How is it possible that each new country has friendlier people than the last? I can only say that Bali has completely surpassed all other places I have ever been in this regard. Folks are amazing here. So peaceful, spiritual, forgiving, friendly, helpful, kind, polite, forgiving (I have to say that twice, being a newbie and a bumbling American), and even funny.
There's something truly magical about this place. If you have been here and you have visited the country outside of the box hotels on the south coast you will immediately know what I am talking about. It is in the architecture, the people, the temples, and the daily rhythm of life here. (Yes, I have what people refer to as my 'arrival goggles' on or my 'honeymoon phase' glasses, but I will continue to wear them for as long as possible!)
The Hindu influence mixed with some Buddhism and Anamism guides everything on this little island. I was told Balinese women spend an average of 20% of their lives either preparing, delivering, or cleaning up offerings. Offerings are everywhere. In front of every house, on decorative platforms at every street corner, home, business, and of course the temples. You see people in the streets with long sticks carefully removing flowers from the tops of trees to make the offerings, women walking around with huge platters of offerings, carefully placing them in front of everything...we're living right next door to a temple, too, so we here music and chanting every day at 6am and 6pm. It is also a temple that services a village where apparently cremation occurs on the same day that someone dies (to quickly move the spirit on so it doesn't antagonize anyone still left on Earth.) We have been here about 10 days now and we have witnessed two cremation ceremonies already. 100-300 people dressed in their finest clothes parade down the street with music, the body, some bamboo to fuel the fire and then they burn the body at the temple while hanging around and singing and chanting. Once the body is burned they take the simple wooden funeral bed that they used to carry the deceased into the temple and take it to the river to dispose of it. All of this happens within a block of our house and inadvertently becomes a part of our day if we are home. The first time I realized where we lived I was simply walking around the neighborhood to catch up with Chad and Ethan out on a Strider bike ride, then realized I was walking upstream against a sea of funeral-goers.
So, the spirituality piece is massive here. The possibility of Bali's natural mellowing agents 'taking' to my blood are immense. So far, so good. We have had some fun days getting settled in. We're committed to going to the beach every weekend for the time being, getting to know our neighbors in the Bamboo Village and also getting to know the staff at Green School because orientation has begun (as of Monday, August 1st) so we are 'in it' already.
A few first impressions and a smattering of thoughts to leave here:
Have I mentioned the amazing, spiritual friendly people? They actually have a rite-of-passage which includes filing down their canine teeth so their smiles are more inviting.
The kids are loving the outdoor living. Well, let me rephrase. Ethan is in heaven here. He's out the door chasing butterflies with the neighbor kids, watching red ants fight on the floor of our house after his morning breakfast and generally has engaged in all the amazing opportunities related to our 4-star camping housing here in the bamboo village.
Zoe is still asking for her brick house, her red car, her friends and family that we said goodbye to, but she is managing the transition a bit slower in her own way.
We have a resident rat in our house (there had been signs of him, but he has boldly shown his face as of tonight.) We're trying to decide if we should trap it, borrow the neighbors cat for a while, get a cat or just wait and see. We'll keep you posted on this...
We also have a resident spider out front. He is pretty high up in the trees in a massive web and we have nicknamed him the oracle. Chad takes Ethan outside to ask the spider what to do in times of trouble. He's big, black, very long-legged and he's about the size of the palm of my hand. I hope he stays outside!
We have gecko's, house lizards, ants (plenty of these) and a few loud toads nearby. During the day the walk to work is often deafening with cicadas. The noises of the jungle are nonstop in our open-air living arrangement but for the most part pleasant (minus the occasional cat fight and confused rooster).
Traffic is nutty (driving on the left side of the road), heavy traffic at times with 10-20 mopeds for every car. There's a flow to it, though. No one goes much over 35 mph in any circumstance. No one ever makes a sudden move, but everyone takes advantage of gaps and there's not a lot of yielding or following general rules of the road. We have yet to take up the courage to drive (so far we have pieced together excursions with hired drivers) but we hope to buy a van and start driving in another month or so.
The food is amazing. Right up my alley. Lots of rice/noodle/veggie dishes with peanut sauces, grilled meat (chicken satay) and roasted corn-on-the-cob carts abound. There's also tons of fresh fruit that is quickly made into juice at every restaurant and food stand. Mostly fresh and wonderful foods abound and we have yet to be disappointed with the fare. Mango smoothies are the new favorite in our house.
That's it for now. I'm trying to get this blog going so I can share a bit of what is happening here. So much more going on than what I have written above but I have to start somewhere...