Why Bali?

Why Bali? What is it that takes me thousands of miles from family and friends and holds me captive? What powerful force grips my mind and weaves it’s spell?

I’ve asked myself those questions. If I were running away from unbearable family matters, or painful memories, or anything at all, Bali would be a lovely place to run to. But I’m not. My family relationships are wonderfully close and loving. My memories are compartmentalized. I store the good ones in front for easy access and I have a convenient habit of forgetting the rest. I am not running from. I am running to.

The back of a motorbike is conducive to thinking. It was on the hour and a half ride back from Kintamani that I suddenly knew the answers to those questions. Perched behind Ketut, winding down the tight switch-backs as twilight and fog shrouded the mountains around us, my too-full heart began leaking from my eyes.

A brief stop on the way to Kintamani

I had spent the afternoon with Ketut’s family. Upon arrival I was welcomed, seated in a place of honor, fed and entertained. But they had work to do. So after an appropriate length of time, I was sitting like a distant queen watching her subjects. That wasn’t working for me. I abdicated my throne, walked over to the family, sat down on the ground beside them and began shelling beans. There was a flurry of activity, a stool was brought in consideration of my…age? Delicate white bum? Whatever. I politely declined in my best pidgin Indonesian. My effort was accompanied by uproarious laughter that left me wondering just what exactly I had said. The attempt to elevate me was abandoned and we settled into the business of work.

The beans have been shelled. I am sitting by Ketut’s ibu (mother) and Ketut is on my left.

All this was stewing in my mind with the hypnotic hum of the motorbike. Then the knowing dropped into my consciousness without effort. Here there is no pretense. These people are completely who they are and that allows me to be who I am. My roots are in the earth. I’ve shelled thousands of beans and peas, husked hundreds of ears of corn, picked berries, pulled weeds, baled hay. I spent my adult life in the city trying not to be a farm girl. But at my core I am that simple creature. Here, quiet respect is valued. Pushy aggression has no place. Humility is honored and the person who boasts or brags is secretly scorned.

One Balinese businessman I know was phoned and asked if he would host a large gathering at his place of business. He requested a meeting to discuss particulars. The date was set, then changed, then re-set, then cancelled. Another phone conversation ensued and the clients wanted to settle the matter over the phone. The Balinese businessman again requested a meeting. Later he told me, “I wanted to see their eyes.” Although it would have been an easy matter to arrange things via the telephone, the man held firm to his principles. The group went elsewhere.

And why is that important? It’s integrity. It’s knowing who you are and not compromising. It’s a set of values that doesn’t bow to the dollar. It feels like my childhood, the farm, the close-knit community of people who helped each other and didn’t feel the need for power suits or slick marketing gimmicks. And that’s why I was glad of the soft darkness as we rolled into Ubud at sunset. Nobody noticed my heart leaking.

Sundown in Ubud

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lottie Nevin
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 22:42:56

    Beautiful post Sherry and it’s wonderful that you are so happy and feel at home in Bali. I have a sneaky feeling that those cakes may also have something to do with it!! 🙂

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  2. writingforselfdiscovery
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 06:26:42

    Ah, the kue Lottie? The Balinese cakes? Whatever gave you that idea?!

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  3. Barb Garland
    Oct 04, 2012 @ 09:10:16

    My friend, Anne(whom you met at Carla’s) had this same conversation about what guides really belonging. love Barb

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