Friday, October 06, 2006

Leaving Paradise heading to Paradise

Blog#6 Leaving one Paradise heading to another Paradise!
This will be the last from Indonesia. I’m heading home, Whoopee! It’s been a great three months, learned heaps, enjoyed more than that, and keen to get back to family and friends in NZ.

This last week has been full of the literary world. I attended four workshops at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, many interesting cross cultural events as the festival theme was a Balinese term called “Desa Kala Patra” or in English “Place Time Identity”.
This was explored in many Discussions, Debates and at the two main venues. There was also a free children’s programme with hands on workshops in many subjects, shame I didn’t qualify as a child!

My first workshop “Travel Journalism Intensive” held beside the rice fields in an open sided building, had the amazing backdrop and sounds of local women harvesting rice, threshing it by hand, over the length of the workshop (3hrs) they moved 50 yards of growing rice field into several bags of rice, finally carting it way on their heads.

We had just remarked what other writers festival would have this happening in the back ground, when the icing on the cake came in the form a flock of geese herded into the field to gobble up the remaining leftover scraps. The other workshops were no less interesting but without the backdrop. The blend of poetry, & writing, both local and international Poets and Authors forums, made for very stimulating discussions.

In these final few days in Bali I reflect on what an amazing place this is, the climate, warm and lush, so like the people. The foods, cheap healthy and spicy. The Arts in Music/Dance/Painting and other arts and crafts are all very vibrant having the softness, shapes and intense colours of the tropical flowers that abound everywhere in Bali. Staying most of the time in and around Ubud surrounded by the rice fields I have seen the complete rice growing cycle.

Preparing the land, planting, tending the crop, fertilizing, spraying, bird scaring and harvesting all happens in a three month rotation, Bali virtually has no seasons, therefore, rice planting can be happening at the same time as harvesting, and leaves and flowers can fall from the trees at anytime of the year!

The Balinese people are friendly to an extreme, hard working, dedicated to their culture and beliefs. I think of the Nike slogan “Just Do It” as this sums up for me in this westerner (European) outsider’s eyes their lack of an over structured lifestyle. If you want to make a new path to your home, just do it, if you want to cut down that banana palm, to feed your cattle or pigs, just do it. They bless their surroundings on a regular basis, they collect flowers from the roadside trees, they are constantly doing something with their hands, they seem to add grace to simple things like sweeping the pathways, cleaning up their immediate surroundings.

They have strong ties to Religion and Culture. Beauty appreciation, laughing, massage and family all seem important to them! This is a simple lifestyle, they notice the simple things, they are connected to nature, they carry rough bundles of firewood or plant matter on their heads for considerable distances. I notice how wide the Balinese foot is from a life of not wearing shoes. Their lifestyle does not appear to have an over accumulation of technology, like computers, radios, cars, microwaves, washing machines, dishwashers and other westerner’s essentials. Yes some of them have cell phones. Not once have I seen the blaring light of a TV screen in any house as I walk home. I meet the locals sitting in the dark on my little path way home, talking, and passing the time! Life is more and less here! Choose you own definition, what are the real values of life?

These are the experiences, thoughts and questions I’ll be reflecting on as I head back to rural life in New Zealand on a Singapore Airlines flight at an altitude of 19.000feet

Blessings Peace Namaste

Friday, September 22, 2006

Blog #5 Bali Singapore Mix

Bali Hi to Blog 5 This one will be a Bali/Singapore mix.
The week before my scheduled trip to Singapore I had the Bali version of Cabin fever not getting out much or talking to people, so I needed to break my routines & rented a bicycle for a day. In a trial run down the road the front tire was rubbing on the brake pads, & after a lot of adjustment still was rubbing, so we changed the front wheel,
Biked through Ubud and down to Sukawati, to the market.

I came across a Rattan shop which was making Rattan bicycles complete with rattan chain, Vespas, even Harley Davidson Choppers, so I spent a quite a bit of time, Photographing as well as chatting. I’d been to the Sukawati Market before, always later in the day, seeing this was early and Saturday, I went again, & it was much better this time. It spreads across the road into quite a few other buildings. Spent a fair bit of time wandering taking photos and getting badgered to buy from everyone, I bought some local drink daluman, very sweet, they put it in a little plastic bag & tie a knot in it!(ever tried drinking from a plastic bag?). Leaving Sukawati biking towards Singapadu, I heard the chip chip of carving as I passed a big drum shop and did a u turn to check them out! Here were three carvers working on drum bases, which had been stained a dark colour. The drum skin was on and they were doing nice work, like dragons and elephants. They also were using some of the carving patterns I use in the Fijian style.

I sat and watched them for a while, taking a few photos, then I got one of my brochures out and started showing some of my carving work that I have saved on the digital camera. Then it was all on, I grabbed some of their chisels and started giving them a demo of a few patterns, which excited them, then the head guy started copying one of my carving patterns directly from my brochure onto a spare little drum he had nearby, which was a hoot, he made a fair stab at it, anyway. Back on the road, a policeman, sort of on sentry duty at a busy corner, in his shade hut, enthusiastically called me into his hut, asking “where do I want to go?”, and “what do I want to do there?”. He couldn’t understand that all I wanted was “to see what was there!”, anyway he gave me directions and off I pedalled.
Lots of stone carvers on this road, stopped and took a few photos, biked towards Ubud, with a few wrong roads taken and back tracked, finally getting back, feeling tired & worn out as the day was very hot!

Asking around, regarding transport to the airport seemed expensive to me at around 150,000Rps (one way) so I rented a motorbike for 2 days (60,000Rps) and decided to ride there and back with my very light backpack strapped on the back of the Ojek. On the main road I was watching the filtering traffic coming in from the right, then looked left and saw that I'd just gone thru a red light and two traffic cops were right there! I continued on, one of the cops caught me up and pulled me over, anyway it eventually came down to the old "you need an International drivers license trick". I went through three different blokes, coming in & out of their little road side shed, each one, with the same questions, " where you from, where you staying, how long you staying?" The last guy had two new questions, "what's your Job, & do you have any friends in Bali?" It was the same as the previous traffic cop encounter, the fine is 200,000 to pay the court, I said ok write me out a ticket & I'll go to the court and pay it, I said that a couple of more times, and when he reduced the fine to 100,000 rps I said ok & gave him the money as it wasn't worth digging my heels in like the last time, when I got off scot free. But that’s another good true story!
Consoled myself by getting a MacDonalds icecream cone about 5 km down the road. The Airport was signposted as the "Airport", earlier, then never again, using its local name, missed it and had to double back, eventually getting there around 5.30 pm. I did a Tai Chi set in the waiting corridors, lots of people looking on and admiring my form, still hustling for custom in the restaurants. The flight leaving Bali was uneventful, arriving more or less on time in Singapore. I caught a #24 bus from Changi into town.
Quite a long ride, lots of music everywhere on the bus with TV screens going all the time, people wave their plastic prepaid cards sometimes inside their wallets at the readers either side of the entrance door, some people flashing them on the way out. English is spoken, (with strong accent distortions) and I’m understood by everyone so far. It's interesting to see the change in manner from Bali to Singapore, more polite, very helpful, sort of have that boisterous/subservient Asian energy mix about them. I could see it in their conversations with others at the airport. Getting to Betel Box hostel at midnight along Joo Chiat road through many clubs, pubs. Betel is right in the middle of all the activity, the door has a security intercom and I need to buzz to enter. At the reception desk I'm greeted by Justine a Chinese Singaporean, he sees my Tai Chi Shirt asks if I am a Tai Chi master. After paying for the first night's accommodation S$18 we go to the dorm, where an Indian guy in the next bed says “Taoist Tai chi, I am a Taoist, do you do it every day and can you teach me!” I head back down to the common room which has four free internet computers & check my email. They have a TV going with a very violent action packed movie, with surround sound like in the movies, so loud it's very aggressive to me. Then I realize, I've been living alone with no TV or radios or even newspapers for the last two months, wow this is how society lives, over stimulated. I’m looking forward to a good night's sleep, although don’t feel sleepy! Now well past 1 am.
Day 62 16 Sept Saturday
Well it was a long night, people coming in for quite a while, the hum of the air conditioning & its cool temperature, with only one blanket didn't make for much sleeping. I hunted for the control, but couldn't find it, getting up at 6am to go down stairs to the warmer kitchen to type this recording of my day & current thoughts.

After breakfast I went out to the post office very hot & sticky weather, found the fancy building and after some discovery about parcels, finally posting a parcel back to NZ for about half the posting cost in Bali. Deviated through the local market which was very interesting & bought a Muslim hat for only $4, & back to the Betel Box Hostel for a shower, now 11.30 am with most of the people still in bed and here's me with no sleep bubbling and bursting to go! I hit the train into Orchard road, with my sax slung across my shoulder heading for the Yamaha Shop to test out Saxophone mouthpieces. What an interesting experience I had on the train, seeing a 9 or 10 year old boy, with a huge empty bag slung over his shoulder. He was reading while standing on the train, & I was right next to him looking over his shoulder, sort of picking up on his vibe as it were! The book was wrapped in one of those old style school covers, I remember from my school days. The book was Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. In one hand, the book, the other has one of those kanji electronic dictionaries, he was looking up words from the book, I thought what 10 year old kid is going to have that level of focus in New Zealand? Much walking and window shopping, & many strange looks at my saxophone case & starting to feel my energy draining, now about 8 pm, I wonder back to the Betel box hostel via Burgis Market and caught the MRT back to Paya Lemar, after a shower I went out for a nibble and returned to the hostel after 11pm. Having made sure I had an extra blanket, I had no trouble falling to sleep.
Day 63 17 Sept Sunday
Awake at 7.30am, had a shower and stretched out the Yoga mat and did salute to the sun, eagle, triangle, headstand.

I went to the local Malay Market, bought another Muslim hat another $4 and bought nice shirt for S$15 from a Muslim who also teaches Aikido, we had a great chat about Muslims, Gods, Tai Chi & Yoga. He told me the Namaste equivalent in Muslim is "Malam Moli Kum" & the answer to that is, "Walli Kum Salam" (Islam brothers)

Left Betel getting to the Airport Terminal 1 with plenty of time, interesting floor on the MRT train to Changi, (which also has the Expo site on the same line) advertising to Join the Army their slogan is "LIVE TO BE YOUR BEST".

Been wondering why they don't recycle the plastic cards that are used for the MRT & have been throwing them away. I asked someone if they recycle those cards & was told you feed them back into the same machine as you got them from & receive a S$1 refund. Even though I was aware of this there are no machines available once you’ve used it for the last time heading for the Terminal. The plane left on time @ 4.30pm. On arrival in Bali they were handing out forms to fill out for Visa applications as we marched into the customs zone, which all took a while, the whole plane virtually all had to do the same thing, at the same time & then go through customs etc. I was pretty much the last to go through, once again I turned out to be the star turn, as the customs guy spoke some Balinese to me, then I realized it was that Muslim greeting I had been told about at the Malay market, and hadn’t learnt the reply yet, he asked if I was a Muslim, I said “no I just like the hat” all the customs men were laughing about the Saxophone pin/badge I have on the front of this Muslim hat!

Oh how I love picking my pack up from the carousel & unzipping the straps cover & slinging it on my back. However as I knew I was going home on the Ojek I left the straps covered, however this meant everybody wanted to carry my bag! Getting back to my parked Ojek the same guy who I spoke to last Friday comes up to help me tie on the pack. Motoring home through Sanur, managing to avoid stopping at MacDonald’s arriving at Teblin just before 9pm, made myself some tea after a nice hot shower, unpacked & jumped into bed, with no air conditioning to take into account and fresh sheets on the bed……ahhhh…..paradisimo!

Well playing the sax here at Teblin I can watch what’s happening down the way towards the ravine, where they had the Cock fighting today & watched all the activity down their, this afternoon things had quieted down. While playing sax I watched a woman with child on her arm walk around the rice field looking up at me, so I started playing, some tunes that I know kids relate to like Pink Panther, etc. She paused in the shade. I played on for another 5minutes while this mother allowed her child to listen to me. She looked up at my window, I waved & got a wave back. I can see she’s telling her child the man is waving…. and I play on realizing this is a gift from god or the universe. That’s the sort of connections that are the juice of life for me!

Coming to the end of this Bali Hi it’s a high 5. Next week I attend the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, which has international writers from America, UK, Australia, Indonesia, India, Singapore and even NZ attending & have booked 4 workshops. Should be a busy week, therefore at least one more Blog from Bali before the homeward journey through Singapore, these last two Photo’s showing some of the Diversity that is Singapore.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Visionari Blog#4 Bikes 'N People

Welcome to Blog #4
As I mentioned in the last blog this one is dedicated to the subjects of bikes (cycle & motorized) and people, as these subjects are everywhere in Bali. Bikes are an essential part of Bali life, used in all manner of ways. They really are integrated into their culture as some of the photos below reveal. Many houses do not have what we would call road access, with very basic walking paths which can be navigated by the motorbikes, so they cart in and out all manner of things, often very precariously balanced or held with one hand. This is why the automatic motor bike, including electric start, is so handy for them. I took some interesting photos from the Ojek (which is the Indonesian word for motorbike) of other Ojeks.

Like this guy sitting on at least a couple of 8x4 sheets of ply while he rode down the main road with the backs of the sheets nearly on the road. Another with a fat guy complete with a full bag of Rice across the back. Many other fantastic sights I was too slow to capture with a photo.

However I saw these cyclists with their huge grass swarths & rode past them, stopped to get the camera out. As soon as a bike stops (this was pretty much in the middle of nowhere) kids run up to the bike wanting to be in the photo. As I already had the camera out they went bananas, so I took a photo of them & motioned them to come and have a look, which they did & were once again ecstatic!

Filling up at the petrol stations is also often an interesting experience. I knew I had about 1/3 left in the tank, the attendant filled it up & I saw the price at 15,400 Rps. He started filling somebody else’s Ojek, so I gave the exact money to the other bloke, and I said ok he’s got the money, the bloke said, no the price is 20,000 Rps. I knew that wasn’t right because when I was nearly empty once before, & I had said to another petrol station attendant, the previous day, “put in 20,000 rps, worth” & it overflowed at 19,000Rps. So I just closed the seat down, hopped on the bike and took off!!!! Seems like its open slather on the petrol stations. You also need to really look at the change that gets handed back as that’s often on the light side.

My map showed a road around the back linking the whole Gunung Batur crater area, so off I started on it. However the road got narrower & rougher. Finally it petered out at Blandingan. I drove down through this village which was pretty dirty with chickens & mangey scruffy dogs, & there was no road. Immediately people came from everywhere, nobody could speak English. I pointed to the next town on the map & was shown a direction & started to head the bike towards it, but it was obvious it was only a walking track.

By the look of all the people & kids around, this thing called me was a fairly rare event! A woman was washing herself naked from the waist up & just continued on. Some young lads said Photo, Photo, so I took my camera out & took one of him, by this time the crowd was maybe 30 people, old, young, everyone! So I thought ok lets see what happens when I take the sax out for a blow! I took my helmet off, & opened the sax case, & started to play, it raised quite a stir (a lot of smiles & bagus’s, which means good!)

I had given the camera to the young guy who started it all off with the photos, & shown him how to use it. He came back with no photo, & we did the same scenario another 4 times after that with also no photos. Finally I got through to him by holding my finger on his arm and pushed & held it to give him the idea, which worked! They asked if I wanted tobacco, or coffee, both I said no to, then an older dark skinned man asked if I needed Benzine. I was at about half a tank so I said ok & of he shot! I was showing people the images I’d taken of them & it was as though they had never seen a digital camera. When I took my glasses off, a couple of the older men picked them up to try on themselves, then I noticed no one around here is wearing glasses (maybe they don’t have them or need them?). I made a joke with the sax case balancing on my head, like the women carrying loads, using my jacket as a soft head balancing substitute for the towels or rings they use, however the lady who I cracked the joke to, started putting on my jacket & was having a great laugh about it all. Occasionally I’d let fly with the Sax & finally decided to put it away! Now the guy with the Benzine has turned up & poured 2 litres into my tank. I gave him 10,000 & wasn’t sure if that was enough, so I gave him another 10,000, which he gratefully received (this was about double going rate, I found out later). I tied my sax on the back, made sure I’d left nothing behind & got on the Ojek & headed out & up. The guy who I’d got the Benzine from had a bunch of very green bananas, asking me if I wanted any, so I said ok, then he said, money, so I said no thanks & took off for civilization.

Getting back to Kitamani & Batur I stopped well away from the corner to consult my map, however people still approach asking if I want a guide or a sarong. Another guy comes up on another ojek, saying its ok I’m not a guide, I’m an artist. Where you from, ah New Zealand, I have friends in New Zealand and promptly opens his diary at a hand written page from a Maori guy who married a Finnish woman & has bought painting from this guy. He starts showing me his stuff, anyway thanks, but no thanks. Gee the electric start on the Ojek is great for fast getaways. Another 5 km down the road I stopped in the middle of nowhere, no buildings just a fork in the road. Another motorbike approached & pulled up along side, with exactly the same patter, it's OK I’m not a guide, where you from. I have friends from NZ etc, & please look at my paintings. By now the bike almost does it on its own!

So by now you can see how important to Balinese is the humble Ojek. It's truly the servant of the people. Next week I head to Singapore to update my Visa before the final month's Bali Hi. So till then “Be Bagus”.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blog#3 Rice Field ramblings

Selamat Datang, Welcome to Blog#3 This one’s quickly on the heels of #2 because it took me over a week to finally post on line the last one & I have plenty of material ready to go!

I remember a man who came up to me in Monkey Forest road a few weeks ago, selling his beautifully carved little box housing 4 chopsticks, ridiculously cheap, not that I wanted, or needed to buy, but his manner was so soft, he spoke in broken English, in a voice that seemed almost secretive, asking questions, like “ you like these” or “where you from”, “when you buy?” “what your price” “I give you morning price” “Why you no buy” I looked at his carving with the eyes of a carver/furniture maker of some international repute, and was aware of the skill, the sensitivity, the hours of patient practice that goes into these carvings, and here he was trying to sell to me for a mere pittance of $1 US. If I tried to reproduce this, my estimation of time alone involved would be at least 10 hours & all through my artistic career, I’ve underestimated my hours, so this is probably way off the mark also. I wondered how long he had been trying to sell these, days, weeks who knows? I felt sad as I walked away, realizing how lucky I am.

Does the western worlds focus on materialism, shopping sprees, & mass consumerism really matter! What about the light in that man’s eyes, his family, his spirit, how can I address that balance?
There are many people selling in the streets of Bali, big things, little things, hustling for a living, the long hours sitting in quiet galleries, shops and stalls, the constant placement of offerings to the Gods with small baskets incense sticks, the women’s time in both preparing these offerings & their placement, the obvious connection to spirit as they beautifully place them around their environments. The brush, brush, sweeping sound that goes with early mornings in Bali, the endless preparation of foods, the warungs or little local food stalls set up late afternoon, char grilling little skewered meat kebabs & other local delicacies. The woman I bought my first Sarong from while crossing the Campuhan bridge for the first time, who walks 4 kms to sell from that spot every day. Often at the roadside are things I see daily and want to record in some way to share this experience is part of the Joy in travel &part of being aware & alive. Ubud with its cultural focus, both in the Arts & Crafts, in theatre, music & dance, many tourists come to partake, to relax, and get away from the pressures of modern western society. It’s no wonder the Balinese are so tuned into selling their wares, their skills, in many ways seem to be considerable, yet misguided (to my westerner's eye’s).

I hired a bicycle for 2 days & headed up the hill toward the mountains. Steady climbing all the way, road directions very sketchy, got onto a stretch of road which was heading downhill, & all of a sudden there I was back at Ubud main street! So, nothing else to do but head uphill via a different road through new seal for kilometers.

On & on past more carvings, and all manner of gifts, not really worth having. Many of the shop fronts have their wares piled up high, or out to dry or actually working on a carving or painting something, as I constantly pedal uphill, I wonder, who buys all this stuff, there’s literally mountains of it, they are all hard at it producing. Even out in the sticks people are sitting carving away on the bare earth or concrete, holding the carving with their feet while they chip or pare with the chisels and knives they use, no handles on them, often in family groups. Some of the carvers have teams of young guys churning stuff out. The wood itself seems very easy to carve, light in structure. I came to an obvious tourist trap, many busses stopped, the view of the terraced paddy fields, impressive, the hoards of sellers, oppressive, almost aggressive. One woman thought I was angry at her because I didn’t buy her bananas. The shops, gallerys, street sellers and workshops far out weighed the Tourists 100’s to 1, which makes it tough all round,

A late lunch at the Blue Yogi Café, mentioned in Lonely Planet, as far I could see nothing exceptional, and I was the only customer till a family of four came in. The toilets however were another matter. The ladies (I was in there before I realized) had loose pebbles/stones on the floor, interesting concept, obviously no ladies with high heeled shoes frequent this place! I intended to bike uphill to the next junction & go east then head downhill, came to a major signposted junction giving three directions with names, my map had no mention of, however the locals who are often sitting at warungs or in the shade with mates, shouted me over to help me out & and off I heads downhill.

A bunch of young guys carving heads of the Bhudda, called out to me and invited me to sit amongst them which I did, teenagers mostly with that inquisitive cheeky manner, keen to ask questions! Freewheeling down hill many beautiful views of terraced Rice fields. Yes it’s very easy to bike around Bali everyone is so friendly…. As they all want to sell something!

From my accommodation in the middle of the rice fields at Campuan, I realized the sound I’ve been hearing & the cans that rattle all day around here are bird scarers for the rice crops. The steady calling out all day, I assumed was a bird copying a man, now I know it’s the farmer scaring the birds. I now notice the man sitting in his raised shelter about 50 yards away & watch him pull the strings of various lines activating the cans strung around his crop. I notice others are about standing, watching, moving scaring the birds. I now see, after absorbing this & feeling as they do, the patient dedication to the protection of their crop, the same patience I now assume watching & observing all that goes on in my immediate view! The woman at 6.30 am, complete with 2 year old child slowly wanders into her position of live scarecrow. I now see others doing the same job, another man setting up his scaring line. Another farmer on the other side, to the south, watches & cracks a large white flag, much like a whip to scare the birds. My immediate neighbor, the farmer who cuts grass off the small pathways between the rice paddies, from that effortless (to them) squat position, western people have long since found uncomfortable & impossible to relax & work from. He wanders up to the mother in the fields chats to her a while, seeing , feeling them lean toward each other in their conversation & the woman with child going back to her duties somewhere else, while the farmer’s lingering hand partingly caresses the child. He remains on bird scaring sentry duty. This first couple of hours are the most active for the birds, as are sunset, now with the full sun out the rattling and calling out has subsided & given way to the other sounds of surrounding building work hammering, sawing and light machinery noises. My farmer friend is returning to his stock with a fresh banana palm trunk ready to feed his stock of the day. I have admired this farmer for days, simply cutting grass for hours to feed his two steers that are in their covered stalls less than 50 metres from my abode. The women arrive early mornings, on their blessings & the surroundings, I love to see the beauty in their carriage, the poise & beauty of a religious act of devotion, peace & calmness. The way everything is carried on the head, so serine and balanced it seems to me, they set up mini shrines around their main focus shrine, which is often adorned with a sheet, the attention they give to there actions, the wave of their hand, as though they are blessing their energy into the offering of food & the incense sticks, the time to do all this is so foreign to the ways of the west. I had sat on my bed to sit in preparation to meditate, & did not closed my eyes, but watched all this happen before my very eyes, the equal to any meditation, such bliss to wake up and watch and be a part of this amazing journey on this planet. With eyes to see & ears to listen &a heart to feel, I am indeed humbly grateful to be here!

Made from next door visits, asking for some matches to light his incense sticks, which I willingly supply. He mentions not playing your instrument & seems surprised when I tell him 11am is my starting time, because people have complained. I’m sticking to my word & schedule of practice, finishing no later than 4 pm (a total of 4/30 minute sessions weekdays only)

Today’s first playing blow I noticed a man coming out of his little abode to the east of me, down the stairs, no shirt on, obviously just awake, scratching his head, looks across at me, gives me a wave, I wave back, he shouts bagus (Good) & on I play! Today I decided, not to sit down while playing my scales and walked around playing scales from memory, as though they were beautiful tunes. The movement created joy, fullness, freedom & softness. It really showed in the sound! Ah such bliss!

I’ve been using the Supermarket car park for some Tai Chi practice (not many large flat places in the rice fields), thought I had the set nailed till somebody came by me & I lost if about 5 moves from the end. Tried to do another set, but was all over the show. I’ve been keeping up daily practice however the right order mostly eludes me, although I think my form is becoming shall we say, more creative!
In future blogs I’ll dedicate each one to an individual subject like, ants, or Stones, or People/Kids/Hawkers, Buildings, Roofs, Beliefs, Foods, Baskets, Ojeks, so you can see I have no shortage of ideas or material to Blog about!

Selamat Tinggal

Look out for the next one!


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Biking and Cooking

Salumat Datang, Welcome to Blog #2 from Bali.

Doesn’t the time go quick! Its over 3 weeks since I left NZ. Lots to report, I’ve attended a Balinese Cooking Class, had a massage & biked around Ubud & surrounding areas this last 10 days. Casa Luna is the restaurant owned by Janet De Neefe the Australian woman who runs the Balinese cooking class. We all went to the Ubud Market, for a quick guided tour by one of the locals. Much better being shown around with somebody who knows their way around! First stop was at the green Jelly & coconut milk drink’s woman (called Daluman) only 1000 rps per glass, very tasty & sweet. They use a local green grass which is pounded into pulp & palm sugar, from the coconut tree. We traipsed around after the guide, an Indonesian man who took us to various stalls explaining veggies & other foods. We (about 15 of us, including Dutch, Americans, Belgians, Canadians, & English in this group, plus a Kiwi) went back to the Hotel, for morning tea & nibbles, the tea was actually Hibiscus flower cold drink, tasty & sweet. This class was supposed to be the Vegetarian day however we cooked fish in the form of mackerel (Spanish!!!) & one dish had rice paddy eel, which is quite small, & were told that at full moon they jump out of the water & that’s how they catch them. There’s a full moon next week so I’ll have a look although I won’t be frying them up! We all had a go with the Bali version of a mortar & pestle, to grind up the very spicy ingredients into a paste. They believe in combining the 5 tastes in every meal & dish, so something very potent has to go into balance something very sweet, or salty, so it’s a very powerful combination, the only mildish part of the meal was the rice & noodles which were also spiced up. They only use one hand (the right) to stir food or to eat with, the traditional way is only with the hand, no cutlery! Plenty to eat here and we finished off with green colored banana pancakes, also sweet inside.

My first Bali massage was from a man whose brochure had recommendations from visiting Massage therapists, that he had worked on & had been giving massage since 1972 & this convinced me to try him out! A 1 hour massage from this guy only cost 100000 Rps = $18nz) He had very fleshy hands with quite a bit of weight behind them, his kneading technique very strong. Really knew his acupressure points & found lots of points I didn’t know I had, zinging away from the foot points, tingling up into my groin & even under the armpit at my ribcage! For someone so experienced, his table (which was low & wide) had no face hole & my feet were not supported off the bed making it somewhat uncomfortable when lying on my front when my legs were being pressed & squeezed. He seemed to spend a lot of time with my lower legs & calf muscles especially where they connect at the knee & ankle. Walking home these areas certainly knew I’d had a massage.

Renting a pushbike was the next adventure! Got one for 2 days for 25000, which is less than $2.50nz per day. Biked about 4 kms out to Goa Gajah to look at the Caves which were fairly ho hum, although I did have to put on one of their Sarongs (nice purple one) to cover up my legs. Very hot weather! I saw a young school boy knocked down by a motorbike crossing the road, interesting all his class mates returned for him and were really concerned, he was alright although obviously shaken! A timely reminder for me to be careful with the traffic & to be more attentive while cycling! At the Football field in Central Ubud, they were actually playing football, women’s five aside, very amateurish playing, but incredibly well supported crowd wise. Sorted out where to go on the bike for the next days ride, & biked up the hill toward the mountains! Steady climbing all the way, road directions very sketchy, Got onto a stretch of road which was heading downhill, & all of a sudden there I was back at Ubud main street! So headed uphill again, on & on past more carvings, and all manner of gifts, not really worth having. Many of the shops have their wares piled up high out the front, out to dry or actually working on the carvings or painting something. As I constantly pedal uphill, I wonder, who buys all this stuff, there’s literally mountains of it, they’re all hard at it, producing. Even out in the sticks, people are sitting on the bare earth or concrete, holding the carving with their feet while they chip or pare with the chisels and knives they use, no handles on them, often in family groups. Some of the carvers have teams of young guys churning stuff out. The wood itself seems very easy to carve, light in structure.

I came to an obvious tourist trap, many buses stopped. The view of the terraced paddy fields impressive, the hoards of sellers oppressive, almost aggressive. One woman thought I was angry at her because I didn’t buy her bananas. The shops, galleries and workshops far outweighed the Tourists 100 to 1, which makes it tough all round. I intended to bike uphill to the next junction & go east then head downhill. Even a major signposted junction giving three directions with names, my map had no mention of, however the locals, who are often sitting at warungs (roadside eateries) or in the shade with mates shouted me over to help me out & and off I head downhill. A bunch of young guys carving heads of the Buddha, called out to me and invited me to sit amongst them which I did, teenagers mostly with that inquisitive cheeky manner, keen to ask questions!

Biking down hill many beautiful views of terraced rice fields, the women always carrying objects on their head, sometimes holding with one hand or even carrying other things with both hands, making the top load a complete balancing job. They usually have a rolled up towel or a special soft ring between the head & the load. It’s often baskets, or pots, but can also be plant material, foods in raw form, or steel buckets full with dirt or rocks! To see how these very heavy loads are lifted up for the last woman, while they have their own head load on board, is quite a tricky job! The women are part of the construction industry here in Bali, teams of them will shovel shingle off non tipping trucks, shift dirt, & rocks, etc and I recently saw them help, pouring concrete on the building site. Sunday afternoon right on Monkey Forest Road the men were using the mixer, but the women fetched the shingle & cement. Dumping into the mixer, straight from the head. Another team of women are bucketing it up to the second story, hand to hand then down a chute to its final destination.
I have decided to stay away from getting my laptop wirelessly connected to the internet & focus on the tasks I came to Bali for, which are coming along nicely. Next week I’m going to rent a Yamaha Nuovo motorbike $5nz/day plus petrol & go further afield, mostly on day trips. In 3 weeks I’ve watched no TV, nor read a newspaper, it’s gotta be good!

It’s open warfare in the Rice fields at the moment, coming up to harvest, the battle is being won by the patient, attentive farmers, on human scarecrow duty, so far it’s keeping the birds at bay! I will be blogging this from the Fly Café, who have a wireless hotspot & if I take my laptop the first hour is free then 10,000 Rps/hr, which at less than $2 nz appeals to my still strong Scottish nature!

Selumat Tinggal (Goodbye to the person staying) till next Blogtime.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Photo's retry Cheers!

Well its all a bit random, I 'm rapidly loosing my free Broadband hour, but you get's the idea, right.

Bali Hi May call you!

Salumat Pagi from Bali.
Now is 12 days from leaving NZ & still this adventure is just beginning! I am settled into sweet accommodation 20 min walk from the cultural/spiritual centre of Bali in Ubud surrounded by rice fields, chickens, ducks & gorgeous views in 3 directions. I’ll tell you more about this later, but first Singapore. What a buzzy geek place this is, everyone wants to sell you something & my tightwad Scottish heritage came in very handy in those situations!
I stayed in the Little India area, & would recommend anyone visiting Singapore to check out their market on Sunday evenings, very colourful, crowded & noisy. I will be returning to Singapore on the way home, & also to extend my Indonesian visa at sometime before my 2 month visa finishes, for the final 3 weeks!
Highlights of the brief 2 days in Singapore were the music & book shops which are using the latest technology, either having Ipods all set up in various music genres, you can very quickly sample listen to vast amounts of artists not known, or even explore your favorite’s latest recordings! The selection is huge because you have all the western stuff plus the Asian/Indian/Chinese/Korean etc musical categories. Borders store (book shop) even has their CD’s displayed where you can scan the bar code into a machine & listen to the first 30 sec of each track. Another shop had 100 CD players set up, once again in categories & cataloged so you could easily find your listening choice. I found the main Yamaha Music store and tried out (in their practice, sound proof room) the top of the line Soprano Sax Pro model, and wow was this a sweetie, clean and strong tone through out the whole range, good to get the experience of playing a $4700 instrument, so now I know I can indeed play a Soprano!

Bali is quite a place. The streets are full of sellers wanting to actively sell! “You need a nice woman for the night!---Where you going,---what country you from….downunder?---You want transport!---Massage!---Hey boss!---Just have look in my shop, no hurt to look---come on---what colour you like---yes you buy---I give you cheap price” etc,etc,etc. It’s all fun and they are soft and genuine, willing to laugh easily! I spent one night here, 2 nights there, checking out local accommodation options, prices, supermarket proximity, outlook & would I enjoy staying in this place! I settled on one for the princely monthly sum of $400NZ & paid the first week! Within 1 hour of playing my sax, an American neighbor (about 50 yards away & 2 houses over) spoke up and suggested I go somewhere else to practice, so I started looking for another place, and found this current one (which is actually in view of the old one) much better all round plus only $270NZ per month. Ah yes doesn’t the universe work in wonderful ways! After my first joyous practice session here I did have 2 complaints come to me & have modified my practice schedule with 4/30 minute sessions starting at 11am till 2 pm, with 30 minutes rest is good for all concerned. I shut the windows in some directions & play as quiet as possible (not an easy matter on Saxophone) hoping & expecting no further negative feedback!

Doing my own cooking here is a lot of fun, many new fruits and veggies to sample and play with. I even have a juicer here, so with papayas at $1 each, half a coconut at 30c NZ, tomatoes at less than $1NZ per kilo the options are endless! I intend next week to attend a Balinese cooking class ran by and expat Aussie woman who takes us though the Ubud market, buys the stuff then we go cook and finish the day with wine & our own self made banquet, all for $45NZ. Then I can explore the local culinary dishes in my own kitchen. I am impressed with the gas cookers, powerful, instant, yet can turn down to a very low simmer! I am waiting for the bewitching hour of 11am to continue my daily rituals. (Tai Chi @ 10.30am)

Checking one’s email at the numerous internet café’s is interesting, each one is different, keyboards, set up, operating programs, even sitting arrangements (lotus position) is available! My computer has found a valid wireless connection at a good strength, & so far my enquiries have found no one who can advise how I can connect , or whether it’s viable! Weekends I may go exploring the countryside, either on foot or by bicycle, The memory of frosts and the fine cool weather of Rosedale has been replaced with the balmy Balinese beautiful green rice fields of Ubud. So till the next nutur (story) & Blog….stay tuned!

Namaste & Arohanui

Thursday, July 13, 2006


visionariblog Travel times up ahead! Bon voyage friends family & fellow creatives! I leave in 3 days for 3 months mostly in Bali, Indonesia. In all my travels ( & there's been many) this is the first to the real Asia. I am spending a few days either end of the trip in Singapore to acclimatize going in & checking out the geek side of technology before returning home to the joys of spring.
As I type here in wonderful wet, cold, wintery Nelson with temperatures around 10 deg C, I look forward to the tropical warmth of Bali's 25-30 deg heat.
What am I going to be doing on this trip! I am taking this great opportunity, to ponder, to dream & to set in place what I & We, my wife and I (Christine) will be doing for the next twenty years. So this trip is really a spiritual retreat, part holiday away from winter in NZ, but mainly to go inward, to develop areas that will create an exciting future into retirement and beyond. I always said " huh I'll never retire, I enjoy working too much" well this form of retirement and its pondering is really very joyous!
I will be playing my Saxophone, doing regular yoga, meditation, and self massage, as well as writing a one man play (called a melodrama) on the subject of Leonardo Da Vinci. I have much material already saved on my laptop plus a few books, so time will have to be structured and my focus sharpened on a daily basis! There is much to be influenced by in Bali, and will be taking regular time out to reflect and return to the jobs at hand.
This is the first travels with a laptop, so communication with home and the rest of the world is available & therefore travelling alone need not be so isolating. I intend to do a Visionari Bali Blog every 2 weeks, Please feel free to post me on this blog, so we can all see how blogs work! So till then enjoy yourself at work and play.
Blessings/Peace/ & Namaste


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Kia ora from New Zealand

Welcome. I intend to use this blog to chat to people about my interests and share some of my passions and spread a little more beauty around in this wonderful world that we live in.
I am a professional Woodworker/Artist still excited about making things after 25 years, I still think I'm only just beginning.
In this blog I will post what I am currently working on and various other activities I do like I host a local Radio show called "The SaxMan Show" where I play only saxophone music. I live in rural New Zealand surrounded sheepfarms, kiwifruit, apple orchards and vineyards.
You can also view my web site
I don't know very much about blogging, so this is all a new experience to me.

Creatively yours