November 25, 2014
Souvenirs from Bali
“Weh you from, weh you from?”
This exchange happens more than ten times a day, and nothing makes me more aware of where I’m from. Traveling has caused me to think of myself as an ambassador. My actions influence what opinions others deduce of my country and my countrymen.
[The photo is of me dressed as a traditional Balinese bride; an attempt to put myself in the shoes (and costume) of Balinese women in the most fateful day of their lives.]
STILLNESS: Have you ever traveled somewhere and even after interacting with the locals, trying their cuisine, seeing its famous spots, engaging in the various activities it has to offer, it feels as if you still haven’t really connected with the place? I’ve realized that for me to feel this sort of connection, it is of utmost importance to just be still. After all, adventures are not all about external movement and action.
Café Pomegranate was recommended by the travel partner. Set in the midst of rice fields and inaccessible by car, it was the perfect place to sit, be still, and take it all in while the romantic Bali sun lowered itself on the horizon of palm trees.
GRATITUDE: These slender bamboo poles that are adorned with palm leaf origamis and tinkling sea shells add to the charm of Bali. They gracefully droop towards you in the streets and narrowest pathways as if to welcome you. One would think that these are merely decorations, but I learned that these are offerings of thanks for the fruits of the earth. They are called penjors.
I saw this penjor set against a beautiful sun as I meandered through rice paddies while basking in gratitude.
A SPACE TO DREAM: This is Ni Luh. She is soft-spoken and works very hard. As soon as she sees signs of life in one of the villa rooms in the morning, she appears shyly at the door and asks if you’re ready to have breakfast. Moments later, she reappears with a tray of fresh fruits, pancakes, and Balinese coffee. She also cleans the rooms, but she cleans my room last because it is the farthest on the second floor. She does all of her work with a genuine smile.
On my second day, I was writing when she came up to janitor. Not wishing to move from my spot, I told her she could do it the next day. She smiled broadly and I saw her hurry downstairs and sit by the rice paddies to daydream.
The next day, I told her I could tidy my own room. I don’t make much of a mess anyway. I saw that look on her face again and off she went to sit by the paddies. Since then, I’ve been doing my own cleaning.
Unfortunately, I did not have enough money to leave a huge tip when I left, but I’m glad I gave her space to dream. I think that’s important, too.
CHOICES: I read an article last month that said, “Nothing magical happens when you turn 30.” How tragic, I thought.
I turned 30 in Bali, and that day, that place where I was at that moment, the extraordinary people in my life, my entire 29th year replete with those unfacebookable / unphotographable / unwritable moments, and “all that beautiful, unsayable life,” has been nothing but magical.
I thank God for love, life, family, friendship, and choices. After a hundred missteps, I’ve finally learned that, after all, it’s about who and what you settle for. And if getting old reminds us of life’s transience then why, for the life of me, should I settle for the un-magical?
“You’re a writer? Writers are scary!” – Stranger at the airport, upon seeing me bent over my journal.
This photo of my coffee cup and notepads was taken in my room surrounded by rice paddies in Ubud, just as the day was slowly returning to that hour of soft sunlight.
Traditional Balinese coffee is prepared with the coffee grounds sitting at the bottom of the cup. And now I’m gratefully gazing at my cupful of experiences where memories reside.
Related Entry: 30 in Bali