This summer I was fortunate to go on a two week writing retreat/tour in Bali under the guidance by writing/writing coach Laura Davis, Judy Slattum and Made Surya of Danu Tours, with healer and movement teacher Evelyn Hall.
I have dreamed of going to Bali for years. This tour was a wonderful way to experience such a special place. The following comes from one of the daily writing sessions on the trip:
While in Bali I saw women lighting incense in their daily offerings, showing their deep connection to the spirit. I saw many smiling faces, people who seemed truly happy with life if even for only that moment. While in Bali I saw banana leaves swaying in the wind, bright hanging flowers. I saw hens herding their chicks across roads. I saw motorbikes loaded with families and people carrying great bundles of goods. While I was in Bali I saw dancers of strange beauty and grace dance their steps with tight precision.
While in Bali I heard the roosters crow every morning whether in town or country. I heard greetings: “Selamat pagi” and “hallo” from everyone I met. I heard “Terima kasih” and “same sama" for each small kindness. While in Bali I heard the rustle of palm leaves and the sharp pounding of rain on the roof. I heard the cooing of brown doves and the sharp cries of birds I had never met before. I heard the chak, chak of the kecak monkey chorus and tickling gamelan music. I heard priests chant at dawn each morning.
While in Bali I smelled the sweet scent of flowers at night: plumeria blooms, jasmine and bougainvillea. I smelled the pungent odor of decaying offerings and onions frying in the kitchen at noon. I smelled the mildew of fabric that won’t dry in the humid air. While in Bali I smelled chili and lemongrass and ginger in broth. I smelled coffee brewing and chocolate being made. While hiking through the Balinese countryside. I smelled manure and cows and pigs. I smelled wet moss on cold stone steps.
While in Bali I tasted the stickiness of palm sugar, the taste of fresh unsweetened coconut. I tasted peanut sauce and ginger and garlic, the ever present nutty tempe. While snorkeling in Bali I tasted the salt of ocean water on lips. I tasted shrimp crackers and nasi goreng and nasi campur and mei goreng. I tasted cacao seeds and clove flowers picked from trees.
While in Bali I felt the trickle of sweat down my back and cool mountain breezes. I felt a deep wonder at the richness of this small island. While in Bali I felt a deep stillness in my heart. I felt rain pour over me and waded through puddles up to my ankles. While in Bali I felt the earth under my bare feet. I felt the rhythm of dance.
While I in Bali I met Balinese writers and dancers and artists of all kinds. I met children who played music for us, and women who took care of us. I met drivers who steered us to where we needed to go. I met the stars in the dark sky at night. I met geckos and large brown butterflies and wasps the size of birds. I met huge snails that ate hibiscus flowers from my outdoor bathroom.
While in Bali I was reminded that how I live is not the only way. I was reminded to dance and sing, to live in my whole body instead of just in my head. I was reminded of the importance of meeting new people and opening myself to those around me. I was reminded to go out into nature and shake off the dust of cities. I was reminded of how good it feels to go barefoot and to stop worrying about dirty feet. While I was in Bali I was reminded of how important traditions and art can be, how it feels to live in a community that cares for one another.
While in Bali, I learned how importance of the cycle of life and death. I learned what it means for people to live surrounded by symbols of their spirit. While in Bali I learned I might be persuaded to believe in reincarnation if I could stay here long enough. I learned to love this place of great beauty as well as great trouble, of hordes of tourists and quiet rice fields, of brightly colored flowers and great piles of trash. I learned to go down a river on a raft, tie a sarong and listen to prayers without understanding a word. I learned to trust the politeness of those around me. While I in Bali I learned to sit still and let my senses open wide.
Notes: nasi means rice
nasi goreng is fried rice
nasi campur is rice with many small dishes
mei goreng is fried noodles
selamat page means good morning
terima kasih means thank you
sama sama is you're welcome