Saturday, August 30 was Ginger Rain’s 2nd birthday. We awoke on the day to an island in full celebration. Everyone was wearing their best ceremonial garb, such as kubayas– Balinese “jackets” with sashes over special sarongs, headdressses, rice on foreheads, etc. The streets were lined with arching bamboo poles with oragami palm leaves hanging down, and everywhere we went people were abuzz. They zipped from here to there on motorbikes with mini versions of the palm leaf oragmai swinging from the handlebars. The bikes were loaded five family-members full and stacked with colorful basket upon basket of food for the feasts. Streets were clogged with parades of barong dragons the length of the 5 or 6 people it took to hold up these costumes and gongs and gamelan instruments rang out as the processions passed.
Of course, we told Ginger that all of Bali was celebrating her big day! The “alternate” explanation is that it was actually the Hindu holiday of Kuningan, clearly a very big deal around here. This is why, when we asked if a priest could come do a blessing at Ginger’s b-day party, they first checked the Hindu calendar and then told us, yes- it was a very auspicious day to have such a ceremony. “Bagus!” the Balinese exclaimed when they heard of her lucky date, “Good!”
The party was held at a place called Desa Seni, which means “Art Village”. Check it out if you have a chance, it is amazing: http://www.desaseni.com/. You can visit Desa Seni for a day and enjoy the pool, yoga and food from their organic gardens, or spend the night (or 2 or 3!) in their traditional Indonesian structures moved here from other parts of the country and fully equipped with internet and DVD players. Even better, the whole place is a green operation and they do an enormous amount to help out the local village in which they’re situated. It’s probably these last traits which enticed Oprah to do a story on Desa Seni, although it was surely the stunning design of the place that attracted her resident interior design guru to come along.
We had the little gathering in the late afternoon, according to the priest’s busy Kuningan schedule and after the ceremony, had drinks and food by, and in, the pool. Just after sunset, we sang Happy Birthday in English and Bahasa over a gorgeous carrot cake to close the day. For some reason, G had it in her head that a birthday party meant balloons and kids, so we made sure we had both on hand and we were thrilled that some of our new friends on the island could come. Taylor and Sybil Steele and their little girls were one group. They are a lovely family with whom we’ve become better acquainted since coming over here (local Cardiff family and friends of our neighbors, the Machados). Anne-Marie and Paul and their little ones were there too. They were our neighbors when we stayed in the Seminyak area and since they are formerly Aussie but now locals, their kids enjoyed showing Ginger how to run wild island style while we got to know them all and surely made lifelong friends. While we really missed the presence of friends and family back home, we felt truly blessed to have such caring, fun people with which to share this special day.
Actually, it was after hearing about the Steele’s experience with a birthday blessing for their daughter’s 1st birthday at Desa Seni, that we decided to do the same thing for Ginger. The ceremony is like a naming, or a general blessing that is done for children early on in their lives on an important birthday. Apparently similar blessings are also done for people’s animals and even cars! We do not understand all that was involved, but from the moment the Hindu priest and his assistants showed up at Desa Seni, the calm feeling that we were involved in a happy and significant event crept over our entire party. We watched as they set out various baskets and bowls with offerings of fruit, rice, cake and even a whole chicken, head and all. There was also a dish of holy water and some dried herbs with pieces of cotton string in another basket for the rituals to come. The blessing began with much chanting and bell ringing by the priest which kept all of us pretty captivated, even our little toddler. This chanting threaded throughout the ceremony, lacing together rituals for Ian, Ginger and I involving holy water, binding our wrists with strings, placing dried herbs in our hands, fixing rice to our foreheads and my favorite, rubbing a plumeria flower between our palms and then holding it up to our third eye. This was done three times, once for Ginger, once for ourselves, and once for our parents. I especially loved involving G’s grandparents in this way since they could not be there themselves and they are, through us, the stuff that makes up our daughter.
After the ceremony was over, we all partook of some of the offerings on the table and thanked the priest and his assistants for blessing us all with such a reverent and rich tradition. We urged them to join us for the swimming and consumption that followed, but after a polite soft drink, they seemed ready to get on their way. All we could do was continue to say “terima kasih,” or “thank you,” over and over. No matter what your faith, it is hard not to be affected when someone of such intense personal power focuses an age-old ritual on you, allowing all involved to spend time thinking and feeling in the same, positive direction. We are so grateful to be in a position to have had this powerful experience, it is something Ian and I know we will never forget. As for Ginger Rain, as we said from the start, even if her mind does not remember, we know that her soul will.