The Mighty Jungle Meets Ketut!

This afternoon I took a break from writing, wandered to the railing overlooking the garden, and there were Ketut and Wayan, hard at work, beating back the jungle. It’s a thankless chore, like doing laundry or washing dishes, tasks that every homemaker knows must be tended to on a regular basis or they soon get out of hand. It’s not at all like weeding a Minnesota garden a couple of times over the course of three months, which is the sum and total of the growing season there.

No, the jungle is aggressive. If it weren’t tamed, it would soon take over everything, vines snarling around pillars, curling over walls and doorways, snaking through open windows. So the garden Ketut planted that looked so feeble at it’s inception, has morphed into a domesticated jungle that requires daily attention.


Last October, Ketut planted every stick that is now a tree and every blade of grass that is now a thick carpet.


This is the same corner that Ketut was planting in the previous picture.


Wayan is carrying two hacked leaves from a banana tree that was encroaching!

Besides being a superb gardener, Ketut is half monkey. If there’s an offending branch or frond that’s too high off the ground to snag with the long knife-stick, he’s up the trunk in a flash, making quick work of the unfortunate interloper.


This is NOT a tree-hugger pose! He has his long knife-stick in his right hand and is hanging on for dear life with his left!


With focused intensity he’s going after a cluster of bananas that fell prey to one of the raggy squirrels that love to eat the stem of the flower which pretty much ensures that the bunch dies or its growth is stunted.


Hmmm…I wonder if I can reach that dried  palm leaf waaaay up there….!


Wayan looks on as Ketut hacks.

And you may as well get used to hearing about Wayan. Wayan Puji is Ketut’s cousin from the same village of Abang Songan, and he’s now a permanent fixture here. (I’m high maintenance…it takes two!)


Wayan Puji

Ketut’s hobby is gardening, and Wayan’s hobby is cleaning! At least that’s what Ketut says, and I believe him. My windows have been washed, inside and out, three times in two weeks. My floor is swept every day and scrubbed every other day. And both guys like to cook so I’ve had to cut out rice and noodles to ward off the creeping poundage! It’s a lovely problem to have.

How do I describe a life that’s so unlike anyone’s frame of reference unless they’ve lived here? I write these blogs but they’re just words and snapshots of an existence that defies explanation. And yet I persist, hoping that something gets through, some part of the magic, the wonderment, injects itself into the reader with the kind of awe I feel every single day. Toward that end I write, and write, and write!


TV, Vampires, and the Lost Baby

It’s early. I’ve just finished breakfast and I’m sitting on my balcony in that semi-dream state induced by a full tummy and tropical warmth. I’m startled out of my reverie by a distinctly surprised British accent echoing up from below. “What’s this black thing on the sidewalk?!” My curiosity piqued, I peer down and see my neighbor bent over looking at a small dark spot. Ketut joins her. In the next breath I hear the proclamation, “It’s a baby bat!” I race out my door, down the steps and, sure enough, the little guy is too young to fly but he is flopping about on the walk surrounded by enormous humans.

As we tower over the infant a discussion ensues. Where did he come from? I suddenly remember this morning seeing a woman with a knife enter the thick growth three feet from the path. An intense rustling and shaking of leaves ensued and I saw her exit the thicket with several large banana leaves. I report these facts to my friends. Now it makes sense to Ketut who explains that bats live and nest in the deep conical recesses formed by the huge leaves. “Woman cut banana leaf for ceremony, bat fall out,” he says.

We continue to fawn over the grotesque creature. What is it about babies? I hate bats. I don’t know if its tales of vampires or having my head dive-bombed by those shadowy specters after dark, but I have an extreme illogical fear of them. And yet, looking at that tiny, defenseless blob, struggling to fly on immature wings, terrified, I feel something almost like love. Perhaps it’s a semi-dormant maternal instinct kicking in. Ketut evidently feels it too. He disappears for a moment and returns with a piece of banana. Scooping up the struggling creature on a leaf, he offers the treat to a mouth that, for a baby, already displays an impressive array of razor sharp fangs. The bat doesn’t eat and eventually our interest wanes, but not before he is secured on a vine-covered rock under a makeshift banana leaf shelter.

Imagine a place where the business of living each day provides more entertainment than hours of canned programming. Imagine if you will, actually being involved in the unfolding stories, not as an observer, but as a participant. Imagine a setting where drama is played out without cameras rolling or sound bites recorded, where you don’t need to tune in to experience the pathos of daily existence unfolding before your eyes, where the news is mostly good, but when there is tragedy it is personal and people rally around those who are suffering. Welcome to my world where living requires 100% participation and there’s no time left for TV.

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