Heart of Campus, Green School

Friday, 25 May 2012

Featuring Grann Ann, Guest Blogger (new Sarah-inspired post coming soon!)

Our Log and Some Observations Thankfully the outstretched arms of Sarah midst a sea of people led us through the crowd waiting to greet our plane. A quick text and her car and driver appeared. It was the beginning of Bali traffic. Motor scooters outnumber cars at least 6-1 by my guess. A horn is essential for all vehicles, used only as a gentle toot but used often. There are very few traffic lights in large cities, none at all in other place; never saw a yield or stop sign, once again, that's where the horns come in. Scooters dart everywhere, the cars, most of which are vans, tailgate them with maybe a foot to spare. Families, sometimes 4 deep, ride on one scooter. (One guide we had takes his family of 5- children in front, wife with 2 month old in her arms, riding sidesaddle behind her husband) We saw very few helmets. The roads are narrow, many with large potholes, which require slowing to navigate them; passing others done at will with little regard for oncoming traffic (more horn usage) yet we never saw an accident. The Balinese say hello, goodbye and thank you with prayer hands about chin height, a smile and a gentle nod of the head. They love children, especially blonde blue-eyed ones. Ethan manifested an ear infection as our first dinner and the staff, to a person, offered help, one even suggesting she take him to a nearby doctor so we could eat dinner. I fully believe it is written in some parenting book that ear infections will always flare up between 8 PM and Midnight on Fridays. Speaking of books, Bali parents have no need for the 100,000-baby names book. Children are named by their birth order with 2 names as options for the first 4 children. Sarah and Chad's driver, Ketut, is 4th born of 7 children. He has 2 Wayans, 2 Mades and 2 Nyomans. Certain classes of families precede boys names with an "I" and girls with "Ni." Parents can select the middle name and it is often the nickname used at home. Ritual and celebration are ways of daily life. Offerings appear daily at every door (to ward off the evil spirits). They are small squares about 4" made from palm leaves and filled with flowers, sometimes a few grains of rice (it's a fine way to use leftovers and the street dogs seek those out) and often with a lit incense stick. For big celebrations like temple birthdays, women make and carry large (3' tall) offerings beautifully crafted of fruits and flowers. These are balanced on their heads as they walk (sometimes a mile) or sit sidesaddle on the back of a scooter. Ceremonial clothes are always worn at this time. The Lowe family each has their own ceremonial clothing, having been blessed in their bamboo village. I was handed a sarong and sash prior to entering temple grounds where we attended a Balinese dance. Zoe (3) can mimic the dance basics, which start at the feet. You keep them moving, make sure there's a bit of arch to your back, then begin "slithering" your body from foot to head, engaging your arms and hands very expressively. This is done slowly and beautifully in long gowns worn with beaded head dresses. The particular type of dance we saw started with 35 men chanting and using hand motions (which Ethan carefully mimicked) before and during the entrance of the girls' dancing and storytelling. We were in Bali during Nyepi, preceded by Ogoh Ogoh parades in villages throughout the island. Ogoh Ogoh's are very large brightly painted grotesque creations generally made of paper maiche. They are built on and attached to a bamboo grid through which village boys and men stand in order to carry their work of art. Their purpose is to chase away the demons on the island, therefore they are huge (20-30' high) and scary looking and some had moving heads. The parade we attended started in a large playing field - the 20 ogoh ogohs were in a semicircle, then one at a time were carried to the center amid much drumming and noise making to ensure the demons could hear them coming. They were then carried by the boys and men down the streets of the village. Generally they are torched at days end, having done their demon chasing. We did see a few on our departure, placed roadside still looking fierce in case any demons were still lurking. Nyepi starts at dawn the next day and lasts 24 hours. The entire island shuts down, including the airport. No transportation of any kind is allowed, not even walking on the street. No electricity is to be used. Our staff at the villa had prepared food ahead of time for meals that day. They asked us to dine early so they could clean up and walk home before dark. David and I turned on the bathroom light (all curtains had been drawn and we thought we were "safe") only to hear frantic knocking on our door from the security man, telling us to dowse the lights; not even the low lit bedside lamp could be on. My 7:30 bedtime had me up at midnight, refreshed and ready to go with many hours of no electricity ahead of me. The point of the aforementioned is to indicate to the demons that the island is empty, therefore they should move on to some other place. Fascinating and interesting to have been a part of it. Next time I'll pack a flashlight. A couple more observations - the women are the carriers of the island and everything is on the head, hands free. I watched 2 women at our first stop carry pails of cement, ascend a ladder to the roof to the men awaiting use of pail contents. During our nature walk we noticed stacks of bricks for a building project- all carried there by women, stacked atop their heads. They are posture perfect and I'm sure have very strong necks. SuMade led Sarah, David and me through rice paddies, pointing out bird varieties, a rice snake, whose picture she took up close and personal, various plants and their medicinal qualities and bugs. We watched a butterfly laying eggs on the underside of a leaf. We saw 2 dragonflies, which SuMade gently pinched (after telling them "sorry") so she could show us their delicate wings before she returned them to their leaf and "activity" (talk about coitus interruptus). We left them in peace. The dogs of Bali have 1 (maybe 2) lineage. They are about 20" high, have prick (pointy) ears, tails that curl over their back and are light yellow in color. I did see a couple of black and white dogs with the same features. They are street smart regarding vans and scooters managing to be out of the way just in time. I think they text each other, saying the gathering will be in 10 minutes at the nearby corner as you see dogs heading that way from both directions. Thank you Sarah, Chad, Ethan and Zoe for showing us a part of the world we probably wouldn't have experienced. It was most interesting. -Ann Durfee

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