Thursday, 11 September 2014

To live in Bali... first impressions anyway

Immediately struck by light and sound, colour and smell, arriving in Bali, almost a month now..  Kira and I plus about four thousand other foreigners who happen to be in this particular slot of new arrivals.  Mostly tourists you'd think.  Who knows? Are we tourists? What are we doing here anyway? Well we are yet to figure that one out. For now we're here for school: the green school, a unique arrangement of outstanding bamboo buildings in the middle of a forest, where an exciting new approach to education is underway.  Right now we're not feeling very green haven flown half-way around the world and surrounded by concrete and car fumes at the airport.

Bali is, so far, a cacophony of different experiences. The ocean, open between here and Antarctica pulsates with waves every day, without fail, there's always something to ride.  The beaches are totally diverse - some black, others brown, some white, some covered in shacks selling grilled corn and fresh coconuts, others empty and desolate, farmland stretching right up close to the shore.

August is windy. So it's kite season.. look up to see a few dozen bizarrely-shaped specs shimmering there, often static on some kind of fixed lines into the middle distance, like stepping stones into the sky.

We ride by motorbike, until Monica arrives.  Two on a bike OK.  The school is maybe 25 mins inland across paddy fields which shine in morning light, and on the right day the volcanoe mountain looms in the background, cocunut palm pasted into the frame. Idyllic, or classic tropical scene. Until the junction...
A hundred, a thousands speeding cars, trucks and bikes. all at once, in a continual flow like  river of metal and fumes.  Eeek. and we have to cross into that? We wait.. see a break, follow some other nutter who's making the leap, and we're in, like jumping into a river, nipping around the slower moving mighty wagons, or cars. How slow are cars in this chaos?  Soon enough we're back to the side roads, and the air is fresh again.

Ubud is the cultural heart, where for decades a melting pot of creative types have been gathering. I stopped one day for a haircut.  Turns out to be a centre for therapy and massage, run by an elderly gent who was taught some ancient arts of meditation and massage passed down for generations.  Now it feels like the whole town is dedicated to this, with yoga and therapy retreats behind every garden wall.  Where surf lodges fill on the coast, travellers here come to stretch and breathe. And eat... the vegan cafes seem to outnumber the conventional. organic everything, dairy free banoffee pie - imagine? I've had food here i've never experienced before - and i'm not talking Balinese spice, but vegan creativity with the very same veg and nuts and fruit you find everywhere.

Everywhere bamboo, little baskets make of leaves with flowers and offerings, a little stick of incense wafting. in front of every shop, on street corners. And children learning how to weave and cut and make it all.  This I like.

Back to the sea - always the sea, warm and accessible, rock and sand.  This is where everyone goes to play. At weekends filled with locals from the towns and cities equally thrilled with the setting sun, selfies from every rock. Weddings and ceremonies.  Temples so near the beach, donging and haunting rhythms heard far out in the waves.