Wednesday, November 14, 2012

APU's Grete Greer: A taste of Bali, Indonesia

In this continuing two-month series of posts from APU creative writing students, Grete Greer gives us a break from Alaska weather with a short travel piece about Bali.
You know why you’re here, you just don’t know what to say when people ask, you know what you’re doing, you just can’t put it into words. You’re not here for work or your parents or school you are here for yourself, alone. That’s all, and that’s how it should be.

You sway through the Kumbasari Market located in Bali Indonesia; your experience: exotic and moving. Every sense you process is crowded with the sweet sensation of rich culture. The sight of the hundreds of baskets placed before you, all begging for your approval. The rich smell of sizzling Zabu, the local meat fills your nostrils. You allow yourself to visit fresh bursts of vibrant red chilies and bright orange mango flesh. To your left, an old fisherman offering dried fish is smoking his hand-carved corn pipe. A woman to your right is shouting to you in Balinese which, much to your regret you were too distracted to review before your journey. You travel too much for all that, you’re here for the submersion anyways, the experience of a completely foreign land. Your mouth is tinged with bizarre spices and sweet nectar, as you’ve never experienced before.

You close your eyes and listen to the chaos of the marketplace. You smell fish, dried and hand caught; you smell durian, dewy and pungent. You run your fingers across the hand carved wood statues and feel the detail, you feel the hours of work put into making every mark, every edge perfectly rounded off. You hear the sizzle of raw meat on the hand-made charcoal grill directly in front of you. After purchasing a slab, you sink your teeth into the warm flesh and savor the many spices and hand crushed peanut glaze. You feel the blistering Indonesian sun on your uncovered back and peer across the alley to find a clothing shop with a very small old woman at guard. You barter for a rich, silk shawl and 20,000 Rupiah later, its rich fibers are wrapped around your pink shoulders, $2US what a steal.

You sprint to the nearest road and flag down a local Bali Bemo, you hurdle in and, through much confusion gesture him you drive you to a beach. No seatbelts, no air condition, the ride is sticky but liberating. You peer through the windows at the passing vehicles, utter chaos, you’ve never seen a motorway so packed full with entire families riding on mopeds, small bikes towering with fresh produce and long surf boards and irresponsible, young drivers. The small bikes weave swiftly in and out through the muddled traffic pattern laid out in front of you. You notice yourself clawing for stability on all interior surfaces of the vehicle. The driver comes to a sudden halt and with a smile says, “Beach.”

You know this is most certainly not the beach but the glorious sun is still high in the sky and you pay the man and promptly exit the vehicle. After aimlessly walking down a long path, you see that you have been taken to The Tirtha Empul Temple, a local pool of holy water the native Hindu go to for purification. You’ve had experience with Hinduism; however, not enough. Not enough to confidently submerge yourself in the crystal liquid of refinement. Maybe you’ll dip your toe in to rid yourself of a white lie, maybe your whole foot for a small sin, or maybe you’ll find it within yourself to allow your entire body to be cleansed underneath one of the many spigots provided for all of your sins.

Once spiritually fulfilled, you find your way to a beach utilizing local transportation, Tulamben beach, one of the most sought after snorkeling spots in all of Indonesia. After renting unbelievably affordable dive gear, you allow yourself to slowly wade into the water. Once submerged, you begin to observe the gorgeous array of reef life. As you pull yourself closer to the rich colors of the coral before you, the vibrant, yellow sunrays allow you to view the beautiful life on the reef. A hawksbill turtle is dancing in the swirling waves of the reef, your heart pounds as you make your way past a school of barracuda followed by a reef shark. As he passes, the vibrant blues, yellows, greens and reds of the slighter reef fish gust away.

A friendly traveler in a fishing boat offers you a sheltered ride back to shore after you make your way miles out into the water. The humble wanderer invites you to his local home where you are able to shelter yourself in warm, dry clothing. As you make your way through his cozy, handmade trinket-filled home. You arrive in the surrounding neighborhood, the local people are celebrating The Hindu New Year, Nyepi, parading enormous and flamboyant sculptures of ogoh-ogoh monsters. The monsters are colorful and detailed, the surrounding Balinese women are celebrating by traditional dance, they are wearing elaborate headdresses, fresh jasmine flowers and rich dresses that luster in the sunlight.

Grete Greer is an APU student.

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