Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gili Air

We just spent the last week on an island, located just a hop skip and jump from Bali. It was a quick 2 hour boat ride to this quiet, and beautiful hunk of land and the perfect setting to end this year long journey. There are no cars or motor bikes or traffic. Nothing but fresh air and ocean every where you look. You walk, rent a bicycle, or hop in a horse car to get around. It is possible to circumnavigate the entire island by foot in 1.5 hours. The pristine waters that surround this island are full of sea turtles, and tons of marine life, including white and black tip reef sharks that Jack and Patrick enjoyed up close while diving. This has been a week of complete bliss, and hands down, our favorite place in all of the places we have been this past year.

In addition to beautiful waters to frolic in, there is a yoga studio (google H20 yoga, gili air) that I have visions of holding a retreat at one day. The tide pools hosted many interesting critters that kept Jack entertained and amused for hours. There are tons of sweet little places to eat and drink, all with ocean, toe dipping, water fronts.

While we were here, it was Ramadam. This island is mostly inhabited by Muslims. If you are not familiar with Ramadam, it is the biggest holiday for Muslims. During the entire month of August they fast during daylight hours. No eating, drinking ( including water) no smoking ( lots of men smoke here) no sexual relations even....from sunrise to sundown. Then on the last day of this month long fast, they gather and have a huge feast and light off tons of fire works. It was like the fourth of July, and was totally unexpected! The week following Ramadam they even have a "make up week", which allows you to have a do over, if you cheated on any of the other days. Seems fair and forgiving. It was interesting to learn more about this Muslim tradition, which is giving up the basics, going without, and fighting against the cravings.

I could relate to this fasting in a sailing kinda way. This past year, I have given up and gone without many things I enjoy....... Long hot showers, fast internet, amazon.com, whole foods market, trader joes, weekly farmers market, Kale, oh my sweet beloved Kale.....sweet pea sprouts, and well, the list could go on forever in the food department, but this past year I have also gone without my yoga family and friends, my boys Alex and Blake, who I saw in person twice this entire past year. Fasting from human connection makes you crave it even more.....and makes you appreciate the connections even more. I am so glad my year of Ramadam is about to come to a close.

Back to Gili Air......a picture says a thousand words, so I will let the photos tell you more about this magical island.

We are heading back to Bali, spending our last two nights in Ubud.....home sweet home is on all of our minds.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

What's in a name and more on life in Bali

But first, thank you for your love and prayers for Jack. I am happy to report, that he is doing well......drugs are good. Very Very good.

So what is up with the care taker of the home being named Wayan, our drivers named Wayan, and our healers named Wayan, the guy that runs the corner shop is named Wayan....... Well here is how the name game is done in Bali:

Almost everyone is called Wayan, Made, Nyoman, or Ketut. These simply mean, first born, second born, third born, and fourth born. If the family should have a fifth child, ( which is highly uncommon here) they begin again with Wayan. They will also be given a private name, but will always be Introduced as, and refered to as one of these four. I am not sure how they keep it all straight, but they do. When I talk to Nyoman about Wayan, she knows some how which one I am speaking about.

I haven't written, or wined, much about the food here, and that's because I am very happy with the eating choices in Bali. The tropical climate and volcanic soil has blessed Bali with a superb range of fruits and veggies. It is still not the abundance we have at home due to the fact that they eat only what is in season and do not import much of anything. I have seen wine imported from Chili and Australia, along with a few speciality items, like kettle chips, but at $12 a bag, my chip craving could not be justified. I have never seen any fruits or veggies from another country. There are tons of great, healthy, even organic, places to eat in Ubud. So my pallet has been pleasantly satisfied while living here. But, just like Mexico, one has to be careful with food, by washing everything three times over, and cooking most things helps too. Eating raw is not advised, and drinking water, other then from a bottle is definitely not advised.

The wide range of eateries in Ubud has been created by tourism. In fact, Ubud is really just a tourist city. But despite all the shops, touristy attractions, traffic, and the negative aspects of tourism, the Balinese culture is alive and well. I admit, being a first time traveller to Bali, I was expecting a tropical, spiritual paradise and was quickly disillusioned by the inadequate infrastructure (again....driving here is a nightmare) and the overt commercialism took me by surprise. But......after almost two months here, I have grown to really love the streets of Ubud. Seeing the offerings placed daily at every store front, every home alter, every gas station even, it reminds me to look beyond all the surface sights and deeper into the heart of what Bali is all about. It is about devotion......Serious devotion to their religion, family and community. They really seem unaffected by tourism and have actually embraced all the travelers trampling around their temples. It hasn't changed whom they are or how they live, and that is a beautiful thing.

Photo posted: This guy adorns many home fronts, many temples, and you can find him any where one would want to scare evil demons away.

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The Kings Mothers Cremation, and Jacks fever

On the 18th of August, the Kings mother was cremated. Since our arrival, and well before, preparations were being made for this event. The tower and bull posted here were hand crafted and adorned with gold and jewels. They were carried in a procession down the main street in Ubud. Over 20 villages showed up for this event, and tourist were welcomed to participate as well. It is just shocking to me that such a fine piece of art, that many people labored over, day in and day out, for months was burned to ashes in a matter of minutes. But this is the way of the Balinese. They celebrate life and honor death....in a very big way.

The Balinese believe that a soul borrows a physical human body, so upon death this body is returned to the five elements- wind, earth, fire, water, and ether- to release the soul and enable it to reincarnated on earth or unite with the divine supreme being.

Of course the every day Balinese does not have a tower or bull as grand as this. And if the family can not afford a costly cremation, the body is buried until the funds are available, or more members pass on. The body or bodies are then unearthed and they hold a joint cremation ceremony.

When someone dies in Bali, no weeping or grief is openly displayed, for this makes the soul unwilling to leave. The entire village gathers as a noisy procession leads the way as dozens of men carry the body in it's tower on their shoulders, through town....usually down the main road. ( 400 hundred men carried the Kings Mothers tower and half way into the 5 mile procession, they switched off...another 400 stepped in to carry her massive...and well.....heavy, tower) We have witnessed many processions during our travels around the island. Traffic stops. Each time they cross an intersection, they spin the tower to confuse the soul so it cannot find it's way home to disturb the living. They carry the body to the family cemetery, after it is taken on tour, and then a set of young chickens are set free to symbolize the souls release. Holy water is then poured over the body, along with letters of introduction to the various deities, and money, to pay the underworld demons. Then it is set ablaze.

We missed participating and the crowds of people, all dressed in their finest sarongs as they watched this incredible fire ceremony take place.......we had our own fire to attend to........

My baby boys fever came back with a vengeance a few days ago. He remained fever free for two days after his visit with Wayan ( the healer) . She had said if his fever came back, he would need antibiotics......so we called our driver, Wayan, ( more on everyones name being Wayan later) and he took us to a western style medical clinic in Ubud. I think this was established for travelers because there were no Balinese waiting to be seen. After the doctor examined Jack, she had his blood drawn. Uncertain of what it was, the blood test would confirm or rule out Typhoid fever. My stomach felt like it was being punched by a pro boxer at this point. Typhoid fever can be very serious if left untreated. She sent us home, and said she would call with the results by 3 pm. We arrived in her office at 8 am,,,,,,,,,, 7 long hours of waiting and wondering. We called her at 3:05, and it was confirmed to be Typhoid fever. She gave us two different pills ( one to boost his immune system and the other is a antibiotic) to give Jack for 7 days, and told us he will be just fine, and not to worry. She has treated many cases of Thypoid fever with a 100% success rate. So, while holistic medicine is wonderful, and useful at times, in this moment I am thankful for the chemicals that are saving my boys life.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

What to do when your child has a fever in Bali

See a Healer of course....

So here is the story.......

Jack had been running a fever on and off for the past 5 days. We were in Ubud having lunch and he started to heat up again. I noticed a Balinese Healer was right across the street, so I asked Jack if he wanted to see if we could get him in for a visit. He was all for it, so we walked across the street. Wayan was with another client, but she walked right up to him and felt his forehead. She asked me if I had an appointment, and I told her no, but my son has had this fever for 5 days and I was wondering if she could help him. With out saying anything to me, she went to work on him. She began by rubbing something that smelled so good across his forehead and on his back. She then went into her kitchen and came back with a large bowl of shallots that she had me grind up into a paste. She added an entire bottle of yellow "healing ointment" to the shallots. After this was mixed in, she had Jack take off his shirt and she began rubbing it all over his back, belly, and arms, and also placed handfulls under each arm pit. She had me assist her in massaging this into his body for about 15 minutes. Then he sat there for about 20 minutes......smelling like dinner. She gave him a hot green drink and some fresh Papaya to help with the after taste. Jack gagged it down. She also had him smell something very strong out of a bottle, which made his eyes water. Jack began to sweat, so it was now time to rub off the shallots . He put his shirt back on and she then had him lay down, and handed him a bag of holy water to place on his forehead. She said she was now going to go make him something to eat. Over an hour had passed since we walked in, and the girl she was assisting was just sitting and waiting. I felt bad for her and told her I was sorry that she to wait so long. She smiled and said, it is no problem. Wayan is worth the wait. At this point, I also began to wonder how much all of this was going to cost since no price had been discussed...... Wayan handed Jack a bowl of what looked like red rice, shallots, and something green. She instructed him to eat it very slowly, and she watched him intently. Jack - hating onions his entire life - ate it anyway. Just then her daughter walked in from school, and she introduced her to us. She said - this is my daughter "Tuti", and it was in this moment that I realized that this is the healer that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in her book, Eat, Pray, Love. Being the tourist that I am, I asked if I could snap their photo. For the first time, Wayan smiled. She is a VERY serious woman. She had Jack drink some water from a very fancy bottle, and felt his forehead again. His fever was gone. She gave us a bag full of items to take home, which included, two offerings that she blessed, one for the home alter, and one for Jacks bedside, she picked some green leaves from a plant in her front driveway, and told me how to make tea for Jack with them, she gave us several packets of the green drink, and one packet of a red drink, one lime, some honey, some sort of orange root, that I will also make a tea with, and a bottle of fancy water. I now braced myself for the bill.......160,000 rupees........$18 US, for over two hours of her time and care, and all the potions. I thanked her for healing my son, and we went on our way.

I was an experience we will never forget!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kuta, Pemuteran, Fish Spa, and more....Bali continued

Fish Spa...it is very popular on this side of the world. You place your feet in the tank and the little guys go to town eating off any dead skin they can gobble up. Jack decided to try it, and the sound of his laughter as he plunged his feet into the tank of these little flesh eaters was worth every penny. ( $12 for 20 minutes) After his treatment, he said his feet felt "minty", and they looked like he just had a well done pedicure.

We have been on the move these past few weeks, using our home in Sayan only as a base. It is no surprise we keep getting pulled towards the ocean. Jack and Patrick have been surfing up a storm in Kuta on the South side, and we ventured to the North side of the island to check out the diving in Pemuteran. We found it to be full of beautiful coral, but very few fish. There was a small fishing village next to the place we stayed, and the photos of their fishing vessels posted in this lot, show how brave these fisherman are. They go way off shore in these beauties made of bambo, and rope for the most part. Not sure what they are catching any more, but they net all they can. It is sad really. The state of our world ocean is in serious decline. We also saw this in the Sea of Cortez , and if these guys keep netting like they are, in 10 years time, there will be very few fish there as well. And then there are the Japanese Whale killers, Dolphin killers, Shark Fin soup folks, netting the heck out of every part of our world ocean they can bribe their way into - they were even in the Sea of Cortez for awhile until they finnally gave them the boot, and are here in the waters of Bali........ Ok - dont get me started.......

Deep Exhale.......

Any way........I have ( mostly) gotten over my fear of being in a car here. The two photos taken on the road, show a family of four on a motor bike who pulled up next to us...no helmuts. The other photo shows a PE class marching down the only major road, and as you can imagine - slows traffic way down. We see this kind of thing often. Can you imagine our kids Marching down the 101 freeway?

We also returned to the East side of the island again for more diving and snorkeling with the cast of Finding Nemo. They are all here, and it is splendid. The water is warm, and the visibility is amazing. I think I even saw a clown fish with one fin........
Jack and Patrick completed their goal of 50 dives before this journey ended. They are now qualified to be Master Divers.

So we are down to three weeks remaining in this year long journey. Feeling less like a tourist these days, and melting into this beautiful culture. Ending our trip here in Bali is perfect. I have never been to such a spiritual place, and I will continue to soak up the good that is here, and laugh off the bad ( brown water coming from the shower and sink faucet from time to time, for example)

Where ever this post finds you, be well and happy. And if you can brush your teeth with sink water - Smile and be grateful.