Escaping the Shelter

I’ve waxed poetic to whoever will listen about the return of the electric blue bird with neon orange beak and feet. He disappeared several years ago. And the clever jumping squirrel is back. He, too, has been gone for a long while. Butterflies are mating in my garden once more doing their tandem spiral dance. And dragonflies, by the hundreds it seems, flit about like mini helicopters.

It’s because of this:

No tourists and no traffic. Just a construction worker pushing a wheelbarrow and a dog lazing on the sidewalk.

How did I acquire these photos when I’m supposed to be sheltering in place?

Once in a blue moon I allow myself to walk to the end of the long gang that takes me to the Delta convenience store that is – well – convenient. It’s located on Monkey Forest Road right at the end of my path. I’ve walked that trail a total of three times in the past three weeks and I’ve never met another soul coming or going. It’s an adventure of mammoth proportions and I linger, chatting with the young man behind the counter, asking him whatever I can dream up to make conversation.

“Oh! You have two different kinds of batteries. Will you check the price for me please?” (Nothing in this shop has a price on it.)

He does my bidding and tells me very respectfully that the black package is ninety thousand rupiah and the red is only sixty thousand. I thank him and tell him I’ll take the red.

He sees me eyeing two brands of peanut butter. “I will check the price, Ibu.” (Ibu is a sweet form of respect loosely translated as ma’am, or mother.)

“Thank you.” Their difference is only a few rupiah and this time I take the more expensive one. “It’s very quiet on the street,” I say as I return the unwanted jar to the shelf. “How many people come in the shop in one day?”

“Maybe two or three,” he says. “Until at night. Then it gets a little busy.”

“They come in after work?”

“Not many people working, Ibu.”

He was right. I shook my head. “I know. Very hard times for Bali.” As he was ringing up my items I asked if I could take his photo for Facebook.

“Yes, of course.”

“And the shop, too?” Again he gave me a thumbs-up.

This was a SOCIAL EVENT the equivalent of a masquerade ball. It felt so special. I wore a mask, of course, and stayed a good distance from my cashier friend. Then I walked home.

The path to the Delta shop and Monkey Forest Road

Once inside, hands and purchases washed, I ripped open the bag of Zananas. The yellow packaging had caught my eye – a new item in the shop – and anything that says spicy these days is on my radar. While munching on a handful of the chili-coated banana chips I flipped to the back to read the nutritional info and nearly choked.

  • Two servings per package.
  • One serving = 1000 calories.

That’s like 9/10ths of of my daily food intake. I could have one serving of Zananas and a bowl of sprouts to fulfill my sedentary lifestyle limit.

I didn’t spit them out but I made a note to self that unless I wanted to double my size in a New York minute, this bag of treats should last a month.

In my old life – walking, walking, walking – I never counted calories. I ate healthy food and maintained my weight. But in this new life – resting, napping, dozing – a bit of vigilance is required.

Preparing and eating a meal has become one of the high points of every day. I’m grateful for anything that provides entertainment. The Delta convenience store. The cute cashier. My tropical garden. Thunderstorms. The walk-able path. Monkeys in the morning. Rats in the attic at night… The rats have actually provided a week of comic relief. But that’s another story!

It stands to reason if the desirable animals are staging a comeback, the undesirables aren’t far behind.

Hmmm. It just occurred to me. Forget the sprouts. Zananas and a glass of wine, that’s close enough to the calorie quota, and it must be 5:00 somewhere…

Bali Nights

I talk a lot about the fabulous days and very little about the night life in Bali. That’s because I hadn’t ventured out to find it. But the past two nights I’ve been part of the after-dark-action and I’m lovin’ it!

No trip to Bali would be complete without seeing a Kekak Fire Dance. It is a colorful theatrical production of Ramayana, a Hindu epic story. The orchestra is composed of a male chorus of 100 men called the gamelan suara. They sit in a circle are bare chested and wear checked sarongs. Their sing-chant continues throughout the entire hour and a half performance and adds considerably to the drama.

The only lighting is the flaming tiered device in the center. The performance takes place inside the circle of men. The women move slowly, hands and fingers doing things that most hands and fingers were never made to do. Their feet, too, are moved carefully, deliberately, at odd angles.

The story is high drama with love, jealousy, deceit, heartbreak, battle and a stunning rescue scene when Hanoman, the white monkey, shows up.

Following the Fire Dance is the Sanghyang, or Trance Dance. The function of this dance is to protect society against evil forces and epidemics. The hobby horse is associated with trance in Balinese culture so in this Trance Dance the man performing the dance is symbolically riding a hobby horse through a bed of burning coconut husks. He has been lulled into trance by the repetitive sounds of the gamelan suara.

Men with rake type brooms, wearing tennis shoes, push the burning hulls back into the center after each firey pass-through made by the man with the horse who, you can see, was barefoot.

How does he do that??? He is obviously in an altered state because he kept running back into the fire, over and over again, until two men from the gamelan pulled him away.

The dancers posed on the staircase for photographs after the show. The costuming is spectacular.

The female dancers are simply exquisite and dance brilliantly. The performance is of a calibre that could command the stage at Orchestra Hall or the new Cowles Center for the Arts.

Tonight is quite a different scene. It is the full moon festival and grand opening of the new facility at the Yoga Barn.

The moon is glowing just to the right of the roof of the new building. Notice the gentle curve to the staircase. I can’t help think about commercial building codes when I look at structures in Bali. Hundreds of people went up and down that stair tonight and the first step down off the top platform was definitely a bigger drop than any of the others. I guess uniformity is nice if the math works out, but unnecessary if it doesn’t. Wish that’s how my high school algebra teacher thought!

In the yoga pavilion at the top of the spiral staircase hundreds of mats are spread on the floor in readiness for the evening. But before the festivities begin, a Balinese Holy Man walks through the crowd of seated yogis sprinkling holy water on each one of us. Nothing in Bali happens without the blessing of the Holy Man and he has pronounced this an auspicious night for a grand opening.

The grounds flicker with luminaries everywhere. A group of Balinese men sit by a mound of coconuts all night, chopping off the tops and making them available to anyone who wants fresh coconut milk. On the other side of the platform there are little food packets of rice, chilis, green beans, fried tempe, and tofu available. Everything is free on this special evening.

But the high point of the evening for me was meeting Andrea, from Oslo, Norway. She’s here for five weeks getting yoga certification training. I told her I have relatives in Oslo. We had a deep philosophical discussion about the meaning of uff-dah. It was magical.

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