Mosquitoes, Music, and the Siren’s Call

It sounds suspiciously like a buzzing mosquito. The sound filters through the thick Balinese air from a temple some distance from here. The holy man is chanting. At first I am convinced there is a bothersome bug circling my head. Then I realize, no, someone is singing! Today in the main temple of Ubud there is a major celebration. Dewa explained it to me this morning. In a few minutes the women will begin parading down the main street with tiered offerings towering on their heads. I set out to observe from a distance. If I wear a sarong I can approach the celebration but cannot enter the temple. I would need a spotless white covering like this woman is wearing before that would be allowed.

This photo was taken by Damian White and I have borrowed it for reasons that will soon become obvious.

I exit my room heading south on Hanoman Street. It is hot. I am on the sunny side of the street. After going a few blocks sweat is literally creating little rivulets down my back. I cross to the shady side of the street and keep going. Passing a beautiful restaurant I feel the pull of refrigerated air. But I am determined so I keep going. I finally reach the intersection where Hanoman joins the main east/west artery in Ubud. I halt on the corner taking stock of the surroundings. Cars, buses, and motorbikes are whizzing and honking past me. The only sidewalk appears to be on the opposite side of the street. There are no stoplights. Challenge number one: get to the other side. I stand on the corner awhile longer, now completely drenched, licking my own salty sweat as it drips off my upper lip.

Suddenly a menu item from the Atman Kafe that I haven’t yet tried appears like a mirage before me! Watermelon Salad! In my fried brain delirium I do an about face and hoof it back to the Atman in record time. Diving into its shady, welcoming embrace I place my order and it comes quickly, unusual for this endearing establishment!

Ah! Bliss! The cool chunks of watermelon with julienne strips of apple, a hint of red pepper, walnuts, and mint leaves, topped with feta and a faintly sweet dressing revive me. My view as I feast is of a basket of coconuts and the neat line-up of sandals that guests leave at the door upon entering. The staff regularly retrieves any footwear that doesn’t make it properly into alignment and remedy the situation.

I am so happy to be here! After finishing my salad I smell coffee. The Atman advertises the best coffee in Bali. I haven’t tried it yet, but an iced coffee latte sounds like a divine way to finish this meal. It comes with a sprinkling of cinnamon on the frothy cap of sweet Australian milk. I don’t really care if I’m up until the wee hours because of this indulgence. It is worth every sleepless moment!

I finally tear myself away from Atman, my personal slice of heaven, and return to my room. There is no one to offend now if I get a quick shot of the burned roof. I am literally standing in my doorway to take this photo. It was that close!

Home at last, I settle into my comfy chair and open the laptop. Then the mosquito begins its buzzing. When the reality of that sound registers I know that I am missing the ceremony. But I am in Bali. There will be hundreds of ceremonies, festivals and rituals before I leave. I can attend or not as I desire. Today I succumbed to the heat and the Siren’s call of Watermelon Salad. It was the right choice.

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