Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Feeling Very American Learning to Dance

The last few days have been truly amazing. I've been brought to tears with emotion (for good reasons) on several occasions.

I'm learning so much every day and loving every minute of it.

Indonesian culture, specifically Balinese culture is very interesting. They have many many rituals. Each day they prepare offerings to the gods for everything they are thankful for and they repeat this three times a day. The offerings are in places they want to honor or places they want to have good luck. So you see many outside a business on the front door of a hotel, outside the market, or on the counter near the cash drawer. They say a prayer and spread the incense around in the air. This ritual consumes much of their day. The offerings always have rice - because they must do the ritual every time they eat, a little banana, a cracker, a flower and sometimes other things, that brings us to dogs. The photo above is outside of the market temple in Ubud. Since there are so many vendors in the market the offerings pile up.

Dogs are not sacred but you can not bring in any kind of other dogs on the island because they want to keep the dogs indigenous to the island and free of rabies. These dogs eat all of the offerings and garbage through out the city. They also eat anything else and are full of scabs and just nasty and full of disease. It is sort of their role to clean up all of the offerings. 3.4 million people making offerings, three times a day.. that is a lot of stray nasty dogs. They are all black and white and all over the streets. I really hope I don't get bit by one. I almost did when I was biking.

I've been reading this book titled Modern Bali, it is a collection of short stories that were written in the newspaper here over the course of several years. It includes all types of short stories about life Bali, rituals, outside influences and it's connection to the other islands and I've learned alot from it.

A few days ago I took a silversmith course with an Irish-American girl who has been living in London long enough she sounds British. We got along well and ended up tagging around together for a few days. It was really cool and I made two necklaces.

I also signed up for a private Balinese dance class. This was really funny because I had not seen Balinese dancing so I didn't know what I was getting into. I really wished I had someone else with me taking this class because I was laughing the whole time because the movements were so strange especially the eye and hip movements that I just was hysterical. I should have watched the dance, but it surely made it more fun. The class was at the dancers house so I was able to learn alot more about family life ad ask alot of questions. Later in the evening I went to see a "Legong" performance. There are so many different types of dance here - Legong, Kekak Fire Dance and others all so very interesting and I've never seen any thing like it. Most are elaborate stories that dancers act out with intricate costumes and masks. Check out the video and laugh at me trying to learn to do the same thing.

The next day I took a cooking class and made some really yummy food. We went to the market to learn about the food then came back to a restaurant to cook with the chef. His name was Kutut. We learned the "basic spice" and 5 other recipes, some I think I can actually repeat. Whoa!

In Bali there are only four names. Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Kutut. They mean 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, and they are named for the order in which they are born. Many people obviously have nicknames by their profession or other things. So it's funny when someone says Kutut - and 5 people turn around!

This crazy mask is for you Denise!

Yesterday toured the island in a van with Made, the driver and two unexpected new friends. A 70ish year old pipe smoking man from Denmark who lives on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra and his friend/lover/servant/hmm? a Sumatran woman who had never been to Bali. Anyways they were hilarious people to travel around with and I was able to see Bali through the eyes of a Indonesian woman from another island and she could translate for me. We went to Lake Batur - a lake next to a volcano that blew its top around 1963, a fabulous rice field - oh my it brought me to tears, an organic fruit farm and an indigenous village. I'm really glad I was traveling with Sari - from Sumatra, because she allowed be to walk into the kitchen of an indigenous woman's home and learn about her cooking. (I'm not sure if the naming thing is different on muslim islands,) Bali is Hindu, the rest are mainly Muslim and have different traditions. She said she was tired and hot and has been cooking for everyone in the village, at least 30 people, for many years.

The last video is of the place I have been staying for the past 4 nights.

I am now off to Kuta to try to find some surf!

Darnit. So I'm learning video takes a long time even when you have them the right size! After writing all of that, the video is still not working or its uploading ridiculously slow. If I get a room that has internet, I will let it take an hour to upload since I've already been here for quite a while.... So I think I might be doing more photos and less video! Stay tuned I want to make it work!
Big hugs