Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year's Eve in Bali

6 January 2014
My apologies to the blog fans - if you've read the previous blog, you'll understand why this blog has been silent for a week or more.

The update:   I spent about 10 days in Bellingham spending time with my father and family, helping out with whatever I could (including measuring our mother's headstone so we could order a matching one), and the usual kind of stuff one does in such a situation.  I flew back to Bali, even though it was apparent that our father was fading quickly - I promised Richard I would only be gone ten days, and I stuck to that.  Plus, one has an obligation to one's family of origin, the family one is born into - but one also has an obligation to the families we create.  

So, Richard met me at the airport, we took a taxi to the neighbourhood of the hotel - and the roads were blocked for the big 31 December festival.  We had to walk about a mile, in the rain, with luggage with a broken strap.  And no raincoats.  Yup, this seemed typical and usual.  The neighbourhood of Kuta has a big carnival and parade on 31 Dec., and this was why we had planned to be in Kuta for the date - and, given the flight schedule and the traffic, we missed all the people in traditional clothing and costumes, and all the dancing.  Oh well.

The evening was full of fireworks everywhere - people shooting off all kinds of things that would go boom, flash a rocket to the sky, and explode with a crash and sparks and colours flying everywhere!  We actually saw some young men with a huge metal tube of fireworks, larger than a baseball bat, holding it up over their heads in the middle of the road, shooting fireworks high into the sky - and of course we stopped to watch the craziness.  

It was several hours of nonstop blasts and rockets and fireworks, then everything escalating and going off all together at midnight, up and down the coastline that we could see from our balcony (it was raining) - all amidst thunder and lightening!  Really impressive!  (And the photos are all lifted from the internet, my camera doesn't do well with night photos.)

Got up the next morning to a message from my middle brother that Dad passed away about 2 PM on Dec 31.  Faster than expected.  And maybe I should have just stayed.  But I promised Richard I'd only be gone 10 days, so I was.  As I said, I chose the obligation to the family we've created.

So, well, this is a travel blog, not a personal journal, even though there is that aspect of it too.  Anyone who has lost a parent knows how it feels, how part of the world just seems empty.

But being in Bali, well, it's another experience.  It sort of gives me an insight into the offerings for ancestors that is part of the Balinese Hindu tradition.  Because my brothers and nephews and I had a Greek dinner in honour of our father, who was a Fulbright scholar in Greece one year and the three of us went along with him.  (Mom and two siblings stayed in the US for a variety of reasons.)  As we ate the Greek foods that Dad always enjoyed, we reminisced about our year in Athens, and the foods, and the experiences, and our father's horrible Greek pronunciation.  

And isn't that what the offerings to the spirits and ancestors are all about?  Not so much physically feeding them, but connecting to the experiences and memories we hold in our hearts, as we remember our loved ones.

So, while it is a painful experience to lose someone, well, it has definitely given me a deeper understanding of this part of Balinese culture.

On a brighter note, we both have enjoyed Bali, and the fireworks for New Year's Eve sort of embodied the Balinese way - there was probably some sort of organization of the community-run fireworks, but there were so many independent fireworks and individuals setting off various other fireworks that it was all some kind of beautiful chaos.  I think that sums up Bali - beautiful chaos.  The roads are congested, motorbikes go in both directions on one way streets, shrines are overflowing with offerings that spill out onto the sidewalk and street, and sometimes one can't identify a building as a house or temple or shrine - and yet, it all fits together into a beautiful picture, like pieces of a puzzle, each piece it's own little bit of beauty, from the colourful clothes of the motorbike riders to the flowers and foods in the offerings to the exuberant structure of the architecture - it's all part of the beautiful chaos.

1 comment:

  1. Phebe, I'm sorry to learn of your father's passing; I was in Guam for the past 10+ days and when I came home, my mom told me. I'm glad you came home to spend some time with him. I do think that's important.

    I'm loving your blog! Thailand seems so colorful --perfect for an artist like you.