Building a House in Bali – big stones arrive

We had polished off a killer meal of Lake Batur fish and copious amounts of Bintang. We’d solved half the world’s problems and discussed the other half ad nauseum. The mosquito coil lay in ashes on the floor, spent. The guests had gone home and I was reaching to turn off the garden lights when a bush rustled. Bushes rustle all the time, but after dark I notice. My eyes scanned the shadows while my mind ticked off possibilities: herons, squirrels, monkeys…Ketut. “Ya, stones come tomorrow,” he said, stepping into the light.

“What time?” I knew it would be early, I just wanted to know how early.

“Oh, maybe tweluv.” In Ketut speak, the number twelve has two syllables, twel uv.

“You mean midnight?” I’m still grappling with Bali time.

“Ya, in the street, many-many.”

He made the announcement and left. Pasek appeared moments later. “Ya, stones come tomorrow,” he said.

“What time?” Didn’t I just have this conversation?!

“In the street now, maybe five bring inside.”

“Five in the morning?”


I didn’t sleep much knowing my stones had been dumped in the busy Monkey Forest Road and would sit there until the women came in the early morning hours to haul them to the house. I pictured small stones. I know that sand has to come, and metal, and bags of concrete. Small stones were also on the list of materials.

P1050897At 5:30 I heard voices whispering in the garden. My windows don’t have glass. There’s a bamboo blind between me and the forces of nature. At 5:48 there was a bit of shoveling and scraping. I got up. I had just spread out the yoga mat on the bedroom floor when, at 6:09, an avalanche of volcanic boulders crashed to earth.

Through the window, women pushing pinkish wheelbarrows piled high with rock streamed past me. The boulders rolling out of the barrows created a thunderous roar. Ketut strolled up and I said, “Why big stones? I thought little stones.”

“Oh, first big stones. Make strong.” He disappeared into the kitchen to make coffee for the workers. When he emerged with glasses of the thick, black drink, I joined the women for their breakfast break. The savory scent of chicken and chilis emerged from their brown paper wraps. The smallest one of the group had a bag of kue, the Balinese sweet treats that I love. She offered them to me. I chose a browned ball. Coconut, palm sugar, and sweet potato lay hidden in the center of the cake-like confection. “Mmmmm!” I said as I bit into its moist sweetness. A beatific smile beamed from her weathered face.

Their rest was brief. As they retrieved their wheelbarrows, Ketut, ever mindful, scaled the palm that towered over the dump site for the rocks. His machete sliced off six coconuts and a couple of enormous branches. Being clobbered by a coconut isn’t a happy ending. One of them split when it hit the rocks. Next thing I knew, a glass of young coconut water appeared in front of me. Delicious!

Mid-afternoon the task was done.
P1050907My first materials have made their appearance. “Sand tomorrow,” Ketut said.

“What ti…” I began, then realized…it doesn’t matter.

The Dharma of Diarrhea

I enjoyed a fun night out with friends watching a film at Namaste. It was Deepak Chopra doing what Deepak does so well. And if you don’t know Deepak, I’ll clue in in. He was charming an audience with his brilliant mind. And though I’m onto him, I succumbed to his spell and left believing that if you think it, so it shall be. Of course I believe that to a certain degree anyway, but on with my story.

I hit my pillow within moments of returning home and fell asleep instantly. About 2 a.m. something roused me. Suddenly I was fully awake, flinging my bedcovers wildly to the side, and mad-dashing it to the toilet not quite in time. I felt remarkably ill but the cramping subsided and I fumbled in the drawer for fresher undies. Back in bed I employed deep breathing techniques and tried to quell the disturbance in my belly. That lasted the whole of 10 minutes and I was again dashing, and again off in my timing. This story repeated itself until I realized I should just set by a store of clean underthings and minimize my effort. I grabbed a handful of tidy-whites and stacked them conveniently near the toilet.

About this time things were escalating. My body has a strange and familiar routine when it needs to vomit.  First a sensation like a ripple of electricity passes through me. Cold sweat breaks out and nausea of the most wretched kind triggers the gag reflex. Then I pass out. The throne in my current residence sits on a curious little 5″ pedestal. That would allow for a 5 inch greater distance to fall and smack my head on the unyeilding tile floor in the event of a faint.  The electric ripple had begun. I scrambled off the throne and went prone on the tile averting catastrophe. The technique worked remarkably well. I skipped the faint and went straight to full-on vomiting.

The following two days were lost in a delerium of raging fever, chills, and body aches that made me wonder where I had filed the ibuprophen. But I was in no condition to look for it. I had to conserve my energy for the ongoing poop dashes. There had been a single bout of vomiting but I seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of do-do. Ketut came by with fresh young coconut water. I affectionately screamed at him to get out and get as far away from my vile germs as possible. Wayan stopped in and insisted on hacking the nut open and pouring the nutrient packed water into a glass so I could drink it. I began to scream at her, too, but she sushed me and told me she works with patients at the hospital and never gets sick. I meekly obeyed.

It’s now the end of the eighth day of feeling less than wonderful. I have a new found reverence for the word, diarrhea. I also have a s**t-load of dirty laundry secured tightly in a plastic bag that I can’t bring myself to open. I am contemplating just making it go away, but I have visions of roving dogs sniffing it out and distributing my dainties throughout the streets of Ubud. If had a washing machine and could hold my nose, close my eyes, and dump the darned things in a tub of swirling, soapy, water, it would be a non-issue. But no. Every stinky piece must be scrubbed by hand and hung out to dry.


Thich Nhat Hanh

I know what I have to do. It’s a lesson…of course. I remember the teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh where he tells a student, “There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.” It’s an exercise in mindfulness. I need to wash the undies in order to wash the undies and take joy in the fact that I have life and breath available for washing the blighted underwear! But not tonight. Not yet. I’m quite certain that tmorrow is destined to be deeply supportive of this particular mindfulness practice!

Getting MORE of ALMOST What You Want

I had a craving for young coconut water. I mentioned it to Ketut one day in passing, I wasn’t suggesting or insinuating, I just innocently asked if we ever had young coconut water. “Young coconut?” he asked. “Yes, coconut milk, coconut water…” The conversation ended in that sort of foggy never-never land, a little like the feeling when two socks go into the laundry and only one comes out…! But the following day, sometime mid-morning, Ketut called to me from the garden, “You like young coconut water?” It’s a strange sensation, sort of like I flipped the switch yesterday and the light came on today, startling me in a pleasant way. “Yes,” I said, wondering what he was leading up to. Ketut pointed to a cluster of coconuts in the palm next to him. “I get for you.” Okay, this was good. I grabbed my camera and raced downstairs in time to capture the whole process.

Ketut on his way up the tree

Selecting just the right one

Ah…got it!

Trimming the top and bottom

Poking a hole for the straw…

Hurray! Young coconut water! It doesn’t get fresher than this!

For those who have never tasted young coconut water it is…unusual. There is a slight sweetness, a hint of coconut flavor, and a sense that you are drinking something that is very, very good for you!

So this morning, based on my current success rate, I decided to go out on a limb. About once a week I treat myself to coffee with breakfast. I always regret it because I drink the whole pot and I tolerate caffeine poorly. But it’s just one of those things and it’s only once a week. So this morning I asked for coffee, then said, “And Ketut, do we have milk? Susu?” As is our routine he repeated, “Susu?” I agreed, “Yes, milk, susu, with coffee.” Again, never-never land. A few minutes later I saw him disappear through the gate and head off down the path. I thought nothing of it until he reappeared a few minutes later and called up to me from the garden. He was holding up a little can and asking me if this was okay. “Just a minute,” I called back, grabbed my flip-flops, and ran downstairs. I studied the can and in the jumble of Indonesian komposisi (ingredients) I saw the word creme. Well, maybe in Bali cream comes in a can. Milk would be fine but cream would be absolutely wonderful. “Perfect!” I exclaimed.

I went back to my writing fantasizing about coffee with sugar AND cream. I could already feel the onset of jitters. Pavlov again? But I didn’t care. Pretty soon the soft, “Hallooo,” told me Ketut and my coffee had arrived. “Masuk, Ketut, come in!” The tray laden with half a papaya, toast and peanut butter, and the thick, black Balinese coffee I’m beginning to love made my mouth water. And there is was…the little silver pitcher of…oh, oh…sweetened condensed milk??? Note to self…creme does not mean cream. Once again I was profuse with my thanks and Ketut left beaming. I spooned a glob of the sticky, yellowish goo into my coffee trying not to think about the calorie count. I could take an extra long walk today, I told myself, knowing I wouldn’t. And you know what? It’s good! And there’s 9/10th of a can left in the refrigerator. I could have this in my tea, too.

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