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Suzen's Personal Journey - Chapters Five and Six



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Chapter Five: My Favorite Altitude- Sea Level

 Candidasa- A Beautiful Beach and a Prevailing Sea

 

This week I ventured to the beach at Candidasa. I was so excited about packing my backpack full of clothes and toiletries, just like the real backpackers! Of course they all go to Borneo and other uninhabited exotic places. Like I am not in Bali, Indonesia!! See how comparing yourself with others just gets more and more ridiculous!!

So with my backpack full and my computer bag across my shoulder- containing my Mac, books, iPod, drawing pad, pens, camera and various other stuff, I headed out to the shuttle pick up.  At a cost of $4.50 and the word shuttle you can see where this story is going... The east coast of Bali is roughly 35 miles from Ubud, but it always takes forever to get anywhere. For one thing there is rarely an opportunity to drive over 35 mph. In town there is just too much traffic of all varieties and even in the villages there is always at least one motorbike with what looks and sounds like a lawnmower engine attached to it going about 10MPH. Naturally you can pass but if there is a curve or say an old woman walking in the other lane you pretty much come to a stop to begin passing. The motorbikes pass on either the left or the right. The motorbike is very often an extension of the drivers' body. For instance, if there is a narrow opening, say between two moving vehicles that a person could walk through then the bike can go through as well. The depth perception of these people is unbelievable! This is why my practice is to keep my eyes firmly closed when I am a passenger on one of these bikes! As well as keeping my feet and knees tucked in close! With the size of my feet I can almost picture one of my flip-flops getting caught in the bumper of a passing car. Anyway, back to the trip to Candidasa. I boarded a van (remember the Bemo?) well this van actually had seats, that faced the front. I had a window that opened and a nice Scottish girl beside me and all was well. Except we only went about 10 minutes to a terminal and then got (after a 20-30 minute wait) onto a bigger bus. This leg of the trip took about an hour and once again I had a window that opened. (I see Japanese tourist all the time on these big air-conditioned buses. I don't know where they find them!!) Anyway, we arrived to a very unpleasant part of a port town called Padangbai, at another "terminal". It is 12:15 and they tell us to get off and wait for a connection to Candidasa along with 5 other destinations, including the Gillie Islands where most everyone else seemed to be going. I walked up to a man behind a wooden table who looked like he might have something to do with destinations. "Excuse me," I said, "I am going to Candidasa." He looked at me and I am certain, in his head he said, "and I care??" He was the first non-friendly Balinese that I have met. He waved me away and said "I will call you for Candidasa at 1:00." Great- it was 12:15 and about 100 degrees and I am beginning to feel like a pack animal. However, Suzen_CandidasaFellow_Travelers.jpgafter looking around I see that I am a total lightweight. These people have packs on their backs the size of a Honda Civic!  And, some of them, possibly due to the heat and the sheer weight of their packs, are walking around with the same dazed look I have become accustomed to wearing.  Finally, after about an hour, someone with a very quiet voice mentions Candidasa and thankfully two little boys, even more restless than me start yelling "Candidasa Candidasa"! So, I go to this little van, which was filled to capacity, and there was still me, the 2 little boys and their mother. Somehow, (I hate to think I might have shoved little children out of the way to board this van) but there I was on the van and seated. I could go into more detail of the young mother and 2 kids getting situated but I will spare you. Suffice it to say this was a 9 passenger van and there were 14 of us on it. Plus the backpacks for us all, piled in a space between the front seat and the second row, which only had 2 seats but 3 were in it. I tried to keep an eye on my backpack, which was kind of easy, it was the clean one. It seems everyone I meet here has backpacked through at least 2 continents!  Finally we are all inside when the mother with the 2 little boys, a beautiful woman from Venezuela, and the driver, started an altercation as to whether he knowingly overbooked the van. This was fun for all of us! At last he settles in behind the wheel and the van just chokes and gurgles and will in no way start. Just breathe- I am thinking. A couple of young guys from the terminal get behind us and PUSH and eventually we are on our way. I will not discuss the sweating or the spilled juice box on me or any of the other aspects of this trip. I will say that I booked a room for 2 nights in a place recommended to me. And when I booked the room I asked how to get there and I was told that the shuttle would bring me and to let them know to drop me off at Amarta- sounds easy. As we are driving through the typical countryside villages of Bali I am truly marveled by all of the green colors. The word verdant keeps coming up, maybe because it sounds like virile and this green is positively alive!  After about a half hour the van stops and I'm thinking "now what". The driver gets out and sticks his head in the side door, and looks in my direction and says, "is someone going to Amarta?" "Yes, that's me", I replied. I get out on the highway (2 lanes) and I say, "how do I get there?" and he points to a road which I start trudging down- laden, as you might recall, as a pack mule...clearly I have way too much stuff for 2 overnights. I walked close to a mile down this country road- no signs, no sea. I passed 2 cows, 2 motorbikes, a scattering of chickens and a couple of ducks. Finally I saw through the trees something blue, dark blue. Water! Ocean water! I was going in the right direction!! Revived, it was just a few more minutes until I came upon a small sign that said Amarta. Thank you God, I thought.

As it turns out it was worth the trip; beautiful waters with a mountain next to the beach and a nice little bungalow resort. Like something out of the 1950s Florida. The bungalows were on the beach but on an incline of about 15-20 feet and protected by a sea wall. Fifty-foot palms are all over the grounds and in the morning the color green fills the air. I never knew green came in so many shades but here there is endless green. The complementary deep blue water makes a very soothing atmosphere.

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Candidasa- Morning Fog

When I arrived they asked if I wanted a massage and I inquired about the cost- the price only $50,000 which is approximately five American dollars and so I replied, maybe. The absolute first thing I wanted was a shower!  My bathroom was a long room with all kinds of greenery planted and trained up the inside wall towards the 2 foot opening at the top where I could see coconut palms and sky. Ahhhhh...definitely worth the trip.

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My Bathroom Wall- Candidasa Bungalow

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My Room- Candidasa

The second thing I wanted was food. Since the trip had eaten up all of my calories I went to the patio and had guacamole and a small Bintang. The guacamole came out in a giant sundae glass with a bowl of little rice crackers. There was enough avocado for a party of four however naturally, for me, I ate it all. Bintang is the Bali beer, a pilsner and very good. It comes in two sizes, small, which is a regular 12 oz and large, a full half-liter of beer that only an Aussie can drink before the chill is off!

As I was gently swaying in my new best friend, the hammock, a Bali girl came up to me and Suzen_Candidasa_My_Objective.jpgsaid, are you ready for massage? Oh, yeah, I almost forgot...didn't I say maybe?? What the heck, it's $5, and the little massage area is right out on the shady lawn and it is late afternoon. However, if I get more relaxed I will surely slip into a coma. I walk over a few steps and she says "take off." I think, take off what? I only have on shorts and a tank top. So after a moment of awkward silence I say, "let me go put my swim suit on..."

Out I come with my swimsuit and a sarong wrapped around me.  I then lie face down on the massage table and then she proceeds to take OFF my swimsuit! Oh my Goodness, in broad daylight - outside - in public! Outside I was calm but inside there was a primal scream going on. At least she stopped pulling my tiny bit of clothing off just at the edge of my buttocks!!  What could I do? I just went inside my head, taking myself down to the beach, walking around (fully clothed) and enjoyed the gentle waves lapping the shore...and eventually I spaced out. After about 30 minutes of this - and I had grown accustomed to it quite nicely, very relaxed - abruptly I was startled with her saying, "face up". WHAT? I'm naked! I wanted to yell. Outside, in broad daylight, and in public!? Remarkably my swimsuit had been returned to around mid belly, so I am merely topless with may face to the sky. I kept me eyes tightly closed and reminded myself that I will never see any of the people, that may be strolling the grounds, ever again and most likely never visit the countries they are from. My only comfort was in the old technique of childhood- if you keep your eyes closed then no one can see you. Once it was over I took my oiled self and tried to walk nonchalantly off to my room...only 20 feet away. If God had wanted me to walk around naked He would have given me a 20 year old body for life.

On a totally different note, that first night there must have been a sea storm of some sort. I felt, for the first time in my life, fear of being near the water. There is something akin to a barrier wall about 50-100 yards out from where the waves are and a shallow swimming area right in front with a bit of beach. From the seawall, where I would stand, the beach was about 15-20 feet down. During the night I kept hearing gale force winds but when I looked out all was still. It was the water- not the lulling rhythmic breakers that I am used to but a force of water that was unsettling to me. I had such a sense of the tiny spit of land I was on. And the immensity of the body of water we were all at the mercy of. I did not have the guts to go out and see how big the waves were but the size and power of the water was unmistakable. And I was so aware of being alone.

When I got up at 5:30AM that morning, I was thankful the night was over, I saw there was noSuzen_Canidasa_Beach_at_Candidasa.jpg beach and apparently the breakers that were 50 yards out yesterday were at my seawall in the night- about 10 yards from my bungalow! Spray was still coming over the wall at intervals and even my shoes were soaked as I had left them at the edge of my porch. But as I am the eternal optimist; just seeing the luminous clouds in the dark sky just before dawn and seeing the water keeping to its boundaries, I was comforted and I again felt at peace. No longer did I feel quite so alone...I had my breath and I knew God was closer than my breath, and there was beauty all around me, always a clear reminder of the magnitude and all encompassing infinity of God.

The forces of nature, more than anything else, strip away my sense of actually being in control therefore when I let go of this illusion, I feel a sense of peace. I have heard that good mental health knows what you are responsible for (can control) and what you are not responsible for (cannot control). And the required completion of knowing; the letting go of what you are not responsible for and cannot control anyway.

On my second day I went to a beach called Pasir Patih, also known as the white sand beach. ItSuzen_Candidasa_Pasir_Putih.jpg may possibly be the most beautiful piece of water I have ever seen. The photos are a very cheap replication of the color and magnitude of the water. I was unable to adequately capture the size and texture of the mountain growing into the sea. The beach is quite wide by Bali standards and maybe 300 yards long. There were several tourist scattered about. There were 5 or 6 Warungs up on the shore offering Sate and Cokes and Bintangs along with rough wooden chaise lounges with a thin plastic cushion for $5,000 rupiahs...$.50. I took one. Anywhere there are tourists in Bali there is a vendor with a basket of trinkets and here was no exception. One of the vendors at Pasir Putih was an old toothless man with a huge smile and a bamboo pole across his shoulder with 2 baskets hung from either end. He was selling seashells he claimed were from this sea. There were none on the shore but possibly he dove for them...at any rate, I bought a few. Possibly I will discover a made in Taiwan sticker upon closer examination...but until then I will believe he was the diver, these are his treasures and I traded him some paper.

Since transportation in Bali seems to be such a major theme with me I will make an effort not to go into too much detail as to how I got to Pasir Patih. Let me just say, it is remote. Let me also say that the final few miles of road we drove down could never be classified as a road, not even a trail, unless for a donkey or other sure footed creature. I was in a Bemo. I may have screamed, I don't remember. This rutted boulder filled ravine was the only way to get to possibly the most beautiful piece of water in all of Bali! And a gorgeous beach! How have the Hiltons missed this little gem?? I am still a bit mystified. There were maybe 2 or 3 cars at the bottom and one abandoned near the top where the worst of the descent begins. How the other humans arrived down there is a question I still ponder.

So now I am back home at Gandra's house from Candidasa, safe from the water terrors of the night and the slight embarrassments of the day.

By the way, I had another massage on the morning before l left Candidasa.

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Chapter Six: A Little Bali in All of Us...

 When I first said I was going to Bali someone asked me, "Is it because of that book?" "What book?" I said. "Eat, Pray, Love".  "Oh. No, I don't think so. I read it a few months ago."

Maybe this is where I first germinated the idea of Bali...

So, once I got to Bali I re-read "Eat, Pray, Love." Now I remembered why I loved this book and yes I do think it influenced me. The part where the author is riding a bike through the rice fields at sunset and mentions her practice of "Diligent Joy" was a moment of recognition for me. In or out of Bali, this is a practice I want to pursue. And as she so clearly states, "The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Cleaning out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people."

To me, Bali was never just a place but a destination, a journey. The journey to Bali has always been a personal journey for me; an inward journey. Bali was the physical destination but not the only destination. And, anyway, as we know, the journey is very often the real thing!

Before I left Florida my friend Wendy and I were playing around with acrostics and we came up with this for BALI:

Be

Authentic

Loving

Inspiring

You certainly don't have to be on the island of Bali to be these things, (but if you can, DO!) So, I always, wherever I am, want to be Bali inside. Coming to Bali was a stepping out for me, something unlike what I am used to doing and being. I felt proud of myself and felt a sense of personal power that was a quiet but very strong sensation. This will always stay with me, in the way my friend Asheema told me a new enlightenment will always stay with you. She said, when your consciousness has been raised it will never be diminished. Or as the Abraham-Hicks says, "Life is expansion, and once expanded it can never be contracted." And don't you love this, "Expansion creates more expansion!!"

I believe there is a "Bali" in all of us. And now, I will have Bali in me forever.

So, with all this said, I feel my time in the physical Bali is drawing to a close. Yes, I know, it was only 6 weeks instead of 6 months! But I feel the exercise of my personal power was in the coming, not necessarily in the staying. Bali is beautiful in so many ways but I feel my time is complete here and I don't feel drawn to live in Bali long term.

Because of Bali I know more of what I can do on my own!  And...there is a new journey that has already begun! In a few days I will be flying to New Zealand to a women's resort in Waipu Northland New Zealand. I will be doing "wwoofing" there which is working on an organic farm in exchange for room and board. My place is a women's retreat by the name of Waihoihoi Lodge, which has a large organic garden. http://www.waihoihoi.co.nz/ So for 4 hours a day I will be working in a beautiful location in exchange for room and board in a beautiful lodge situated on the north end of the north island overlooking the sea. Beautiful!

It's best to let the international WWOOF website (http://www.wwoof.org/) define WWOOFing: "WWOOF - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - is a worldwide network started in the UK in 1971, and has since become an international movement that is helping people share more sustainable ways of living. WWOOF is an exchange - in return for volunteer help WWOOf hosts offer food, accommodations and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles..."

I am very excited for this experience and grateful to have the opportunity.

But for now, back to Bali...A few days ago I took a "tour" to a sea temple right on the beachSuzen_Tanah_Lot_pic1.jpg called Tanah Lot Temple. Allegedly it is the most photographed temple in Bali. The temple is situated on a rocky inlet, which you can walk to at low tide. It is extremely picturesque therefore extremely commercial and packed with tourists! However, for me nothing could diminish the view of the ocean at sunset.

Photo Right- Tanah Lot

It was my lucky tour; no buses, no vans, no bemos. I rode like a movie star in an air air-conditioned car with two other women and a driver! And as we left Ubud at 2:00 in the afternoon, I said a thousand thank yous. The other tourists were two women from Germany, mother and daughter. Over the course of the drive I discovered the daughter (30ish) was a social anthropologist in some remote village in Borneo, living without electricity, among other privations, alone!! She was doing research for her PhD. She spoke perfect English and rattled off Indonesian to the driver that made my head spin. Her mother, I found out later, was co-authoring a book on the colonization of central Java, which she had been researching for several years and was in the process of acquiring a PhD as well.

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Photo Above- Tanah Lot Temple 

On the way to the Tanah Lot we toured one of Bali's Royal Temples. There are temples everywhere in Bali but the royal temples are much bigger, typically with picturesque grounds. This royal temple was surrounded by a moat with many mature trees and beautifully manicured lawns.

Suzen_Sunset_at_Tanah_Lot_pic3.jpgWe arrived in Tanah Lot about 5:00, an hour before sunset. We walked around the west side of the temple up a little grassy hill and found a wall, blissfully empty of people, and sat there and watched one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen. It was magnificent. And as it is with all natural beauty, once the life is removed through a photo, only a shadow of the splendor remains. But even though I was unable to capture either the shimmering colors or the sound of the rolling thundering waves, I have a lasting sensual memory of that hour. 

 

Photo Left- Sunset-Tanah Lot

In the long moment of internal silence and quiet reverence I felt transported to the sublime place where one truly senses the presence and magnificence of God. This undoubtedly was one of my essential experiences in Bali.

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Photo Above- Suzen at Sunset- Tanah Lot

Bali is magical, as everyone says, and very spiritual. Bali is a Hindu island in the midst of a 2,000-mile archipelago, Indonesia, which is considered the most populous Muslim country in the world. Somehow, the Balinese have been able to maintain their spiritual heritage, which is a Balinese form of Hinduism. Spiritual life in Bali is not really segregated from mundane life as it often is in the west. The Balinese spirituality is deeply integrated into their lives, customs and everyday activities. Offerings are made daily by the women, according to one of my Balinese friends, as a matter of respect as opposed to obligation. In addition, the Balinese are a very tolerant people towards outsiders. It's a good thing too because foreign tourist are constantly taking photos of temples and ceremonies and offerings like they have never seen anything like it. Oh yeah, I guess I have been doing that too. These patient and friendly people smile and offer a glimpse into their inner life with grace and openness.

And whatever your spiritual inclinations, you are free to exercise them in this open and rather sacred environment. Each morning as the women in my compound walk around with their baskets of offerings trailing the sweet aroma of incense I am reminded to offer my own thanksgiving and prayers.

So, my last few days in Bali I have decided to do what any self-respecting tourist does in a foreign country. Eat! Leave no prisoners. Eat all you can! Finally I broke free from the western cafes, as charming cheap and delicious as they were. I have been treating myself to more Indonesian cuisine, Thai and some Indian dishes. The other night I had a Green Papaya Salad that was so delicious and so spicy that my nose was running like a faucet and tears and sweat covered my face but I couldn't stop eating. It was just too good. I balanced this with a very yummy Samosa and eggplant grilled on a flat iron and topped with yogurt.  Almost the same thing happened with a Vietnamese salad at another local place but this was served in something similar to a taco bowl, different but spicy and bursting with flavor. I felt like the big white rabbit that lives here at Gandra's and eats anything and everything as I was tearing through the salad and then ate the bowl down to the last crumb.

On a fairly quiet side street there is place renown among the backpacker community. (I haveSuzen_Dewa_Warung_aka_Backpackers_Warung_pic6.jpg included a photo creatively called the "backpackers warung" photo right). This place was pointed out to me a week or two after I got here but with my innate snobbiness I said something along the lines of "not in this lifetime" inside my head.  Remember the two German friends (the PhD researchers...) that I went to Tanah Lot Temple with? Well, on our way back to Ubud they asked if I would like to join them for dinner and I answered, yes, please. I do enjoy eating alone SOME of the time but the past week or so it has been 3 (or some days 2 or 5) meals a day with only my own company. I am beginning to see how redundant I can be!! (Great- probably another Bali-lesson!)

Turns out these women, Anaka and Eva,  (photo below and left) were staying in a Guesthouse directly across the street from me. So we quick changed clothes...meaning from a tank top to a long sleeve t-Suzen_Eva_and_Anaka_pic5.jpgshirt...and met out front. The daughter, Anaka says, "there is a great place not far from here that has really good food and is really cheap". That sounds perfect to me! Guess where it was? The backpacker's warung that I had shunned. Now these women had no compact cars on their backs, were very civilized and seemed to be healthy. So, I put my snobbiness aside and had one of the best meals I've had in Ubud. AND I have been back twice and am on my way again as soon as I finish this, my final installment of Bali. How fitting.

What I had to eat at this bit of culinary heaven was crispy noodles with vegetables. This bowl of delight was 80 cents and on top of the crispy noodles was spinach, thinly sliced carrots, onions, cauliflower and bits of scrambled egg; all in a tasty delicate broth.  SEE PHOTO- below and right!! If anyone loves to eat and doesn't have a lot of money, find a way to get to Bali. Even the Bali beer, Bintang, a very good pilsner, is just over a dollar for a bottle. Wine is extremely expensive and the Bali wine is just barely tolerable. Alcohol is still notSuzen_Crispy_Noodles_at_the_Backpackers_Warung_pic7.jpg widely available and also quite expensive, only available in the real western establishments. But who could drink with all this cheap, delicious, healthy food just begging to be eaten.

Anyway, Ubud has more interesting health drinks and just plain refreshing drinks than I have ever seen anywhere else. Ginger Tamarind Limeade or Lemonade, Mint and Aloe and Rose Water, (excellent and healthy) Ginger Fizz, shaved ginger, lemon grass and soda water in a tall frosty glass with a sprig of mint and a straw...mmmm. Smoothies that defy the imagination with the fruit combinations, Lassies and countless teas served in sweet little pots. Lastly, I have thrown caution to the wind and have gorged myself on roasted cashews and these fabulous little peanuts called kacang that contain an addictive substance yet to be identified.

So, farewell to Bali, though not really. I believe Bali will stay with me in a tangible and in a splendidly non-tangible way forever. As I am quite sure it does with most everyone lucky enough to come here. If you are going to travel anywhere outside the US, I think Bali is a must if at all possible. You can spend a lot of money in Bali or you can spend a little bit and still have a fabulous experience- from sensual to spiritual.  Bali is a feast for the eyes, the heart, the taste buds and the spirit.

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Photo Above- Bali Moon



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