Posts Tagged With: Bali

My Day As A Hindu

I am sat cross legged in awed and silent contemplation. Only the soft rhythms of a Holy Man’s handbell filter through the silence. When the ringing stops I clasp my hands prayer like and raise them slowly above my head. In my palms I gently rub flower petals and make my humble gesture to the Gods.

The Holy Man makes his way through the faithful gathered in the temple and stops before me. His stern eyes bore down on me and take in my sarong, sash and the udeng on my head. With somber purpose he drops sacred water in my hands and commands me to drink. More water is splashed on my head and as the trickles ease down my face the Holy Man places rice on my damp forehead. Grains are also placed in my hands and I am told to eat. With that he turns and walks away. This is the signal that the ceremony is over and with it my day as a Hindu.

P1000055a The invitation to the Full Moon Ceremony came from a Balinese family. I had been staying with them a few days. The home stay was just $20 a night for room and breakfast. The early signs had not been encouraging. Their village, like many in Bali, was pockmarked by mounds of  rubbish tossed mindlessly and at random. The Balinese are not enthusiastic about waste management. You’ll never see the recycling bin outside on a Tuesday……or any other day for that matter. But driving into the family compound was like entering a new world. Everything meticulously clean, nothing out of place. My quarters were newly built with incredibly ornate doors and beautiful tiles. It was pristine.

Over four days the two brothers, their wives, their two children and other friends and relations took me into their family and I took them into my heart. Their English was limited but they were desperate to improve. At nights we would gather on my verandah, all of us sat on the floor passing away easy hours with attempted talk and much laughter. They loved my iPad, particularly the camera and the “Speak Indonesian” App. There would be howls of laughter whenever I pointed to myself and then played the pronunciations of  “I am 30” and “Do you have an English menu”. Through the course of these evenings other people would come and go, some practising their English others just sitting and being part of a gentle family evening in the warm caress of a Bali night. The generosity and kindness of their collective embrace touched me deeply.

The family invited me to return for the full moon ceremony, purnama, one of their favourites. So a few days later  I was back.

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I was given traditional Balinese dress to wear which I was told was compulsory. There was a choice of sarongs, a sash for my waist, an udeng for my head and a shirt. I fiddled around for a while, checked myself in the mirror and was pleasantly surprised with the results. I knew the whole extended family was waiting outside my room so out I went and strutted myself catwalk style.

The screams and shrieks almost burst my eardrums. The women in particular were almost in hysterics. It was clear I was the new village idiot in a clown costume. After a minute or two Made came to my rescue, took me inside and dressed me properly in Balinese style. It turns out the choice of sarongs wasn’t actually a choice at all, both were to be worn and in a very specific way. The sash I used as a cumberbund around my waist should have been folded in half and worn under the shirt. As for the udeng it’s best nothing more is said.

Suitably re-arranged we set off for the ceremony. An hour later we are at Tampak Siring Temple, 30 minutes north of Ubud and one of only two holy water spring temples in Bali. We joined a throng at a small gate waiting to enter the cleansing area. Finally we were in. I stood on the edge while the family, young and old, entered the cool water and joined hundreds of others in semi orderly lines  snaking to a line of spouts to purify themselves. After thirty minutes  they were tightly packed in a heaving

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mass of bodies. The children and elderly often disappear from view. The intensity increases as they inch towards the gushing water. It looks frantic but as each finally reaches their goal and submerge themselves they reappear with profound joy on their faces. Their spirits immediately purified and their souls alight with happiness. It is an amazing spectacle. Two more smaller pools follow to complete the process and the family finally leave the water, cold but exuberant.

After drying and changing into their finest clothes we go to the temple. The few tourists wearing temporary sarongs are stood just behind a rope where a sign reads “Prayers only allowed beyond here”. I dutifully stop and observe. Moments later Agung and Made return, guide me past the rope and into the inner prayer area. The women and children are already kneeling along with sixty or so others. The men join them and the Holy P1000177Man begins ringing his bell. Prayers have started. I stand solemnly and respectfully at the back. Shortly Puta and Ari turn and beckon me. At first I pretend not to notice them but they are insistent. I move with a little trepidation and sit behind them in the third row of the faithful. Moments later the women and daughter Ita part and signal me to move forward. I am frozen to the spot until the men also make space and move me forward. I am now sat cross legged on my own at the very front. The Holy Man begins his prayer instructions. I am at a loss with nobody ahead or besides to follow. Balinese Hindus have a range of deities and at this moment I am in dread that up in suarga, their heaven, they will not be best happy with me. Sensing and seeing my difficulties Agung and Isma move to join me at the front and guide me through the ceremony.

I place a petal behind my ear and more in my palms. I offer up my hands to the Gods and I say a silent prayer for the family. I follow that with an earnest wish that the Holy Man, who is now heading towards me, is not about to punish my heresy and cast me down to bhur, or hell, where the demons live and Hindus believe our spirits go as punishment for misdeeds on earth.

P1000219Of course, the Holy Man does nothing of the kind. I simply follow his instructions and with that the ceremony ends.

Many strict Hindus will fast on purnama, full moon day. My family don’t and we head off for a Balinese picnic by the river. We sit around in our fineries, eat simple food and delight in the day and each other. I quietly watch them. I see their ease with each other, their contentment with the world and I pray that the Gods send them every ounce of health and happiness they have to spare, and a little bit more.

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Categories: Indonesia, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

It was only a matter of time….

You can’t expect to travel the world without some bumps along the way. But even by my own accident prone standards this one is a record. Just eighteen hours after arriving in Bali disaster struck.

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The pink beast

I had rented a scooter for $5 a day. A bargain, even if the beast was painted in wild pink  and emblazoned with the name B***tard! My public humiliation was complete when they handed me a helmet that Biggles would have happily sported in the First World War.

An hour later I was on a narrow stretch of potholed bitumen crammed with other bikers. Suddenly an oncoming scooter wobbled wickedly on the far side of the road, lurched violently right and crashed to the ground. Myself and another rider tried to swerve, but it was too late. I slid 10 metres along the floor on my knees, arms and elbows before coming to a rest with the pink b***tard on top of me.

All hell broke lose. Wobbly, who turned out to be a young Aussie girl 10 minutes into her first ever scooter ride, was in hysterics. The Balinese rider was threatening Armageddon and I sat there painting the road red with my blood. Well, not quite, but large chunks of skin were hideously grazed and bloody. My machine was badly scratched along its front and right hand side.

But in adversity you find the best in humanity. A United Nations of people set about putting me back together again.

Back at my hotel I’d met Debbie and Paul, an English couple from Port Sunlight on Merseyside.

Debbie - The angel of mercy

Debbie – The angel of mercy

Debbie is a nurse. She did an examination and prescribed lots of good advice. Two more examinations have followed. Tang Xiaowen and Chu Qung from Singapore offered sympathy, their emails and an invitation to hook up whenever I am over there.
Next came Norina from Uma Karan, the fabulous boutique hotel I am staying at in Seminyak. Although I now had several creams and sprays from the local pharmacy Norina was still concerned. She went and bought me a Chinese healing potion. She paid for it out of her own pocket and absolutely refused to take a cent for it.
Now it was time to front up to Bali Radiance bike hire company, to confess my sins. Norina had offered to call and negotiate damage costs but I decided to do my own dirty work.

At first there were frowns and shaking heads. A price of 500,000 Rps ($50) was proposed with an accompanying sheepish grin. I counter offered and after a series of friendly and smiling exchanges we agreed on 120,000 Rps or $12. They were happy and so was I. Could you imagine Mr Hertz or Mrs Avis being so accommodating? Bali Radiance will forever be my scooter hire company of choice in Seminyak!

And finally there was Marie. Originally from Mauritius, she arrived in Bali via Australia in the mid 2000s and runs her own very successful hair and beauty business here. I had been given her name by my hairdresser Debbie back in Noosa. Over some fantastic food and drink, some of it given to us free of charge by the Greek manager and French restaurant owner, she painted a picture of Bali for me. It was a wonderful night to cap off a memorable 24 hours.

It looks worse than it is

It looks worse than it is

So here I am. A little battered and bruised, short of some skin, but so happy and so grateful to be in the caring company of strangers from all over the world.
With the Boston bombings, threats of nuclear wars and all manner of depressing issues in the news this week, it’s easy to forget our planet is full of the most amazingly decent and kind people.

Anyway, time to scoot. The pink b***tard is all revved up and ready to roll again.

Categories: Indonesia, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 23 Comments

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