Tag Archives: Bali

BOOK REVIEW – EARTH DANCE – OKA RUSMINI

Earth Dance

I love books!  I love the feel, the smell, the weight of a good book.  I love waking up with a book on my face having read until I fell asleep!  I love a true story, an inspirational one, but I also love good fiction and am amazed to read something that has come straight from someones imagination.  For this reason I rarely don’t finish a book… even if I hate it.  In fact there are only a handful (if that), of books that I haven’t finished.  I am lent books by friends, gifted books by family and I search for them.  I  thoroughly enjoy browsing through bookshops and could spend hours wandering along book lined shelves, taking in names and cover art, that is what always what draws me in.  Sure, I take recommendations, I read book reviews but I love finding those little gems that I’ve not heard of and that turn out to be wonderful.

This is what happened when I wandered into Ganesha Bookshop in Sanur on my recent trip to Bali.  It’s a tiny shop on Jalan Danau Tamblingan and I’m sure I wandered past it several times before noticing it.  They sell rare and out of print books on Bali as well as lots of second-hand books left behind or exchanged by the many tourists that pass through here.  I spent a long time browsing before settling on a book by an Indonesian author called Oka Rusmini who lives in Denpasar, not far from where I was staying.

Earth Dance tells the story of 4 generations of women and the conflicts that arise as a result of the caste system and their own personal desires.  The story follows the demise of several family relationships as a result of ‘marrying up’ for status and leaving behind their old life, name and family or ‘marrying down’ for love and being disowned as if they never existed in the first place.  The intricacies of the relationships make for riveting reading, particularly if you already have knowledge of the Balinese caste system.

While the story focuses on the way the caste system controls the way that people live (and love) in the story, in today’s society it plays less of a role when it comes to everyday life and matters of the heart.

I loved this book and would highly recommend it.

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Reflections from Bali – Part II

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Bali has always held a special place in my heart.  It was the place where I took my first overseas trip with my family at the age of 17.  I had studied Bahasa Indonesian at High School and it was so close to Australia that it seemed like the obvious choice for our last family holiday before I left the nest and moved to the ‘big smoke’, (Melbourne), from the sheltered safety of my childhood in a small country town on the coast in Victoria.  I fell in love with it the moment I stepped off the plane and suffice to say that love affair has continued now for almost 25 years.  It was the first place my husband and I traveled to together and then continued to visit as often as we could.

In 2008 we sailed from Australia in our 44ft cruising Catamaran, Makani Kai, stopping for a few weeks in our second home before traveling through South East Asia for nearly 3 years.  On our slow cruise home we lived on our boat in Serangan Harbour near Sanur for almost 6 months, we conceived our daughter there.  At just over 3 months pregnant and with a heavy heart, I left the Makani Kai to head home to Australia and wait while my husband battled the elements in an effort to bring the boat home before the birth of our first and only child.

Since then we have returned with our daughter to Bali every year.  She loves it and often we have to trick her into boarding the plane home as she doesn’t want to leave.  We have often discussed the idea of spending 6 months of the year there and the other 6 months here in Australia.  A dream that hopefully one day will become a reality.

This year I was worried I wasn’t going to get my Bali fix but the universe smiled upon us and made it possible.  It was a timely intervention of fate as I REALLY needed this trip.  Of course, once we had arrived and dropped our bags in our little piece of paradise I immediately fell into my old routine of trying to organise a million activities for us to do.  My husband just smiled at me and said, ‘How about we just relax and see what happens?’  What?  Relax?  I am the organiser of activities, I am always looking for the next thing to do after the next thing!  I like lists, I like itinerary’s!  And so began a holiday that took a little bit of an adjustment for me.

The first few days I felt a bit strange, I couldn’t relax, I kept thinking, ‘But we should be doing this or we should be doing that!’  I came up with a list of activities, just in case.  We fell into a routine.  My husband went for a surf while I looked after my daughter.  When he came home I would be out the door, walking like a woman with a mission but with no destination in mind.  But by about the 3rd or 4th day something changed, my body relaxed, my mind relaxed and that day when my husband came home from the surf I was lying in a bean bag chair beside the pool book in hand while my daughter splashed around happily.  He got himself organised and told me he was right if I wanted to get out and do something but I was happy where I was.  I was happy, I didn’t need to go and do anything.  There was no knot in my stomach telling me I needed to go and do something.  I was, dare I say it, completely and utterly relaxed!

I spent my days eating, swimming, reading, having spa treatments, playing with my daughter and talking with my husband about our plans for the future.  We did small activities as we found them instead of me dragging us around for entire days from one spot to the other.  I took my daughter to an art class, I browsed the shops taking my time which meant I stumbled across a lovely little book store where I was able to purchase a beautiful book written by a local writer as well as picking up a unique doll created to help support Bali street kids.

I did however end up organising two day trips during our stay.  One to Ubud where we showed our daughter some monkeys and I browsed the art shops settling on a beautiful painting to take home and the other to East Bali with the end destination being Tirta Gangga.  But the pace and flow of these trips were far different to how I had experienced before.  I have a tendency to choose a destination and we rush to it.  This time we cruised along the coast road, stopping at places that looked interesting, checking out other places we might stay in the future, stopping at small restaurants for sustenance and chatting lazily with the locals.

So what is the moral of this story?  Well, this is what I gained from this trip.  Life is too short to rush through it without seeing anything.  We need to slow down, look around us and spend time with people who matter to us.  Taking the time to breathe is important and at the end of the day, when I am taking my last one I won’t be thinking, ‘Gee I’m glad we saw all those things that I don’t remember the name of for 5 minutes!’ but I will be thinking, ‘I’m so glad I spent so much time enjoying the company of my little family.’  So while I do look to the future, I’m not in that much of a hurry to get there, I know I will get there eventually and in the meantime I’m just going to enjoy the hell out of the ride!

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REFLECTIONS FROM BALI – PART 1

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I’ve been suffering from terrible writers block.  I haven’t been able to write for months.  Too tired, too busy, a multitude of reasons have sprung to my lips in a weird, swaying procrastination dance to avoid putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  In truth I was blank, creativity had stalled, inspiration had deserted me.  The days became a monotonous grind, my own personal imprint of groundhog day.  I could feel myself slipping into the arms of my old foe depression.  What happened to the good thoughts?  The happy ones?  The living in the now?  Don’t get me wrong, there were flashes of happiness, even days of happiness.  I mean, why wouldn’t I be happy?  I have a wonderful life, a gorgeous and supportive husband, a delightful and happy little girl but still I began to sink…

We needed to get away, a holiday, a break from routine.  Our first choice of destination was local, Byron Bay but the weather forecast showed low temperatures and stormy weather not exactly the kind of trip to bring me out of my melancholy, especially as the weather mirrored my mood.  Then one word popped into my head…BALI!  A magical place that never fails to soothe, refresh and relax me.  Not the Bali that involves the fast paced drunken nightclub scene of Kuta or the upmarket, just like home feel of Seminyak and Legian with their fancy restaurants but a quiet private villa in a quiet street that houses locals and expats.  Where local taxi’s need directions to find it and a short walk will get you to the local end of the beach and some small warungs with simple but delicious food.  Within a week of that word popping into my head, my little family and I were disembarking from a delightful Garuda flight from Brisbane.  Our nostrils assaulted by the heady aroma of heat, clove cigarettes and incense that is the scent of Bali.

As we crossed the tarmac to the waiting buses I realised what had happened… I had forgotten to be vigilant, to watch my thoughts.  Happiness is not something that comes naturally to everyone.  We need to remind ourselves to live in the now, to pull ourselves out of negative thinking and to embrace a happiness we can find deep within our souls that has nothing to do with outside influences and material things.  There is a book I carry around with me called Zen and the Art of Happiness.  It starts with this:

There is only one way to achieve lasting happiness.  That way is simple: Be happy.

Sounds easy right?  Not for everyone, being happy 100% of the time is rare.

But I would like to be happier.

So with this in mind I jump on the bus, hold my daughter tight, smile at my husband and look forward to regaining my momentum.  Happiness here I come.