Friday, October 31, 2008


Some friends visited Bali about 17 years ago when it was still predominately dirt roads and small villages, but now this beautiful island has exploded into a tourist attraction chock-full of spas and resorts and shopping galore. Some friends and I stayed in the lap of luxury for a few days where the hot sun browned our skin and the ocean swallowed up the black sandy beaches (volcanoes are found throughout the island) at high tide. The sunsets were spectacular and Balinese food divine. I wandered to the Hindu temple pictured above very early one morning before any other tourists and did my best to stay far from the entrance, knowing that my knee-length, sleeveless dress was inappropriate for a visit. I happened upon two surprisingly eager priests who insisted on anointing my head and offering a blessing. I offered a bewildered thanks and gingerly retraced my steps back to the hotel, having no idea what the small grains of rice on my forehead were supposed to mean.

Two highlights of the trip included an excursion into more rural parts of the island, which captures, at least in part, more of Balinese culture. Religious festivals are regularly celebrated and one evening we followed a parade of faithful worshippers that were bringing fruit and vegetable offerings to a nearby temple.

But my favorite excursion of all was my visit to 9th generation medicine man, Ketut Liyer, who studied my hands and face, neck and knees before sharing some wisdom with me. I was utterly charmed by this ancient man whose kind, keen eyes and warm hospitality were a refreshing change from all of the touristy interactions I’d had with locals. He was delighted to find out that I am a “priest” and assured me that this was the right profession for me. He smiled a near toothless grin as he tried to find the right English word to describe me. He stumbled through, “Perfume (perfoom)...fragrance (faygwense)... and after conversing with my friend Becca who speaks fluent Indonesian he looked at me and said “Gardenia.” My mother’s favorite flower was the gardenia, so I took this as a fine compliment.

--Bali is just one of 17,500(ish) islands that make up the diverse country of Indonesia (only 6,000 are inhabited)
--It is nestled in the Indian ocean with Malaysia to the North and Australia to the South
--The population, at least on Bali, is predominately Hindu (yep, reincarnation, karma, etc...), although most don’t practice meditation like their Indian neighbors
--Most Islands in Indonesia have their own language (Balinese for example), but also speak the common language “Indonesian”

1 comment:

Tonyalynne said...

what a lovely description...keep writing!