|Aqua Bali Villa resort|
When I arrived, the tropical heat did not surprise me. Nor did the masses of drivers waiting fares at the exit of the airport.
What surprised me was the gentle manner in which the people, even in their crowded state, addressed the exiting passengers. There was an unnatural (to me) sense of calm within the chaos, which I took for granted. I noticed it, and I felt the anxiety I always feel when entering a new country where, immediately, the masses are trying to sell you something - trying to get the tourist dollars. It is understood.
This was different. The one constant I noticed about the Bali locals was, they never lost their sense of calm, or dignity as they worked. Yes, it is important to feed their families, and yes, tourism is a vital industry, but they never begged. They never shamed. They never lost their humanity when seeking work. I have never admired a group culture so much. I also did not see one homeless person. And I looked...I had a conversation with a taxi driver about homelessness, and the word itself was unfamiliar.
My plan was to see all the typical tourist attractions, the temples, the monkey forest, some waterfalls, and perhaps a sunset or two. The hotel sent a local driver to fetch me from the airport, and he agreed to drive me around the island a few days later to act as my private tour guide.
Not only did I get to see all the sites I was aware of on my little list, I was given a history lesson, taken to a cultural center for dance, escorted to the off the beaten path shopping areas, and even stopped at a lovely butterfly park.
My driver was working not solely for my fare, but also on a commission for the places he introduced me and sales were made. Interesting concept for me, but how else would some of these businesses get the traffic they see? I was grateful for the private tour.
The other days I spent in Bali, I chose to seek out the local beaches, watch the surfers and meditate. Although, every birthday I like to recharge and re-position my state of mind for the upcoming birth year, this was a wonderful opportunity to really downsize internally. Lose some baggage, release myself of expectation and re-secure life's purpose.
And I ate...Nasi garung was my favorite meal and I tried to eat it every day. Skewers of meat, with fried rice, crawfish, vegetables and different sauces which tasted of a combination of Indian and Chinese foods I am accustomed to in the states, but so much better. Hints of peanut and coconut, creamy delights to my taste buds. I thoroughly enjoyed every meal I had.
The shopping was another treat. I am not a big shopper, but finding dresses at a third the price, and jewelry unique to the island was like finding hidden treasures. I felt like a thief in the night and I cherished every piece I found.
The temples were exquisitely beautiful. Thinking that people built these intense sculptures was only overshadowed by the tributes and offerings that the local people gifted the sites daily. The burning incense in the street was common, as was the small offerings in front of local homes and businesses. Life and prosperity is a gift...and this culture is thankful and gracious, every day.
Bali is a wonderfully, magical place. I can absolutely understand why so many people want to visit and soak in the culture. It is a mindful experience which everyone could use to help realign themselves and learn to just be.