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Being Grateful in Bali

We didn’t know what to expect when we went to Bali as it was a last minute destination, chosen by Naomi and Keegan because it has wonderful waves and beaches. I was warned that it was touristy. It was true, our stay in Legian Beach meant having more encounters with vacationing Aussies than with the Balinese. However the locals who ran the beach bars that allowed us to hang out on bean bags, under umbrellas and drink Bintang beer and Bintang Raddlers were quite charming. They seemed to have a good time hanging out, surfing, playing music while tending to rowdy Aussies.

The waves and the water were fully appreciated by Naomi and Keegan. They could spend hours diving through the large waves, body surfing and just swimming in the ocean. We were cognizant that we were experiencing the beauty of Bali but not the culture, so we decided to head to Ubud for a few days. During our drive we stopped at some beautiful temples. It became quite apparent that temples are everywhere and that many houses looked like temples with their family shrines incorporated into their homes.

Tanah Lot, an ocean temple at low tide with Laura and Keegan in the foreground

John and Keegan had to wear sarongs to enter the temple

John booked us a lovely guest house that shared the courtyard with the family that ran it and their many Pomeranian dogs, who Naomi and Keegan were more than happy to pet and play with. Just the other day Keegan was reminiscing about our stay there and was naming all the dogs he missed. Our temporary abode was in the middle of bustling touristy Ubud. It was a different type of tourist who flocked to Ubud’s famous nearby temples and natural beauty; Yoga retreats were plentiful. We did a rafting trip through a beautiful lush canyon with waterfalls and also went scuba diving about an hour or so away in Pandang Bay. Naomi still struggled with the air quality and her skin’s reaction to the heat so she explored the local cafes instead of being outside.

We were learning more about the Bali Hindu beliefs which are unique and central to the Balinese culture. The rest of Indonesia is primarily Muslim. Their Hinduism differs greatly from India’s Hinduism, it has a strong basis in Animism. Balinese Hindus believe they must be constantly aware of their place and debt to the universe. This spirituality is clearly evident in their daily life with offerings of rice and flowers in small woven banana leaf baskets We would see the daily offerings in businesses, homes, intersections to appease any demons and please the gods. We often saw locals stop at the small temple shelves and do the ritual of lighting incense and praying.

We had the good fortune to experience the moon festival in Ubud. The celebrations lasted for a few days. One of the main temples for the festivities was within a block from our guest house. We saw men and boys dressed up in their sarongs, white shirts and head scarves. The women and girls were dressed in colorful long skirts with belted lace shirts. The festivities lasted late into the early morning in the temples. None of this was for show, as tourists were not allowed into the temples. We watched as elegant women carrying baskets of fruit and food on their heads went into the temples.

The full moon above the temple festivities

We had great timing and were able to connect with our Seattle area friend Jennifer in Ubud. Jennifer was also on a long trip, she had been traveling through much of Africa since July. We attended an evening Kecak dance performance of a traditional folk story about King Rama, a princess and Hanoman (a monkey like creature). The dance included rings of men chanting, some fire dancing and beautiful costumes. It was a mesmerizing evening.

Kecak dancers and Hanoman

One of the things I loved about Bali was how clearly they are proud of their traditions and spiritual lives. Their daily practices are for them, their families, and are not for show. There seems to be a strong bond between them, with the shared Hindu practices, shared folk tales and songs. When we told our Ubud host about attending the dance show he started immediately chanting the Kecak song, as he drove us back to the beach area of Bali.

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