Charlotte and James had planned a most thoughtful and varied last two days for me. A visit to a beautiful small sheltered cove where we could swim in the warm clear blue water and with our goggles, look at more brilliant little fish on a small coral reef, make sandcastles and watch the sun set. A plunge into Ubud Market and a restful afternoon in the garden (very necessary as it turned out!). Tickets for the Sacred Celebration of the Cacao Tree at the Yoga Barn. And on my last morning, an al fresco massage in the gazebo in the garden. Followed by a very special restaurant for a farewell lunch. Here are a few photos and snippets (from my journal) . . .
Only two days to go. I wake early and write my journal sitting outside my room, as the sun rises over the paddy fields and coconut palms and the kingfisher flashes past and the local bird scarer starts his duties with his bamboo pipe and wooden hammer.
You have left, at the WELCOME HUT, your computer, phone and other electronic gadgets (apart from a camera and if essential, a phone for silent messages) for two days.
STRICTLY NO FOOD IN YOUR HUT. Food, even crumbs = ants = mice = snakes. Your shower is outside and drains away through stones into the earth. TOTAL SILENCE PLEASE. The gong will sound at 5.30am for meditation and again at 7am for yoga followed by a drum beat at 8am for breakfast.
In the communal ‘lodge’ where we eat, in your pigeon hole is a wooden board, a coconut bowl, a ceramic dish, knife, fork, spoon and glass. These are yours during your stay which you wash up yourself. You eat your meal mindfully, sitting on a stool overlooking the jungle and vegetable gardens. IN SILENCE of course. All food is vegan and grown in the vegetable gardens here. It is on the table within hours of being picked; no ‘dead’ food (tins, packets, plastic bags or frozen food) here! All electricity is solar powered. Care for the environment is a high priority here.
All around you is the healing glory of nature. Awesome too – we had the most spectacular thunder and lightening storm in the night and monsoon torrents of rain next morning (on the way to yoga – I’ve never got so drenched)!
These are the two days, about which Charlotte has already so beautifully blogged, that we spent together at the Bali Silent Retreat Centre. It was a very special time for me too – and lying head-to-toe on our backs (silent of course) on the stone star-gazing bench was a wondrous seminal moment I’ll never forget. Thank you Charlotte for that great treat (amongst so many others).
A few memories of two beautiful and fascinating 3 hour guided country walks across agricultural land and lush jungle and through villages. I learned so much from our delightful Balinese guides: Sumadi on the first, along with a Dutch couple. Sang Tu on the second, along with two young American guys. We saw the local crops being harvested by hand: rice of course, maize, sweet potatoes and other vegetables and flowers (for offerings). We learned about the medicinal wild plants, the entrancing birds, butterflies and dragonflies dancing on the exotic flowers and hiding in the jungle foliage. We visited the village home of an elderly couple who brewed tea for us and homemade coconut buns. We sat beneath their rice barn built on stilts, beyond the reach of mice, and talked about the state of the world, in particular climate change and what we could do to help. The Balinese seem to be very aware of the urgency for sustainability and care of the environment. Sang Tu carried a big bag into which we put every scrap of plastic litter, as we walked – quite a surprising amount considering how rural our walk was.
Wyan’s brother drives me into Ubud Market early in the morning. We chat for all of the 45 minutes journey. He tells me about family life and village life. He is the eldest son living with his wife and two daughters with his parents. When the first son marries, the couple make their home with his parents. If there are no sons then the eldest daughter’s husband will come to live with her parents. Elderly parents are never left to live alone. He was shocked by the idea of old people being put into institutional ‘homes’.
I spend two hours in the crush and colour and activity of Ubud Market. I love markets and this is a star market! I bargain for drinking straws made of bamboo and bracelets made of seeds. I buy fruit from old ladies and some beautiful sarongs and a kimono from a family-run stall who tell me about all their crafts and how many of them are handmade in people’s homes in different parts of the island. The Balinese are such friendly people. I learned to smile, really smile when I went to Sri Lanka years ago; my smile muscles are definitely back in action here!
I discover the Market Temple, a place of calm and peace surrounded by noise and activity.
I wrap one of my new sarongs around my waist and spend a totally engrossing half hour sitting on a wall in the (open-air) temple just watching. But it isn’t just watching. I feel accepted by all the devotees, old and young, women (mostly) and men and drawn into their devotions and thanksgivings even though I do not know, intellectually, what they are doing or saying.
Poor Millie had a high fever my last evening, so Charlotte stayed with her and James and I set off to celebrate chocolate (we are both fanchoconatics!) It was crazy, rejuvenating, optimistic, inclusive and inspiring and quite a great wild Love-In! From all over the world, maybe 80 young people and me (40 years older than most of them!). Gathered in the big hall, with sides open to the jungle night time noises, for the Sacred Celebration of the Cacao Tree.
We had no idea what we were in for but reckoned we should just go with the flow and enjoy!
A mug of the most delicious thick rich chocolate liquid to sip throughout the evening was a good start. Led by a teacher and his four musicians, as we sit on our yoga mats, we are exhorted to join in and love each other through sacred sound, music and dance; to let go and enjoy ourselves and each other in gratitude for the Cacao tree, sacred especially to the North American Indians. And indeed we did.
We hum and intone Indian mudras and mantras. Standing and turning, we invoke the Spirits and blessings of the South, the East, the North and the West in the Native American Indian tradition and the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water. We stomp and sway and clap our way through an African tribal dance for benevolence and gratitude for the cacao tree; we move around the hall ‘connecting’ with each other first by eye contact and smiles and then with hugs. We dance, moving from partner to partner but be always mindful that nobody is left alone. “Now make 3 big circles.” The circles leap and whirl round and round as each person takes a turn in the middle to ‘go wild’. I’ve temporarily crashed out, but it’s great to watch! The music speeds up and I’m on my feet again for the free dance which becomes quite frenzied. At last it slows down and we retrieve our yoga mats and subside into sweaty heaps. Sitting facing a partner we will each speak to the other without interruption for 3 minutes. 3 minutes is a long time. Actually, James and I were caught up in the generally positive and optimistic mood and spent our 3 minutes of ‘gratitude’, saying lovely affirming things to each other! It ended with 10 minutes lying flat on the floor with quiet sound and a communal Christian blessing in Latin. Quite wow really for an old sod like me. Made me feel quite hopeful for the future of the world when I’m dead and gone. [no pics]
My last morning I am up at dawn in the garden picking seven exotic flowers. Influenced perhaps a little by last night, I paint a little gratitude card for Charlotte and for James and Bella and Millie and Wyan and Augus and Gidday (our 3 house helpers). Impossible to capture the brilliance of the colours, but I did my best.
After breakfast I went for a last wander in the village and said goodbye to a few of the neighbours .
A traditional Bali massage had thoughtfully been arranged for me, in the garden. Much pressing and pinching unblocked my muscles and arteries and got the oxygen flowing from my brain he told me. It set me up for the long journey ahead.
And finally a special farewell lunch sitting cross-legged on a wooden platform in a small lake, Millie and Bella feeding the fishes. We ate delicious traditional Indonesian crispy fried duck, satay chicken and prawns and lentils and vegetables. And then it was goodbye.
Thank you Charlotte and James and Bella and my goddaughter Millie for giving me an unforgettable holiday, but most of all for embracing me into your family; my time spent with you all was very special.
See you back home!