,
1 US Dollar = 11,000 Indonesian Rupiah. It is nothing to withdraw 2-3 million for spending!
Mr. Ketut is a wonderful, friendly helpful owner. Nyoman is a great help also when Ketut is gone.
Contact Nyoman for help finding
a rental, or a driver or getting fresh coconuts daily, a tour local or
island wide, or just about anything. He will take you on his
motorbike for the going rate or go get something for you. A
great guy, helpful, wonderful smile, and honest. Call or email
him for anything you need.
This is the only unit that faces the rice fields. The other two are nice but face the other direction.
Ibu Dayu - across the lane.
The upstairs unit is great and has views. Two budget
Three Win Homestay - our
friends love this
BALINESE SACRED GEOMETRY
Restu - near Seeds of Life on
Jamu: bladder infection: kumis kucing leaf or beetle nut leaf tea. Turmeric jamu - great for the immune system and even Bali Belly.
Komang works out of Bali Buda
every afternoon. The little extra they charge is worth not
having to go to Denpasar 1-4 times.
Take the Bus Parwista down then a taxi or to get home you can take the bus from Jimbaran then get off at the Batubulan terminal. Local bemos 30,000 per person shared. By a couple extra seats and go sooner.
Monkey Forest Sanctuary: a
Just down the street: Warung
Siam for good Thai food
Yoga Barn: (pet name the yogurt
Angelo Store - nice little herb shop along Sugriwa St.
Bali Buda: Restaurant and health food store. Great food and juices - most comprehensive store in town. Bali Buddha down the Main Road, turn right, across from the Post Office. Great organic menu and small bakery and health food store. Another wonderful place to chill and hang out with like minded people.
Down to Earth: A bit more
pricey in the cafe and store but a good selection and may have what
the other stores do not.
Dewa's Warung -
Nyoman would prove to be an invaluable help and friend over