10 September 2011

Searching for my muse, Part 2

It’s impossible not to be a cliché right now. Sitting, as I am, in a beautiful garden, veritably neck-deep in frangipanis, my room overlooks the terrace where a steady stream of variously grey-haired, be-saronged solo women tippity tap away on lap tops in the early evening. We are a vertible hoard I swear: in the café over the road there were no less than three this morning - one even had an ipad with an eco-organic-recycled slip cover.

Yesterday I went looking for that slippery siren on a push bike. Much like the tour experience in many parts of the world, the brochure promised to experience the REAL *insert place name here* which we can of course we can all see past as Marketing can’t we – as we are picked up by one of I think about four mini buses operating that day, eating in large barns, getting told how coffee is made (let me guess, picked, shelled then roasted, right?) and being given the low-down on rice farming.

But eventually, coast downhill we did, serene it was, and a porthole view of other people’s lives, we saw. Just quietly, I quite like having a nosy into hundreds of front yards and fields as you can do on bike and having practiced this in Nord-Holland. In this case though I can’t even say at least we were quiet, because the van following downhill was probably rumbling enough to annoy the locals with tinnitus from their motor-scooters.

I’m grateful to have seen it actually, especially to someone who has taken it upon himself to explain bits and pieces of family life here, the ancestor shrines, the ritual of a new birth, where the placenta goes and how the main forces in life are a kind of triumvirate of hindu deities representing creation, destruction, and um, crumbs, what was that other one.. growth…? (Enlighten me in comments, blog buddies if you are out there). The concept of regular tooth filing, to help control our bad karmic forces was something I didn't know; its is for keeping an upper hand on anger, jealousy, lust (darn) and confusion (interesting), and probably a few others.

It was a bit post-modern when we were all stopped to walk into a rice field where three men were planting, bent backs, like all the pictures, and our guide explained how the Balinese rice farmers typically have quite bad back problems pointing out the oldest one with an almost lower back hump. As a group of Dutch, Danish, French and Australian I suspect none of us would know a manual job if it ran up and kicked us in the shins - yet we were being openly invited to photograph those who do. I had an image of bent-over shearers at home or perhaps labourers being treated like exhibits, would they be cool with that? I suppose they’d just find it wryly amusing – probably the riggers on the Harbour Bridge get photographed by all the bridge climbers ... except they wouldn't experience such a massive disparity in salary so much I would imagine.

So I also read in a local rag amidst ads for massage and yoga a short piece querying whether it is right that a rice farming family, with increasing frequency will sell their paddies for a villa development, to make a wad of upfront cash in place of the rice harvest which typically is grown just to feed the family. I don’t pretend to know what this means for the economics of the Bali, or how it effects people’s lives. But I can only ponder how common it is for visitors to contribute to destroying the very thing they come to a place to enjoy (or discover, if you don’t mind the use of the verb even after 500 million people have done it before you). We love looking out over those paddies, but we need nice buildings to sleep in, so people build on top of those very vistas and their kids become tour guides and their grandmas sell sarongs instead.

Koyaanistquatsi, huh, life out of balance. Little bit too much destruction and only creation of a bricky, housey kind. I really hope those daily offerings to the shrines and statues are helping to put something back into the ‘credit’ side of the ledger.

And as a post-script, I recall that the ID of this computer is “Durga II” (named for the original Durga, the Toshiba that all Amsterdam blogging was done on). So when I connect to the Wi-fi to post then anyone looking at the router could see the name of the Destroyer – the feminine energy of rage and vengeance, if I recall correctly. Eat your heart out, Elizabeth Gilbert. I hope one of the staff here who follows his or her Hindu pantheon gets a laugh out of that one.

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