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!
Look out for the next one!