The Crabby Old Lady Syndrome

Mild panic grips me when children visit. My house isn’t fragile, but little ones have a way of ferreting out exactly what I don’t want them to find and desiring it. If parents hesitate to say no, I’m left in the awkward position of either allowing the treasure to be handled or becoming The Crabby Old Lady.

Don’t get me wrong, I have colored markers and reams of paper. When my girls were little those would have kept them enthralled for hours. There’s also a covered cup with dice inside that can be rattled, or opened to explore the contents. Dice. Right. That’s about the extent of my toy collection. Balls roll off the edge of my living room and drop two floors to the garden. Can’t have balls. Everything requires storage space. There’s not an extra inch of that.

Dad always said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” So when Ketut and Komang brought three-year-old Nengah to visit me yesterday, it was time for creativity overdrive. I remembered a collection of empty yogurt containers that substitute for the non-existent Tupperware here. My guests watched with curiosity while I assembled the bottoms with the matching tops and stacked them, one by one, higher and higher. In less than a nanosecond we were embroiled in a wild game of build the tower and knock it down. Everyone within miles heard Nengah’s shrieks…and mine!

I don’t remember when I’ve had so much fun. Later, alone in the happy aftermath, I waxed reflective. It struck me as ironic how the richness of life seems to multiply with simplicity. True happiness requires so little.

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Yoga, Intention, and Geocaching!

There are heart-opening poses in yoga. Some are quite easy, others require a mind-over-matter approach! There is also the opportunity to set an intention for the day. I set my intention this morning to allow my heart to be open to new opportunities in whatever form they presented. I held my intention through the poses which leaned decidedly toward the more strenuous.

(The following pbotos were taken from the Bing search engine.)

We did a lot of this only our arms are outstretched reaching, lifting, holding in front of the body.

And a lot of this, holding, holding…

And the full sun salute series 6 times on each side.

The one pose that was over-the-top doesn’t have a photo anywhere on the internet! Picture this: Stretch out full length on your stomach, legs together. Stretch your right arm straight out from the shoulder, perpendicular to your body. Roll your entire body to the left toward that arm as far as you can keeping the right arm extended. Bend your left knee and bring your left foot close to your left hip but keep it on the floor. Bend your right knee and bring it up beside your left. Now raise your left arm toward the ceiling and then stretch it back as far as you can toward your right arm. Then hold the pose for 2 – 5 minutes. Your shoulders crunch, your heart opens! Wallah!

I walk back home and sit down in the little cafe for breakfast after greeting the others already assembled there. Pulling out my notebook I start working on the next piece of writing when I overhear a conversation between two tables at my left. The man from the Netherlands is explaining to the couple from Canada about his travels geocaching. As I eavesdrop I learn that “treasure boxes” are hidden all over the world with specific GPS coordinates for locating them. They are placed by individuals who have an interest in or love for a particular place. There are actually three right here in Ubud, he says. By then I am shamelessly listening and asking questions. The one he plans to see this morning is in a school for handicapped children. Then the invitation, did I want to come along?

Cause and effect is a reliable force. Here was an opportunity presenting itself not more than a half hour from the time I’d set my intention in the heart-opening yoga class. I ask a few initial questions then accept. We head out, Rob from the Netherlands with GPS in hand, and me, open-hearted, opportunity-seeking adventurer. Twenty minutes later we enter the huge open main floor area of the school. It is spotlessly clean with some structures that appear to be built for large motor skill development. Then we’re directed up the stairs. Three-quarters of the way up Rob exclaims, “There it is!” and picks up a brightly-colored woven basket sitting on the ledge by the stairway. He opens it and removes a notebook and pen, writes his name and the date and something else in Dutch, and returns the notebook and the basket. Then he shows me his phone slash GPS and the button to push indicating he found the treasure.

Wonders never cease. We then observed two classrooms. In one the children are singing, beautifully. In the other they are paying close attention to their teacher. She gives an instruction and they perform the task, then she issues another instruction. A woman tells us that there are children with Downs Syndrome, Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity, Autism and other disabilities. At 10:00 they will be downstairs in the gymnasium for exercise…that is what I saw coming into the building…and we can watch.

The school has a restaurant and is attempting to be self-supporting. All the children and everyone I see working there is Balinese however the school (and orphanage) was founded by Europeans. This is not a tourist destination so information is a little tougher to come by, nor did I find a website.

We thank them and leave, conversing congenially as we walk back. Rob catches his motorbike taxi to the next treasure location. I retire to to my balcony to once again share the events of the day with you swearing never again to underestimate the power of intention.

The Green School

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Today I am sending you to a link for the Green School here in Bali. There are conscious efforts in many U.S. cities to teach children to be more self-sufficient and ecology minded. In Bali they have taken it to another level. Please check out the website and see a school that was built ‘green’ and teaches ‘green.’

We Wash Their Brains

Mr. Jati has been making art for 50 years. He is passionate about his work. But I didn’t know that until the other morning I notice the door to his studio is open. Dewa, Mr. Jati’s son, had told me I could go in any time, that his father would show me the paintings. Still, climbing the 8 or so steps to his door and announcing myself up to that moment hadn’t seemed appropriate. But on this day, with the open door issuing an invitation, I make the climb and peek in. “Hello? Mr. Jati, Hello?” I don’t know what I had expected, but a man shorter than my 5’2″ in a sarong and short-sleeved shirt buttoned haphazardly was not it. “Mr. Jati?” I ask. “Yes, yes, come in, please.” He is beaming and I immediately feel at ease. “Would it be alright to look at your paintings?” I ask politely. “Yes, yes, please,” he says again.

In very good English, he describes his work, the techniques he uses, the books he has read about art, the countries where he has held exhibitions, and the man’s love for his craft radiates from every pore of his being. There are three huge (I mean 5 x 8 foot) canvases with sketches lining one wall. There are easels with somewhat smaller canvases that have some shading applied to them on the other side of the room. And there are several canvases with the figures and vegetation already showing the colors that Mr. Jati had chosen in another area. His depiction of traditional Balinese life rendered in rich pastels holds me enthralled. I ask him why he is painting so many at once. “They come in my head!” he says, going on to explain that he is also preparing for an exhibition in Jakarta in 2013. “I need 30 to 45 paintings at least,” he tells me.

Picture compliments of website cited below:

http://www.agungraigallery.com/artist-detail/dewa-nyoman-jati/

I stare at his creations so beautifully and expertly rendered from a memory of what Bali used to be. After thoroughly absorbing the art I thank him and give him my best hands-together-incline-the-head gesture of gratitude. He beams again and says, “Come back tomorrow, I will have more.” The next day I don’t have to search for him. He greets me as I come out my door and says, “I will interrupt your day to show you again my art!” I have to chuckle as I follow him up the stairs. Sure enough! The man is prolific! He has several more semi-completed canvases. I am amazed and I tell him so. He beams.

The next morning I visit with Dewa over breakfast. We talk about his father’s art and the beautiful and complex traditions of the Balinese people. I ask Dewa if he thinks the next generation will continue to follow Hinduism and preserve the culture. He nods with an emphatic “Yes!” “Really?” I reply, “You seem quite sure.” He flashes one of those brilliant smiles and says,”From very little we take the babies to the temple every day,” then with that mischievous grin of his he continues, “we wash their brains!” After the initial shock and a good laugh I think to myself, in the U.S. we have a similar system. It’s called television.

Holy motorbikes!

As adventures go, today gets a perfect 10. It had all the required elements: suspense, terror, discovery, delight. To say that I have an uneasy relationship with motorbikes would be, well, a lie. I am white-knuckle-clench-jaw terrified of riding on any motorized vehicle with only two wheels. So when Wayan invited me to visit their home I was thrilled until she said she would pick me up on her motorbike. My big smile did an instant melt-down. “Motorbike?” I squeaked. “Yes,” she flashed her own lovely smile, “you ride on the back. I will take you.” Face it. An opportunity to visit this Balinese family in a village about 30 minutes away, to experience first-hand how these beautiful people live, just doesn’t come along every day. There was no way I was not going.

Suspense. Wayan was coming at 4:00. By 2:00 I was feeling knots in my stomach. At 3:00 my palms were sweaty. By the time I heard the sound of a motor approaching at 3:55 I was hyperventilating. Taking a deep, cleansing breath I grabbed my bag and went out to meet her. She strapped me into a helmet, popped the back foot rests down and I climbed on. My grip on her rib-cage probably permanently rearranged her vital organs. Terror!  Then off we went. Traffic on the streets in Bali is frightening enough when I’m walking on the sidewalk. But to be weaving in and out between tour buses and hundreds of other bikes similar to hers, horns blaring, without anything protecting my fragile body, put me in a catatonic state. I clung to Wayan’s tiny middle for dear life.

After a few miles we left Ubud. The air was fresh, traffic was light, and in spite of myself I began to enjoy the ride. I don’t believe I said that! But its true. Upon arrival at her home I was introduced to her husband, Komang, and their adorable son. Komang works at the reception desk of a high-end resort spa. Both Komang and Wayan speak very good English.

My tour of their home commenced. I followed Komang to the family temple area. As he explained the function of each of the structures and what they represent I was struck anew by the dailiness of their beliefs. There is no separation between the secular and the holy. They are interwoven so seamlessly that one is unrecognizable without the other.

Komang explained that each of the small buildings in the temple area has a purpose. One is for making offerings to honor the ancestors. One receives offerings for safety. Another, offerings for prosperity. One that struck me with particular impact was the edifice that represented caring about doing good work. They make offerings and prayers, daily, for caring about doing good work. With all these prayers, setting the intention for such goodness, its little wonder that Bali is a very special place.

Did I mention that I was an instant celebrity here. Upon arrival children began to gather around me. No matter what I did or said they found it hilariously funny. They have mastered the words, ‘Hello’ and ‘Bye.’ But they mostly like Hello, so every few minutes one of them would blurt out, “Hello!” and wait expectantly for my answering, “Hello!” Then they would all laugh uproariously.

 

 

The Balinese lifestyle is completely different from ours in the West in other ways too. They have a house for sleeping, a separate house for cooking, a place for the ceremonies of marriage and death, and the temple area. All of these are surrounded by a wall, maybe 8 feet high. The buildings are small by Western standards, but most of life is lived outside. And why wouldn’t it be in this climate where as the saying goes, “Even a rock, if planted, will grow.”

There is a stream that runs a little distance from the house. Earlier Wayan had pointed to it saying that this is where she does her laundry. Huh? Sometimes I have to catch myself so that my shock and disbelief don’t offend. A few moments later she added that this is also where the women bathe every morning at 6 a.m. “Men too?” I asked. “No, men go somewhere else.” As I said, much of life is lived outside.

When we returned from our walk through the neighborhood, Wayan disappeared into the kitchen building and emerged a few minutes later with a treat. It was fresh coconut milk, straight from the coconut, which was harvested from one of the three coconut palms on their property. Then Komang’s mother joined us. She takes care of their mischievous three-year-old while Wayan and Komang work six days a week.

 

After refreshments Wayan and Komang offered to take me to the night market. Even though it meant another motorbike ride, my curiosity triumphed and off we went. There were no tourists there tonight, and we strolled through the isles, Komang carrying his son and Wayan holding my arm. I saw many Balinese women walking arm in arm and I felt much love for this little family that has so warmly welcomed me into their lives.

 

 

There were food vendors everywhere and the knawing in my stomach reminded me that Wayan and Komang had come straight from work and were probably hungry too. Komang pointed out the various dishes naming them. “And this one is bubur ayam…” he had barely gotten the words out of his mouth and I interjected, “Oh! Can we stop and have some? I will buy your dinner. I love bubur ayam!” My gracious host and hostess agreed. Three heaping bowls of the savory dish were presented and what a delicious treat it was. Three bowls of bubur ayam and beverages set me back a whopping $2.00.

As we finished our meal the sky looked like it may be working up to another twilight downpour. We quickly returned to the motorbikes and straddling the trusty machine, I once again wrapped my arms around Wayan’s waist. Waving goodby and thanks to Komang, we set off to beat the rain. What a spectacular day. And, thanks to Wayan, I think I may have overcome a major phobia involving two-wheeled, motorized vehicles!

 

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