The Village That Time Forgot – Making Kue – Scritch-Scratch

Morning in the mountains comes early. Abang Songan awakens its people by alarm at 6 a.m.

WeeaaaahhhhWeeaaaahhhhWeeaaahhhh it screams. School children roll out of bed, babies cry, dogs bark, and cooking fires are stoked. The kitchen is the hub of the world. It’s no different here. A stone fireplace with two holes in the top where the pots sit to cook holds a smoking blaze that is fed continually throughout the day. P1060187Someone outside the bedroom door summons Wayan. Without a word, she gathers her blanket and slips out. I linger a few more minutes under my cozy covers, then reach for clothing. Everyone else sleeps fully dressed. I peer around the room looking for signs of my nocturnal visitor. None are evident, not even telltale droppings.

I wipe my face with the still wet cloth and pull out a mirror to inspect the damages of my eventful night. Hmmm. Puffy eye-bags. I grab the fleece jacket and step outside. The mixture of woodsmoke and mountain air smells like fall in Minnesota, but all similarity ends there.


I pause to soak in the hazy purple of Mt. Abang silhouetted against the awakening sky. Majesty. The word springs to my lips and I breathe it out like a prayer. Majesty. But the urgency in my bladder cuts short my meditation. The bathroom is unoccupied. I wonder if I’m the only one who uses it. At least twenty family members live in this compound with only one bathroom yet I never see anyone else head that direction. But muddy footprints on the tile floor assure me that others also heed the morning call of nature.

Voices emanate from the kitchen building and I cross the sun-baked earthen yard and stoop through the doorway. Grandpa is seated on a low stool by the fire, warming his arthritic legs. Grandma, her head in a towel turban, pours rice into massive plastic tubs. I don’t know how I understand what she’s telling me because Grandma speaks only Balinese and I know only a smattering of Indonesian. But it’s clear to me that one tub holds regular rice and the contents of the other is glutinous rice.


As soon as my sleepy face appears, a staccato chorus of voices issues commands. A sister-in-law is shooed off a stool and Grandpa commandeers it. He sets it beside him, close to the fire, and motions me to sit. Grandma bustles and a steaming glass of white coffee with a plate of sweets is offered. It is implicitly understood by everyone here that I am the queen of everything. Heaven and the gods forbid if anything I want should go unattended. I’m always seated first in the best spot. I am fed before anyone else, even the holy man who usually reigns supreme, with portions sufficient to satisfy an entire family for a week.

I eat and converse with Grandpa who, in spite of his age, speaks Indonesian. Most of the elders in this community never attended school and the younger ones learn the language but don’t have occasion to use it unless they leave the village.

English is required for work in the tourist industry. The teens are taught basic grammar by Indonesian teachers. Wayan shows me her workbook from English class. The author is not a native English speaker. I can barely understand it. “What’s the point?” I murmur out loud.

“What?” asks Wayan.

“Nothing,” I say, then add, “Difficult?”

“Yes,” she nods. I would imagine so.

The fire melts me and smoke stings my eyes. Two wives sit in front of huge baskets of garlic and onions, one peels, the other smashes. It’s something I know how to do.


I stand up and tell Grandpa I’m too hot. I move toward the vegetables. The women scramble to rearrange themselves and they clear a spot for me to sit on a higher bench. I shake my head and thank them as I pick up a bud of garlic and begin to lower myself to the floor. Everyone speaks at once. Loosely translated I’m sure they’re saying, “Oh my god! She’s going to sit on the floor! Somebody get that stool under her lily white bum immediately! Do you think she can peel an onion? OH MY GOD!!!” A stool slides under my backside before it reaches the ground. An extra knife appears for me. For the next few hours I’m just a woman peeling onions, or so I’d like to think. I can only stand the boredom of being queen for so long.

The women are rescued from my help when Ketut’s brother sticks his head in and says he’ll take me to the machine. How can I resist such an offer? I bid my co-workers farewell, the queen has been summoned elsewhere.

It’s a quick walk to another uncle’s home. As we pass through a gateway steps lead down the mountainside. Sheets of plywood hold confections that are drying in the sun.

In Ubud where many Balinese women work outside the home, the delicacies needed for offerings are purchased at the market. There simply isn’t time to make them. But that’s not the case in Abang Songan. These women may spend part of their days cutting the long bladed grasses to feed the livestock, pick beans or uproot potatoes, and cook everything from scratch, but they still work hundreds of hours making the various kinds of kue that especially please the unseen deities.

The thrum of a motor comes from one of the buildings. I’m invited inside to see the machine. And what a multipurpose contraption it is!

The large silver box in the forefront houses sharp blades that turn coconut flesh into dust. The far end has a funnel where rice is dumped and comes out the bottom transformed into flour. The middle chute is for grinding coffee beans into the powder that makes the thick, black, Bali kopi. Uncle dumps several cups of rice into the far chute. The operation takes mere seconds and the flour is ready.

The coconut dust is returned to Grandma’s kitchen where moisture is squeezed out, handful by handful.


I can’t believe it’s still morning. There’s a bamboo structure going up in the space between houses and the men have strung a blue plastic tarp over the top.

Low tables appear out of nowhere and are placed in the shelter. Around noon, men with knives assemble. Woodchips fly as they carve the hundreds of sticks needed for chicken and fish satays. One uncle is a renowned singer. He serenades with Balinese songs while the men whittle away.

Meanwhile, the coconut sans it’s milk, and the rice flour, have been pummeled with a heavy mallet in a stone bowl until the remaining moisture in the coconut melds with the flour and a fine textured substance forms. The dough-like mixture is rolled into logs and sliced into round chunks with a string. Each round is placed inside a banana leaf collar that was made earlier for this purpose. Then the contents is maneuvered by hand until it perfectly fills the collar. The same process is used to make caramel colored kue by adding palm sugar to the already tasty mix.

At another table, rice, coconut, and sugar, are being blended with coloring for a rainbow-like kue. First the white mixture is spread in the bottom of a round pie-plate followed by two colored layers.

Ibu lowers the finished product into one of the steaming kettles and covers it. One hour later it’s removed, sliced diagonally into striped pieces, and wrapped in cellophane. This presents another opportunity for me to assist. Only the most basic, mindless activities are available to me.  Everything else requires a skillset that I don’t possess…may never possess. I’m quite sure you have to be born with it.

Just when I think I’ve seen it all, that no way could there be another kue process today, I stick my head back into the kitchen. There’s Komang slicing banana leaves into small squares. Her mother and sister-in-law are shaping balls of sweet rice with shredded carrot mixed in and wrapping them in the leaf squares. They’re secured with a needle sharp sliver of bamboo. These will also be steamed to perfection and served to the workers and guests who will descend on this compound tomorrow.

And where are the children during this process? There are two under the age of two, one five year old, one six year old who is my favorite. He has Downs Syndrome. And there are two more who attend grade school. Wayan, my fourteen-year-old roommate, is only here to help out with the ceremony. Usually she lives with her mother three miles away.

The children, even the youngest ones, rarely cry. Sometimes they ride in a scarf sling across the chest of a family member. But most often they entertain themselves outside, with a ball, a tricycle, or a training bike. Oh, and the fingernails! Probably something left over from Nyepi, the night of the ghouls. These are the only toys unless they’re lucky enough to snag a smart phone from Bapak! They know how to manipulate the games and music, a feat that, once again, is far beyond me.

This fascinating day seemed endless before breakfast. As the sun sets I think longingly, with a little apprehension, about bed. I wonder if the mystery guest will return. Maybe it was a one night stand. I can only hope. But any thoughts of an early lights out is short-lived. “Go to…what word?” Ketut says, expecting me to somehow read his mind and fill in the blanks.

“Where?” I ask.

“Play play,” he says. “Need money a little.”

All I can do is repeat, “Play play?” with a question mark.

“Ya, you go,” he says.

I stuff some rupiah in my pocket and Wayan grabs my arm. We join the family heading out the gate and down the road. Then it gets trippy. Really trippy! In the distance I can see what looks like…it couldn’t be…

P1060262…a fair?

There’s a merry-go-round and all the horses are white. Solid white. There’s a tent full of balls and bouncing children. There are food vendors, a ring toss and various other opportunities to try to hit items with green tennis balls. But the crowning glory, chugging and belching diesel fumes, is the ferris wheel. In America where there are regulatory laws, safety standards, certain expectations of mechanical proficiency even at the County Fair level, I’m still wary of the ferris wheel. It’s enchanting from a distance but as we approach I get a severe case of the willies. P1060263It’s held together with screwed on pieces of wood and lengths of chain. Wayan, still gripping my arm, hauls me to the entrance. There’s no line and only a handful of the little gondola cars, swinging and wobbling around and around, are occupied. “Saya takut!” I shout over the din of the engine. I’M SCARED!

“Sama Saya!” she yells back, SO AM I. But it appears that sheer terror isn’t enough to get me out of this one. Two more members of the family crowd behind us and I pay the 20,000 rupiah, about $1.75 U.S., for four riders. P1060267Wayan and I step through a creaky door into our chariot. I flash a quick photo of Wayan’s serene face as the car shudders, groans, and begins its ascent. How did I get myself into this? It’s my last thought before our rickety bucket sways to a stop at the very top.


I have a handy trick when things in life get too difficult. I take a short vacation from my body. It often feels a little like this as we hover in that swaying cab high above the twinkling darkness. Typically I love a bird’s eye view, a lofty perch. But this is a nightmare! Wayan and I get my money’s worth. We circle for thirty minutes or more. Are they doing it for the benefit of the only foreigner ever to set foot in their precious ferris wheel? Who knows? But I kiss the feet of the tattooed goth who finally frees me from my horrible cage!

P1060268Oh what a night. On legs more than a little shaky, I allow myself to be led to another ride where we wait a small eternity for the children to finish their turn. It has almost stopped when a group of giggling youth bound up to Wayan. She shrieks, hugs her friends, then turns to me, “Maaf,” she says, SORRY, and departs with cheerier company.


It takes so little to make these children happy. One ride on the green caterpillar and they’re ready to go home. One ride on the nasty wheel and I’m also ready. I join them for the trek back along the rutted road in the dark. Someone switches on a phone light for me. It seems I am not endowed with telepathic night vision like my Balinese friends.

My room awaits. I thank my guides for getting me home and the gods that I survived the ferris wheel. There’s no pretense of a bedtime wash-up tonight. I pull on my night shirt and leggings, peel back the blanket, and sink my weary bones into the mattress remembering as I do, the light switch 7.5 feet away. In a replay of the pevious night, I lunge, hit the switch, and fall back onto my pillow. Ahhhh. At last. I begin to drift. Scritch-scratch…

COMING…DAY THREE: The great chicken massacre etc. etc.

The Night Market at Mas

Question:  What do you get when you cross a Hindu ceremony with a Balinese all night market?  Answer: Sensory overload!

When Ketut asked, “You want to go to different market?” and I responded “What is different?” I was operating on the assumption it would be the same kind of market in a different location. Assumptions. Ketut expanded, “Night time, whole night, by temple, big football field.” I sought further clarification, “You mean all night? 24/7? No close?” Yes, that is exactly what he meant.

Of course I want to go, and my friend, Nancy, who is visiting me from the U.S., wants to go too. I picture a series of small shops around the perimeter of a large open area beside a temple. Why does my mind do that? Why do I presume to know what to expect? I do it every time and every time I’m astonished by something so utterly and completely unexpected it blows my tiny mind.

At 6:00 p.m. we’re ready. We have our sarongs in a bag to tie on when necessary. Ketut arrives, takes one look and says, “Pasek already sarong.” Okay, we need to wear our sarongs. At 6:30 we are still struggling to wrap the 2 meters of fabric in a semi secure fashion that doesn’t include an unsightly bulge around the mid-section. We both look about 8 months pregnant. It isn’t working. Finally, sweating bullets and laughing because it beats crying, we agree to quit trying to make it perfect and just go. I’m packaged like a tootsie-roll pop. Walking is a challenge.

I start to mount the motorbike (sidesaddle of course) and Ketut patiently repositions me. Since they drive on the left side of the road it is less likely my protruding knees will snag a passing vehicle if they stick out on the left. (Yes, the oncoming traffic is THAT CLOSE!) I glance at Nancy. She has hiked up her much more loosely wrapped sarong and is straddling the back of of Pasek’s bike. She’s taking no chances.

My first clue that the Mas Night Market may be a cut above the norm is the traffic jam. Suddenly every motorbike in creation has converged on this point. As we inch our way forward I notice a temporary toll booth of sorts. It is a chair in the middle of the road with a sign on it. The attendant standing beside it collects the fee. And then I see them…rows upon rows of motorbikes lined up two deep as far as the eye can see on both sides of the street. Ketut and Pasek make a few adjustments to the arrangement and we’re parked. We join the throngs. The flowing sea of humanity reminds me of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Here however, out of literally hundreds of people, Nancy and I are the ONLY tourists.

Nancy pauses outside the huge stone entrance to the temple area and Pasek waits just inside the gate

Pasek on the left, Nancy on the right and in the background a parade of people, all in ceremonial dress, bring  their offerings into the temple

In another area of the temple people sit amid flower petals praying

This altar is adorned with rich fabrics and loaded with offerings

I still hesitate to take photos in the temples during ceremonies. It feels intrusive and disrespectful. The Balinese are always gracious and invite snoopy folks to photograph whatever they want. So it may be just me. But I cringe when I see some guy in shorts with a telephoto lens as long as Pinocchio’s nose, climbing on whatever is handy however sacred it might be, shooting, shooting, shooting. At the very least wear a sarong…try! Fortunately there were none of those types around on this particular night.

We leave the other-worldliness of the temple and are thrust into the earthly business of buying and selling. Carried along with the flow, we pass blankets spread on the ground with mounds of lace fabrics. Women are pulling out colors they like and looking through the merchandise just as I would around a bargain table in the U.S. There are wind-up toys, watches, jeans, t-shirts, underwear, jewelry, sarongs, balloons, tennis shoes, sandals, motorbike parts, and food…lots and lots of food. The aroma from this particular warung cannot to be ignored. We try three different kinds of satays.

Making and selling satays in the Mas Night Market

And they are delicious…smokey, spicy, mouth wateringly delicious!

I’m lovin’ this fish satay. Pasek is being his stoic, patient self. He’s a saint!

I notice a stall where that beautiful feminine undergarment of torture, the corset, is on display in abundance. I need one. I have the sarong and the lacy kebaya, but to be 100% correct I need the strapless push-up-pull-in-rib-crushing corset to complete the look. In spite of the human current pushing me I slow way down. Pasek, a few steps ahead but ever-vigilant lest he lose one of us, is immediately beside me. “You want to buy?” Somehow the vision of one of those adorable little Balinese girls strapping me into the most intimate of undergarments in front of the gods, and Pasek, and everybody gives me pause. A corset that doesn’t fit is worse than no corset at all, and the retelling of the story of me being sausaged into one would provide enough entertainment in the village for weeks to come. What am I thinking!? Common sense surfaces and we move on.

There must be something about greasy fried food that triggers a neural response. The warungs selling heaps of piseng goreng (banana fritters) and other deep fat fried bready foods are like magnets. We cave to our salivating taste buds. I point to one heaping mound and two handfuls of the stuff goes into a bag. Before I can ask the price two heaping handfuls of something else goes into the bag. I started to speak but STOP!!! doesn’t seem appropriate so I watch in fascinated horror while the bag is filled with two or three handfuls of everything. It comes to a dollar.

We agree it is time to head back to the peaceful sanity of Ubud. The motorbikes are located and the Polisi directing traffic gets us safely on our way.

Leaving the night market

The ride home is uneventful in the best possible sense of the word. Pasek and Ketut join Nancy and me on the balcony for tea and mounds of greasy delights. I forgot to mention that each deep-fried handful was accompanied by two or three whole green chilies.  And what do you know…a bite of fritter and a bite of chili when chewed up together in the same mouthful…bliss!

Oh what a night!

Meet Dewa, #1 Guide, Host, and Friend

Dewa says I must bathe in the sacred waters of Tirta Empul before I leave Bali. It will purify my mind and body. So this morning at 9 o’clock sharp I do as I have been instructed, don my sarong and sash then off we go. “Why the sash?” I ask Dewa as he weaves through the maze of motorbikes in early morning traffic. My Balinese walking Wikipedia thoughtfully asks a question in return, “There is the mind, and there is the body…what is a better English word for the desire of the body?” Now it’s my turn to ask a question. “Do you mean all the desires? The desire of the body for food, for sleep, for sex?” (It’s okay. We’ve had these conversations!) “Yes, for sex,” he replies. “Well, that depends,” I say. “If desire is accompanied by caring and deep feeling it is a good word. If it is purely desire with no emotional attachment you could call it lust.” By now I think I have an idea where this is going. Dewa confirms my suspicions. “The sash is to separate the mind from the sexual desires of the body when you enter the temple,” he tells me. In this culture there’s a purpose for every item of clothing, every ritual, every ceremony.

We arrive at Tirta Empul and walk through the serenity of the the gardens.

The statue is Saraswati, a female Hindu water deity.

There isn’t really grass anywhere. It’s a tiny, round leaf plant that is used for ground cover.

And here is Dewa. Always happy, always patient. The plastic bag contains offerings for our time in the sacred waters.

Before we enter the cleansing pool, Dewa takes out the three offerings made by his mother, and lights the incense.

He places the offerings on the altar along with many others. Now it is okay to enter the water.

He says I should go first. I sit down on the edge and notice there are a great many fish that are sharing this experience with me. Some are medium, some are an edible size. I decide it isn’t much different than swimming in a Minnesota lake. As I put my feet and legs in the water I detect another similarity. It’s COLD! This is fresh spring water and as such it is deep-earth cooled. I slip into the chest high water with a little gasp. There are 12 gushing spouts and I am to bow under each one of these and make a prayer.

That’s me about half way through. By this time I’ve got it down and I’m totally into the experience.

Dewa follows. It’s quite a lengthy process, this cleansing of the body!

The second pool is for the mind. There are six spouts but you only use one. I wait patiently for the privilege of cleansing my mind.

The ritual cleansing completed, we go back to the locker room, change into dry sarongs, and depart for the next leg of the journey. Our second stop is the home of a famous batik designer. Following a narrow walkway from the street, we come to a large room. Thirteen women sit at makeshift drafting tables, each with a length of fabric and a bowl of hot wax. Using a paintbrush they painstakingly apply wax to the fabric in all the areas where the dye is not wanted. The wax is a deep amber color and the waxed pieces are beautiful before they are even dyed.

The next room holds the huge vats of dye. The fabric is soaked in the color then hung to dry.

Once dry, the pieces are moved into the next room to await wax removal. In this factory the batik is done on cotton, linen and silk. They are limited edition fabrics. Only a few of each of the designs are made. The quality is magnificent. You won’t find these in the market!

The contents of the two huge, black cauldrons in the center of the room is heated with a wood fire. The dyed material is placed in a cauldron and the wax melts leaving the raw white fabric showing through creating the design. If more pattern and color is desired the piece is returned to the wax room to have a new application placed over the dyed areas. Now when it is dipped in a different color the already treated portions will not be disturbed.

Here is a block of the amber wax. Pieces are sliced off and melted for the women to use in the fabric waxing room.

I so appreciate the opportunity to see the Balinese people doing what they have done for hundreds of years for the most part unchanged. It can be a severe shock for those of us coming from the industrialized West. Most tour guides take you to the showrooms. There you will find a few pretty vignettes where Balinese people demonstrate how jewelry is made, or batik fabrics are created. Then you are ushered into the main area with row upon row of glittering jewelry cases or racks of fabrics for sale. The average tourist doesn’t have a clue that these staged presentations are light years removed from the reality of how the products are created.

We thank the batik workers for allowing us a peek into their world then head for the ocean. The last stop today is a fishing village where we will have lunch. The roads get narrower and narrower. Dewa reminds me that this is not a place where tourists go. This is a village of Balinese fisherman and our ‘shore lunch’ will consist of today’s catch, whatever it is.

The road ends at the beach and the black volcanic sand begins.

Dewa poses beside one of the colorful fishing boats, still smiling!

Our mystery fish is being grilled over a coconut husk fire while we watch. As it sizzles, it is basted with a mixture of garlic paste mixed in coconut oil then flipped and basted again. The skin is scored with several diagonal cuts before it goes on the grill so the garlic mixture can penetrate into the meat. The end result is yet another gastronomical delight!

Here it is, grilled fish, water spinach, and rice mixed with sweet potato. Notice the candle. We had a good laugh about our candlelight lunch on the beach!

Last but not least, fish satays. These are wickedly hot little globs of fish mixed with various chilies and spices then grilled. I ate one. Dewa polished off the rest.

The shoreline gracefully curves, embracing the incoming waves. Mountains at the horizon are hazy blue.

This one almost got me!

Time to go, but as we leave we stop to watch this woman make short work of a fish. It is round and flat, I’m guessing flounder. Squatting by the side of the road she has it gutted, the fins chopped off, flesh scored and ready for the grill in a few swift flicks of that knife. Even dressing a fish, in the skillful hands of a master, is poetry!

What an amazing day. I think I have said that about every single day for the past two months. I also think, no matter how long I might stay, there would be no end to amazing days.  I love this place, my new friends here, and the ancient ways that anchor me to something more permanent than my life.

Here Comes the Balinese Bride!

A traditional Balinese wedding takes three days. It goes something like this:

Day 1: The groom goes to the home of the bride and informs the family that he wants to marry her. This of course has been planned for years so it comes as no surprise to anyone. The family and friends of the groom begin to prepare his family compound for the wedding.

Day 2: The groom returns to the bride’s home, gathers her and her belongings, and takes her to his home which is with his family. Family and friends continue with the decoration and preparations. Three pigs are slaughtered in the morning and two in the afternoon to make bbq’d pork satays for the 1500 guests that have been invited.

Day 3: The bride awakens at 3:00 a.m. and meets with her makeup team. Both the bride and groom are painted and polished until they absolutely glow. There is an abundance of gold in the headdresses, the fabrics, and the jewelry that they both wear. The groom has a sword tucked in the back of his cummerbund, similar to Prince Rama from Hindu lore.  The guests begin arriving early, about 9:00 a.m., although there is an order that is loosely followed, relatives first, then close friends start coming a little later, and finally the third tier of relationship. In this case he is a dentist and she is a professor teaching nursing students.  Their co-workers are invited and other business related acquaintances of the families.

Guests enter from the street through an elaborate arch of woven palm fronds and flowers. There is a long table with the guest book at one end and chafing dishes holding an array of delicacies. Each guest is given a small woven bamboo leaf plate and we help ourselves.

This is a picture looking back at the reception table.

As I arrive the Holy Man is blessing the couple and performing a wedding ritual in this highly decorated pavilion.

They are just completing the first ritual. There are many more to follow as the different groups arrive.

The bride and groom move to these elaborate thrones for family photos.

A very handsome family indeed!

The couple then moves to the Western equivalent of a receiving line. Note the exotic headdresses worn by both.

The bride is exquisite and the groom is so handsome.

I sat by this guest later and complimented her on her hand. “Tatoo,” she said. I murmured, “Beautiful.” and quietly thought, Ouch!

From the receiving line we move into another area of the compound that has been tented and a huge buffet awaits. As an uninvited guest I do not presume to help myself to the food but find a chair in the shade and watch, enjoying the colors, the people, the happiness. In a matter of moments a Balinese woman approaches me and in the universal language of hand signals and head nods invites me to partake. I smile and delightedly accept.

The tables are arranged in a horseshoe shape. They hold Indonesian delights: tuna tempura with sambal, curried tofu and vegetables, chicken rolls, pork satay, tempe, batter fried green beans, of course rice, and pistachio ice cream for dessert.

Guests mostly sit at tables and on chairs that have been draped with white fabric and red accents, talking, laughing, eating.

On the left is the tented buffet. This is a small section of the seated guests. I must say a word about the attire of the female guests. I take the opportunity to really scrutinize the outfits in their various forms. Most of the ladies are wearing a sheer lace blouse like the one front and center. But upon close inspection, underneath that lace is a tight CORSET!! The corset is sometimes the same color as the lace, sometimes flesh colored, and sometimes a bright contrasting color. The lace blouse extends down to mid-thigh but is usually secured at the waist by a cummerbund or scarf often of the same pattern as the sarong.

The lace plunges to a ‘V’ in the front sometimes secured by a lovely pin as you can see on the woman in brown at the left of the photo above. The Balinese are not shy about mixing patterns and color! I see every imaginable combination and it is all simply spectacular.

When I purchased my sarong for the event I had no idea if I would be appropriately dressed. Putu informed me that I should wear a T-shirt, not a sleeveless top. So here’s what my attempt at a wedding outfit looks like. Next time I’ll have my tight corset and lace shirt!

About now you’re probably asking, “How does Sherry know about Balinese weddings?” Let me say again, the Balinese people are incredibly kind and hospitable. At one point the lovely young woman in the next photo, Desak is her name, approached me to make certain I had eaten. She spoke beautiful English and was kind enough to explain what was happening. She is a cousin of the groom, a Kindergarten teacher, and is eagerly anticipating her own wedding in about six months.

She tells me she wants four children, then adds that the Balinese government is suggesting that couples have just two. “It’s for the population, so it doesn’t get too large for the island.” I think I must have looked shocked. “But it’s still okay to have four,” she explains with a huge smile.

Back in my room I am suddenly overwhelmed with intense gratitude for the people I’ve met, my precious time here in Bali, and the opportunity to learn first-hand about their customs and time-honored traditions. It is a privilege that feels sacred. It feeds my soul.

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