As we walk miles exploring historic yet strikingly urban Melaka, Malaysia, green, breezy Bali seems a distant dream now. As a final tribute, here are some lingering stories and photos that did not make it in the previous posts, but are just as worthy.
During one of our first days in Bali, we somehow were able to peek in on a very lavish wedding (above). The beauty of the people and the decorations, including the live gamelan music, not only displayed this family’s wealth but their spiritual devotion. The fantasy-like scene, created all for the gods and not for tourists, reminded me why I felt drawn to return here after 15 years. This was one of the kids’ first Bali-jaw-drop moments.
Also within the first week, we treated Mathilda and Merle to their first traditional dance performance, again accompanied by live gamelan. For Hindu Balinese, dance serves not only as entertainment but also as an important form of religious expression. Much like their Indian counterparts, Balinese dancers express the story of dance-drama through whole bodily gestures, including intricately coordinated finger and eye movements.
Everything must be beautiful when performing about and for Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, so of course, hair, make-up, and costumes are truly fabulous. Not only was Mathilda enraptured, she actually danced herself in front of her seat for over an hour!
Here she takes a pause.
In each local community, girls and boys begin dance classes at the age of about 4 or 5. Mathilda and I were lucky enough to witness this one Sunday, which instilled the realization that not only was this cultural education for the kids, but simply a facet of their everyday Balinese life. These kids certainly know and embrace their heritage.
Before we left, Kasey Peterson, the owner of Villa Satori (where we stayed last month), invited us to her house for a private dance performance in support of the Bali Children’s Project. The dancer, Putri, was only about 11, but her devotion, poise and skill led me to believe she may be a professional someday. Naturally, Mathilda was quite enthralled, especially at opportunity to try on Putri’s stage makeup.
And Merle, always game to try new things, agreed to an impromptu one-on-one lesson.
Thank you, Kasey for this lovely evening!
Bali was a great mixture of cultural experiences and fun in its most simple forms. Behold a water fight. With a mainly Balinese diet and lots of activity, Merle and Mathilda have become quite lean and strong.
We stayed long enough in Bali to experience Nyepi, the Balinese new year. It is important for Balinese to make sure all malevolent spirits vacate the universe before the strike of midnight. Therefore, each community constructs (over the course of months) elaborate, grotesque effigies called Ogoh-Ogoh which, on New Year’s Eve, are paraded through villages only to be burned as a ritual of cleansing by the time darkness falls. After seeing so many under construction throughout the Ubud area for the last month, it was exciting for all of us to finally see them floating down the main road. The cymbals, percussion, and gamalan which followed was a thrilling accompaniment, definitely not your average marching band. We chuckled as men scampered alongside the Ogoh-Ogoh with bamboo poles to hoist the archaic electrical wires up over the huge demons’ heads so they could pass. Interestingly, a lot of the Ogoh-Ogoh have large boobs. Well, they are indeed mostly made by young men under 20.
Watching the parade…
Some last snapshots of our kitchen frog, a big python the kids actually touched, those gorgeous fields, my most favorite bathtub of the whole trip, and Jimmy, who was our trusted driver and friend, yet another Bali heart of gold.
Bali was really good to us. Despite a somewhat rough beginning, our three months passed too quickly, for by the end, we were reluctant to leave. Our last moments were spent with dear Nyoman, sharing my blog with his picture in it and having one last coconut.
Merle: “I like that Bali has a way of scaring away all the evil spirits.”
Mathilda’s entire repertoire of independent make-believe playtime involves a language and songs clearly influenced by the tones of Balinese speech and music.
Their joy is our joy, ours is theirs, and so on.