A Big (Birth)Day on the Island

September 3, 2008 at 1:52 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, )

Ginger in her b-day kubaya

Ginger in her b-day kubaya

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 proud fam.

The proud fam.

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.

Ready to begin

Ready to begin

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.

G and new pal, The Wild Kobe

G and new pal, The Wild Kobe

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.

The MAN

The MAN

The ceremonial spread

The ceremonial spread

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.

Meditating on the grandparents

Meditating on the grandparents

I don't know what Mom's doing, but I'm keeping my eyes on this guy here!

I don't know what mom's doing, but I'm keeping my eyes on this guy here!

A little sprinkle of holy water for the girl

A little sprinkle of holy water for the girl

Pack it in pack it out

Pack it in pack it out

Ian the Pied Piper plays on!

Ian the Pied Piper plays on!

Singin' the song(s)

Singin' the song(s)

Cutting the cake and ending the perfect day

Cutting the cake and ending the perfect day

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Coast to Coast

August 17, 2008 at 6:50 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, , , )

Enjoying her Balinese freedom

Enjoying her Balinese freedom

We have traveled away from the ocean and back again since last we spoke. When we left Uluwatu, we were pretty insistent on finding transport with seat belts so G could be in a car seat for the long ride. Felt kind of silly, though, as we tucked into traffic behind motorbike after motorbike with entire families on them, including all ages of babies. How the Balinese can convince a 1 year old not to squirm as they navigate Kuta’s crowded streets I would like to know! Ian’s favorite was one sarong-clad woman nursing an infant, driving her motorbike and texting on her phone all at once.

Feeding the Koi at a temple near Ubud

Feeding the koi at a temple near Ubud

So we made our incredibly safe way up to the mountain town of Ubud for a few days of rice paddies, art and temples. Ubud, for those of you “Eat, Pray, Love” fans needs no introduction. It is considered the cultural hub of Bali and much of the wood, silver and paintings comes from Ubud and the areas around it. Therefore the art market is sensational, as are the little boutiques with a far more sophisticated edge than most other stores on the island. Also not to be missed are the extensive galleries and museums, At one, the ARMA, you can catch the young girls practicing their Legong dance in the afternoons for free. Another big draw is the Monkey Forest, aptly named for it’s forest of roaming monkeys and gorgeous temple inside. Of course, G loved this place, even though the monkeys stole our nuts and then our water bottle and climbed all over her Dada in the process. Afraid the zoo will seem a bit boring after this. We also went to outlying sites of 11th century elephant caves, temples of holy springs and tiny warung’s (like a small restaurant joint) nestled into endless hills of terraced rice paddies. Legong dance at the Ubud Palace outdoors (of course) was also sensational with fascinating women of pink and gold lace and impressive warriors with acrobatic feet. Ian and I are constantly struck at how there is no place on earth like Bali. No place has the tropic climate with it’s requisite blooms and fragrances, such a richness of cultural sites and art and of course, these warm, gentle people with gigantic smiles that are always real.

Yes, it's the monkey off his back

Yes folks, it's the monkey off his back.

We’ve now made our way back to the beach to a place called Canggu (cha-ngu) due to an interesting turn of events. While here, Ian was recently contracted to do a commercial for Hurley’s new revolutionary boardshorts (they actually repel water and stretch like rubber). That Ian was already here when the job came up was coincidental enough. Even more serendipitous is the fact that the shoot’s star is none other than our neighbor back in Cardiff, Rob Machado, who also has a house in Canguu. I’ll let Ian fill you in on the Fellini-like details of trying to accomplish a first world shoot on a 3rd world island, but all in all I’d say it was incredibly successful and lots of fun to do. In Canggu, we’ve been put up by the D.P. from the shoot and his wife and 10 year old daughter. Of course, once again, Ginger is thrilled to have a big girl to prattle behind. These people have been incredibly welcoming to us and the villa in which they are living is incredible. Karma Island continues to be good to us.

Partaking of the holy waters at Goa Gajah elephant caves

Partaking of the holy waters at Goa Gajah elephant caves

The other little monkey on his back

The other little monkey on his back

In the "field"

In the"field"

Our gracious hosts picking rice in Canggu

Our gracious hosts picking rice in Canggu

Ginger's fans are come from far and wide, even China!

Ginger's fans come from far and wide, even China!

As a post script for Ginger fans, you should know that she is now speaking pretty fluently telling us things like, “Ian not Da-da. Ian Papa!” (she’s heard the Balinese call him that) and “Got stroller now, no sling, no need it.” She also busted out with some Indonesian this morning as we passed a woman on the road through the rice paddies and she called out “Pagi!” which means “Morning!” In memoriam of her quickly dying off Ginger lingo, I wanted to list some words that are all her own, before they get absorbed into boring old proper English. As with all the others, we will miss this stage so! – mitney = blanket – Ninny = Ginger – Burr = vitamin – ee-eee = open it – Uh-sigh = other side

A meeting of the tongues

A meeting of the tongues

Canggu villa life

Canggu villa life

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Bali: Beauty is Queen

August 9, 2008 at 2:11 pm (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, , , )

Cruising thorugh dreamland through self-timer

Cruising through dreamland via self-timer

We’ve only just arrived in Bali and already feel we are in Nirvana. The most bedrock tenant for all life in Bali is the ideal of Beauty. The minute you get here you are bathed in it. The mountains, ocean, trees, rice paddies, the flowers and their smells, the birds and their songs, the people and all of their intricate and devoted art, music and dance, all pay heed to Beauty’s call. You cannot help but become gentler, more aesthetic, upon arrival.

Right now, the weather is perfect. Warm and humid but just right with the ever-present off-shore breeze. It is a much-needed break from cold, cold, Oz in wintertime. I am lying on my back looking up at puffy white clouds speeding across a candy blue sky. A large plumeria tree in bloom branches across of my view and in the corner, a  canvas umbrella completes the look. Ginger naps blissfully on a carved wooden lounger beside me so that I am free to read or write or make my way across a vanishing pool that merges with the Indian Ocean where Ian surfs below. I got G to sleep in the stroller on cobbled paths at our hotel, then a kind man with beautiful cheek bones helped me carry her here, to our resting point. Bliss.

Here I am merely, proudly, an entourage

Here I am merely, proudly, an entourage

It was sweet of this man to help, or perhaps he was just doing his job. But I doubt it. The Balinese are a lovely, lovely people. I could happily sit and watch the wide shouldered, slender fingered, almond eyed women sweep a floor for hours, their glossy black hair mimicking the movement of the broom. Doubtless Ian feels the same way. And  they all LOVE children. Worship them in fact. Now, we have heard this about many places we’ve traveled: Mexico, Hawaii– all true. But none as much as the Balinese. Perhaps you have heard of their tradition of not letting a baby touch the ground until 6 months of age, at which point an elaborate ritual (there is no other kind here) celebrates their full transition into this life from the spirit world. This reverence does not end at 6 months though. It is as if, when you cross the path of a Balinese with your child, they are being blessed with a deity. They get giddy and approach the babe, beaming and tinkling with joy. Actually, I can’t figure out if it’s more like a devotee meeting a holy figure, or a child meeting a character at Disneyland. Either way, the effect is adorable and incredibly helpful, actually. This morning at breakfast at the hotel, I watched a woman come in with a baby, hand him off to a thrilled waitress and then eat her entire meal in peace while the wait staff enjoyed her child. What a blessing for all!
The flight here was murder and it is a credit to this place that I’ve already almost forgotten. Suffice to say that Jetstar has incredibly strict restrictions on the weight of your bags and for every single kilo you go over, you pay 20 dollars. Our bill came to $525!!! Desperate,  and in a mad rush because boarding was starting soon (the lines had been crazy), we hurried over to something called “unaccompanied baggage”. There we mercilessly chose items, including G’s porta-crib, that we could do without for a few days and handed them over to be sent when there was space on a future flight. This cost too, but about a fifth of the first price. I joked with the man who worked there about how many parents he got rushing over from Jetstar. Stone faced, he told me not that many, it’s on the return, once you’ve been shopping in Bali, that you really need the service. Yes, I thought with a sinking feeling, he’s quite right. Then Ginger proceeded to pull a near all-nighter and was still awake at midnight when we got off the 6 and a half hour flight. Those around us without kids thought, judging by her mania, that she must not be tired. Those who had kids smiled knowingly saying, “No, that’s just how tired she is.” It was about that time, with meals on our trays and G climbing the poor people’s chairs in front of us that we regretted not buying the Little Bear her own seat.
Anyhow, so happy to be here now.

At the Uluwatu Temple on our way to see the Kecack dance

At the Uluwatu Temple on our way to see the Kecak dance

We are staying at a place overlooking a surf spot called Uluwatu. This has always been a sacred place for me. For some reason, when I lived in Jackson Hole many years ago, as I hiked through the snowy backcountry to snowboard, the name of this spot would get stuck in my head. It would hammer me all the way up and then fly through my brain as I cascaded down. Then when I finally came here in 2000, the time I spent at Ulu was some of the most peaceful and meditative of the trip. At one point, I went days without having a conversation with anyone, walking miles a day to the beaches and sacred temple here, healing a soul that had been battered by a rough tumble with capitalism back home. As for Ian, the place is like magic for a barrel-loving goofy foot and he can’t believe our luck at landing here right from the start.  We are both thrilled to show it to G.

monkeys at Ulu temple will take your hats & glasses given the chance (G loved that they were just like the ones in her book "Caps For Sale"

Beware: monkeys at Ulu temple will take your hats & glasses given the chance (G loved that they were just like the ones in her book "Caps For Sale")

Learning how to wax it up

Learning how to wax it up with Dad

In the beach cave to get to Ulu

In the beach cave to get to Ulu

That net is for swinging on, right?

That net is for swinging on, right?

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The Dream, The Last Straw, and The Plan

June 21, 2008 at 6:38 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Surf, Travel Musings, Wedded Bliss) (, , , , , , , , , )

THE DREAM: Someday we would take our daughter, Ginger Rain, on the road and experience life in far off places, even if her brain doesn’t remember, we know her soul will

THE LAST STRAW: Ian finally gets laid off from working for the man, he’ll go independent from now on but before that, there’s time for one last adventure (that’s what severance checks are used for, right?)

THE PLAN: Take 2 and a half months to visit friends across Australia and Bali, sell off excess fat and sublet our home to help cover costs, teach the toddler to say “loo” and pack the travel potty just in case

Trying to worship like the ancients was not hard today down at Cardiff Reef for a late-day Solstice swim. If you were here, you know that the longest day of the year was endlessly sweltering, enough to pull me away from the heap of things I need to get done before we leave a week from tomorrow. I knew I had to put my nose to the grindstone, prep the house for the Travelling Nurse Subletters of Our Dreams, pay, organize and stow a life for the road and one for storage while we’re gone from home. I can’t help but wonder, at which point that word begins to appropriate itself to the new place in which you find yourself. After 5 weeks, will Australia be “home”? Bali after 4? I should know better though, there are places I’ve lived for years that weren’t home. Thing is, I finally do have a home here in Cardiff By the Sea (ok, I just like saying the whole name). We have friendships here, groups, neighbors, community. I went for coffee with Ginger this morning and ran into and chatted idly with no less than four people we knew (all of whom commented on the killer day, btw, even though Cardiff has given us nothing but high expectations as far back as we can all remember). It could be harder to leave than we thought. We could be happier to arrive home than we think. Too, I’d allowed my nesting instincts to get hopped up on post-nursing hormones and sometimes worried about a lack of continuity in taking our toddler away from everything she was coming to know.

Vacation. Travel. Adventure. It all sounds good and it is. So good for us and so good for the baby. But, of course, I am the realist. It’s up to Ian to be the optomist of the family. So I’ve been waxing melancholy about getting to go on the adventure of a lifetime.

Coulda been the Solstice, though. Did I mention the heat? Did I also mention the rapture of the cold seawater on my skin as I ran into waves with my lab, Anakin? Did I mention the perfect barrels peeling of the reef (yes, bloggers, get ready for some surf-talk, it’s contagious). Those waves were an inspiration. They looked like very long rows of blue green houses out there and the air was pure gold dust . As I walked back to the circus my family was holding down while I was gone, I was California Dreamin’. Just as lists and figures began to re-enter my brain, I had a quick flash of insight. The Solstice hadn’t sharpened my desire to stay home, it only made me want to travel more, get more of life-affirming swims and stellar days coming to an end. How could I complain about the work or worry about what we’d leave behind? What’s a little work and change compared to soul imprints and memories for generations to come. There’s gold and green pastures over them there hills for me and mine and we’ll do whatever it takes to to get there…

…stay tuned for the post from the airplane where I reveal that trying to take a 21 month-old half way around the world on our laps was an act of pure delusion and decide to move to OZ to avoid the plane trip back…

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