Updated: Mar 1
I'm sitting in Denpasar airport and I have to say this is the 1st time in my life I have come to tears leaving a country, it feels like leaving a lover. But when your customs man beams at you and everyone else checking your ticket etc. is sweetly asking when you are coming back, it does feel so blatantly different than the usual disconnectedness. The country itself is stunning, but I have to conclude that it is the people of Bali, their graciousness, love of life and each other that has captured my heart. Every Balinese friendship I have made has touched me in a very special way. My landlord Dirna would come by almost every evening to visit, and at 1st I thought I had to entertain him, so I would chat away, until I finally got it when he just smiled at me in a bemused way (wondering why on earth does this woman keeps twittering on?). The truth is he came simply so we could be in each others presence. So in the end we would just sit there quietly and comfortably as the sun set. Their's is a deep simplicity that is contagious and profoundly comforting to be in the midst of.
I have already rented the house again for May/June of next year. Basic philosophy of 'pay for it and you'll get there!' I have booked an entire hotel complex on faith for Dec 2005... and not a qualm about it. I'm coming back, and that project will happen, either that or I'm going to insist all my friends take the rooms! I have left half my belongings here so I'm just trusting that whatever it is that brings homing pigeons back will work for me too. While my group of buddies were here, we were lucky enough to be in Ubud for the largest cremation ceremony in 25 years. In keeping with their general attitude to life these events are times of great celebration and rejoicing. No lamenting, they shoot arrows into the air representing the freeing of the soul, and feast and celebrate the life that was and it's journey on. They spent over a month preparing, so I got to see the whole process. They built beautiful ornate structures, bulls and all kinds of mythological creatures, and in this instance a ten storey pagoda that was dazzling (a member of royalty had died). The bodies were placed inside these works of art and the men of different villages took turns lifting these enormous structures (built on bamboo bases) onto their shoulders and running through the streets of Ubud to the cremation grounds. The music, colours and energy was incredible. 57 people were cremated on this one auspicious day, July 24th (buried or preserved in various ways in the meantime). The day was chosen I might add without astrology, well nobody’s perfect! However astrology aside... they (by chance?) started the celebration on an exact Venus/Moon/Neptune Grand Trine.
I had 4 days alone after my friends left, and 'planned' to lay low. As chance would have it I met a very interesting group of people who lived close to me in the rice fields (and had been there the whole time unbeknownst to me... Neptune lurks); Argentinian/French/American, and one delightful lady who lives in Orvietta Italy most of the time. Long story short, I ended up doing readings for all, and it was a very intense last few days, so before I know it here I am in the airport wondering where on earth 2 months went? One of my 'new friends' Alejandra is an architect and just got a 20 year lease on half an acre of stunning land in the rice fields for $10,000, and for another $18,000 is building the house of her dreams there; no building codes, restrictions, yearly fees or anything. That may sound a bit scary to us in the US, but as far as I can see people are only building structures that fit into the environment, no geodesic domes or the likes have sprung up. Personally if I get my wish to make it another home I'll be content to rent, it's ludicrously inexpensive, and I now consider Bungalow Dirna 'mine' anyway. All kinds of questions come up about the Balinese keeping possession of their own land. But at the end of 20 years Alejandra will have the option to re-lease, and if she doesn't all structures go back to the leaser, as they will eventually anyway. Another synchronicity, I ran into a guy I know from Santa Barbara (in a massage salon - my favourite hangout!) who was also spending 2 months in Ubud with his wife and daughter, they ended up leaving the hotel they were in and renting the house I was in after me (plus the other one next to it like I did for visiting friends,) so Dirna is very happy and I'm earning 'renter brownie points'.
I am now in Bangkok airport, enduring a 5 hour layover. Luckily I only just found a power outlet or this email could have turned into something as long as the Gettysburg Address! So in approximately 14 hours I will hit London, arriving in the rush-hour no less.
From the rice fields to the underground, all a little surreal. Must admit I am greatly looking forward to seeing my friends there, and London is my favourite city. I will be on Hampstead Heath ASAP. On Monday I head for Shrewsbury and it's back to more beautiful countryside, and then I'll be putting on my hiking boots and heading for the Welsh Hills.
I'm now on the train going to Shrewsbury, and I was complaining previously about Indonesian public transport - but it is a dream compared to England. I don't know what's happened here, but nothing is ever on time. I had a wonderful time walking all over London (they can't hinder you when you are using your own 2 feet!), and Hampstead Heath was great; so many memories. Much as I love England, I am astounded at how much more expensive it is than even the US. I am not exaggerating when I say things cost double what they do in the States. I come from being like the 'Queen of Sheba' in Bali, to the 'little match girl' in London. Fortunately it doesn't bother me, it's part of the fun of adapting to different worlds. However I know it would bother me greatly if I had to live here, because I would have to work so much harder in order to have the freedom I have now. Many of my friends are really struggling financially - with not much light seeping into their tunnels! Nonetheless England has a multitude of charms.
Now I am ensconced in Melanie’s 500 year old little cottage, in this magical Elizabethan town, with it's river and swans and church bells. From being in my bright, open, sunny house in Ubud surrounded by the rice fields, I am now in a little hobbit-like attic room with ancient beams and one tiny window looking over the roof tops... Bali Hai to Mary Poppins. I may be heading for Eastern Europe in September instead of Ireland. Bobbie and Ralph will not be coming there, so I seem to be leaning east rather than west, but things can always change.
Sending Love, and Hoping it's a Happy, Prosperous Summer for all, it's certainly been one of the best I have ever had. Part of me wonders why it took me so long to find Bali, but of course everything has it's time, and if I had found it sooner I rather think my kids would be speaking Indonesian (just kidding Tara… I can see your horrified face! I know your karma wasn't to be born in a country without a Nordstroms, pso it would never have happened!) The fact that I've found it at this 'young' ripe old-age just confirms my theory that the best is always yet to come.
Still August and I am in yet another airport! I'm in Manchester and on my way to Crete. England has been fun, but they (?we?.. where exactly am I from?) are having a very dreary summer weather wise. I've been here over 3 weeks and there seem to have been more rainy days than dry ones. At first it was a novelty after Bali, but enough already. Still I've managed to get in some great walks in both Shropshire and Wales. Also went canoeing on the Wye river with Melanie. We must have hit the bank 50 times in about 8 miles... and just when we'd finally got it down we'd reached our destination! It also decided to rain torrentially (again!), so we ended up attired (very stylishly) in black garbage bags but still drenched to the skin. Passed many gorgeous swans (my favourite creatures on the planet), but had a rather sobering moment when it looked as though we might go careening into a family of them, not a good idea... they are just as fierce as they are beautiful. I think it was about then that our rowing took a quantum leap in proficiency level... but then again it may have been after we made an emergency stop at a riverside pub for hot chocolate, brandy and mars bars.