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  • Writer's pictureEvelyn Roberts

Growing Roots in Bali

August, 2007

I am sitting in the rice fields of Bali once more, with 2 workshops coming up. It is certainly simpler now that I already have 3 under my belt, a wonderful network of support, and some hard (and helpful) earned experience behind me. The whole workshop idea is starting to sprout wings, and a new website is in the works (thanks to my unfailingly amazing friend and webmistress Jean). "Heaven and Earth Workshops" is to be the new name (I now own 6 domain names because I couldn't make up my mind), and it will not only be astrology, neither will they be held only in Bali.

More will be revealed about that later, enough to say I have 6 workshops scheduled next year (gulp). 2 astrology, and 4 on other things. Life continues to be wondrous here, I fall more in love with Bali all the time and can't imagine not living here. I just took a 5 year contract out on my house, and I am even doing the thing I swore I never would (why does that always happen?), I am looking at actually building something. Actually not building but constructing something. I keep telling my good friend here, Alejandra, that she is "ruining my life". And the reason is she is a designer/architect, and everything she does is beyond fabulous, and then I want one too. She has bought a 200 year old Javanese wooden house (so full of soul and history, and for "a song"), and is moving it onto her property.

Alej and I are doing a couple of workshops together next year, because one of her (many) projects is finding her clients the most amazing things (like moveable houses) and then shipping them to wherever they need to go. So a "Shopping Workshop" is in the works and already scheduled, although not officially announced, with lots of wonderful Balinese experiences thrown in as well. Anyway, I am hoping I wake up one day to realise I don't want a Joglo (you can Google and see what they are), my life will be much simpler if I can purge this particular desire. And of course there have been at least 5 glaringly synchronous events telling me I might not exactly be in control here.

No matter what happens I would keep the renting the house I'm in, I've put a lot into it and it is beautiful, and I could easily sub-let it or just use it for my friends, you know who you are and when are you coming? Addendum since 1st writing this, it looks like I lost the battle and I am now about to become a more rooted home owner here in Bali, but all my doubts are dissipating and I have the feeling this is going to be a very creative, positive shift. I believe this is exactly why I am not someone who the "Secret" and "Abraham" teachings work for (with all due respect to those who it does work for beautifully). My life always seems to move in curious loops and shifts, and almost without fail, not getting what I want takes me onto something completely surprising and magical, and right, although right is definitely not the 'right' word.

Another even bigger change in my life has been that John and I are no longer a "couple," but we are still close and continue to care for each other very much. Even although it was the right (there's that odd word again) thing to do, it has been hard and sad, but time really does heal, and the fact that we continue to be supportive of one another helps a lot.

On a far more trivial note, I have gone from having long dark red hair... to short blonde. The grey won, so after traveling around the world with a suitcase full of henna (or having my friends FedEx-ing to some jungle - this has happened), I surrendered to something easier. Well not exactly surrendered, the short cut is because you cannot just remove henna,1st I had green hair, then blue, then I cut it off.

And it is actually fantastic having short hair in the tropics. I believe the reason I found the steam (inspiration) to write again is because I have my next adventure planned. I was originally going to Nepal and India with John, but since that shifted I've been playing with India, Tibet or Cambodia... but nothing stuck as an idea. Then 2 days ago I realised I didn't want or need to travel that far. I really want to see more of Indonesia, and those places closer by, the immediate area is vast and incredibly diverse and I have only seen a teensy part so far.

I was inspired by a quick trip I just took to Java to the stunning 9th century Buddhist temples of Borobudur. I went to research a trip my November group is taking there, and it was wonderful. I do have to leave Indonesia for visa reasons, and I have given myself a month to do something, I will be leaving in mid September right after the 1st workshop and returning mid October.

Long story (not so) short, is that I don't need to go too far, and I am going to Borneo (Sarawak), which is actually relatively close and the island itself is part Malaysia and mostly Indonesia. I made this decision after determining that I will be able to get to Internet service every couple of days. It sounds like a terrible dependency problem, but I will have a workshop very soon after (November) and that is when there are (hopefully) last minute sign-ups and my attention is truly needed.

I went into a fog a couple of weeks ago and decided I was going to Mt Kailash in Tibet, supposedly one of the most holy mountains on the planet, but it is a 3 week trek into the wilds, where there would definitely be no high-speed, low speed or any speed whatsoever. I did all the research, felt happy and certain about it, and then woke up in the middle of the night realising I was not at liberty to completely vanish for weeks on end and completely sabotage and abandon something I'd worked on for over a year. Earth to Evelyn loud and clear.

However Borneo can work, and I can still climb a mountain (Mount Kinabulu), see orang-utans in the wild, and trek through some amazing places, where the head-hunters are (hopefully) no longer practicing on 55 year old white females. Apparently there are wonderful beaches also, and places with rare turtles and many wild dolphins, rhinos and pygmy elephants, which have to be the cutest things on the planet. And in between adventures I can scurry off to the nearest cyber cafe.

This is one of the best times of the year in Bali, it is their Winter, so it is cooler and supposedly there is hardly any rain. Well, just like everywhere else on the planet the weather is "on its head". It is cooler, but there has been an unprecedented amount of rain (I have put in a loud request that it stops for my workshop next month), and the Balinese themselves don't know what to make of it. I quite like it, right now the fields have just been planted so I'm sitting in the middle of an ocean of flooded fields, with the rice just beginning to sprout, and with the cool rain it feels so clean and refreshing.

Before coming back to Bali, I spent 10 days in Bangkok, which I believe may have completely depleted my love for that city. It is so unbelievably crowded, and the traffic unbearable, with perhaps the worse thing being the emissions and pollution. I gave up my motorbike habit this time and went for the taxis, because trying to hold your breathe with your eyes tightly shut while weaving through insane traffic clutching onto a nineteen year old driver who hasn't yet learned the meaning of the word fear suddenly lost its novelty (funny how that happens).

At least the food is fabulous and the people delightful, and Bangkok still remains the place for excellent, affordable medical care (did all my check-ups and even got some vaccinations), so I'm not going to be able to completely erase it from 'my map'. And I actually do have a personal map, if I can't stand a place I just pretend it doesn't exist any more and I don't go back. Besides that the world is far too full of places I haven't seen for me to want to back-track too much. With Bali being the absolute exception to the rule, and of course those places that are home to my dearest, most precious kids and friends.

September 2007

So, I last wrote as I was getting ready for workshop number 4, the lowest in attendance to date, and an "interesting" one for lots of reasons. In truth it went really well, reminding me of something I heard recently (and I don't have a clue who or where it came from so I have paraphrased), "Worrying definitely works... because hardly anything I worry about ever comes to pass."

This workshop brought this message home loud and clear, not that things didn't "happen", it was just that they looked nothing like I thought they would. In fact, although at the time I was pulling my hair out, there are some amusing stories to tell. One extremely exuberant attendee got distressed by the caged ducks in the rice fields. They are caged because they are valuable to the Balinese, they "work" by fertilising and de-bugging the fields after the harvest, and of course they are also eaten. They are completely domesticated and cannot fly, so they are prey to being stolen, or else ravaged by the hungry street dogs. Anyway, this woman decided to rescue these particular ducks, so she made her way from the hotel, through the rice field in a red wetsuit and goggles (I'm not making this up), and freed them. Very irate farmer then rounds them up and re-cages them.. and she does it again.

I am by now of course getting fall-out, the Balinese, (as are any farming people), can't afford to be sentimental about their animals and in their minds this woman was crazy... and to some degree vandalising their property. Long story short, she buys the ducks so they can have a "better life" and they are removed to another village to be "retired". Although I'd bet a lot of rupiah they are all duck a la mango sauce by now. The clashing of cultures is somewhat inevitable, and something I am learning to navigate. I know the Balinese appreciate the workshops for the work they bring, and that they genuinely like the "tamu" (visitors). They are unfailingly gracious, non-judgmental and warm, but when we aren't around I'm quite sure there is a lot of head shaking and bewilderment at how some of us behave.

Many people in the village now greet me by name, although I only actually know about 2% of them personally, at first this really took me aback, but now I take it as acknowledgment that this is my home. And talking of home, I have now leased 6 ara of land for 20 years, and most cleverly (if I say so myself) it is right next to where my dear friend Alejandra, architect and designer extraordinaire is building. She won't allow me to go wrong on the building, plus we can share wells, pathways, and our banana plantation! I also just reserved (sight unseen.. but I did see the photos), a teak Javanese house on stilts to put on it. Things are suddenly moving much faster than expected.

Now I just need to make a medium sized pile of money so I can put it all together. I'm taking it as a positive challenge, now that I have made this commitment, it is going to be the motivation to get some other projects going in Bali. I have moments when I wake up in the middle of the night thinking "what have I done... can I pull this off?" But in the light of day, of course I can, and I think it is rather apparent to all who know me that I actually thrive on challenges.

Once I have my "new" house put together, I will still keep renting the house I'm in for at least another 5 years. I just took out the whole front wall and put in glass, so it is now really open and much lighter and brighter. I'm finding it easy to sub-let it while I am not there, which makes it worth keeping and provides constant work for the staff. Suddenly the area I am in is "hot property", and every house in the rice fields is contracted long-term, I have already had 3 people trying to rent it over Xmas.


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