Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bali: Days 17-18

Wednesday, July 14, 2010:

On Wednesday morning instead of attending gamelan rehearsal as we would usually do, we all went to a Balinese wedding at the sanggar instead.

It was very interesting to be present at such a ceremony.

At one point I felt as if I was at some sort of entertainment event as snacks and soda were passed out for all to enjoy.  It was raining in the morning, so we were all crowded under the bale roofs.

Check out that hair!

I was on the west bale and had a good view of the East bale where the tooth filing ceremony took place.  The front six teeth on the top are filed down to represent the six vices, though most people can only remember anger and greed.  Tooth filing ceremonies do not have to be performed as part of a wedding, but in this case the bride (a Chinese-Canadian) chose to do so.

Most of the time I didn't know what was going on during the wedding, but it was enjoyable all the same.

Thursday, July 15, 2010:

Believe it or not, Thursday was actually a pretty typical day.  It was our last day of rehearsals before our final performance and it was also my last day of mask carving.  What do you think?

There was an accident involving the chisel and the forehead of my mask

Here are a couple masks that my teacher had made:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bali: Days 15-16

Monday, July 11, 2010:

On Monday afternoon I began what was going to be a series of afternoons studying mask-making with a master mask maker in Mas.  (Wow, what an alliteration!)  It was incredible to see him make the mask blanks with a chunk of wood and a hatchet.

He was able to see what the final mask would look like even before he began working on it and he offered us all ample assistance as we awkwardly chiseled and hacked away at our shapeless forms.

The humble beginnings of my mask
He would advise us as to where to do more work, he would draw lines to show us the countours of the face, and more than once would take the masks and work on them himself.

Stabilizing the mask with his feet
He was a very patient and tolerant man, very quiet, and very good at what he does.  I was surprised that he allowed us to come into his home, make a mess, misuse his tools, and then repeat it all again the next day.

My mask at the end of the day
I am very thankful for his kindness and I'm anxious to see what my finished mask will look like!

Tuesday, July 12, 2010:

Tuesday was another fieldtrip for the summer program.  We traveled to the village of Tunjuk a little over an hour northwest of Pengosekan where I was staying.  One of our teachers lives in the village and we went to listen to his gamelan perform (again, a variety of gamelan that none of us had heard before.  It was, in fact, a mix of several different kinds to create something completely new).

One of the pieces they performed for us included three singers.  One of our program directors was one of the singers and she has such a quiet voice, but when she started singing, everything else went away and I was entirely consumed by her voice and entranced the entire time.  I have never heard a voice so beautiful and almost otherworldy.  Watching her it was as if she too was not aware of her surroundings and she stared off in the distance, as if her song was coming from a far off place.  She had a very nice quote in her singing, as well, "Kindness, one act of kindness, is the seen of a Banyon tree."  and we've all seen how big and mighty a Banyon tree can get, right?

We went on a walk through the rice paddies of Tunjuk that afternoon to see our teacher's land.

It was so beautiful to be walking through a landscape of terraced rice fields in all shades of green while forests of palm trees lined the horizon.

We eventually ventured down a path leading into one such forest and it led us to a temple in the middle of the vegetation - a hidden gem tucked in among the trees.

The temple

We stopped at the temple and prayed before continuing on to the final portion of our Tunjuk trip.

We walked back to our teacher's land in the middle of nowhere where a bale (bah-lay - essentially a roofed platform) sat while a pair of rindik/tingklik players entertained us with their music.

While some sat to listen to the mis and improvize dance along with the little girls, others went to gamble and play cards on the other side of the bale.  Fresh coconuts with straws were passed around and we all drank its sweet water while enjoying the spectacle of a cock fight (no animals were actually injured).


I couldn't keep myself from thinking that this must be exactly what a gypsy camp must have been like.  A group of people getting together and having fun with food, music, dance, games, and a fight or two.  Soon it was time to say our goodbyes and head back to Pengosekan for the evening.  What a fun day!

Obama!  Carved by Ida Bagus Oka, the master mask maker

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bali: Weekend No. 2

Saturday, July 10, 2010:

I spent the day wandering the streets of Pengosekan and Ubud looking for souvenirs.  It really was a bit intimidating knowing that I had 11 siblings and two parents to find souvenirs for.  After five hours of looking in every shop that looked interesting, I came back with almost nothing.  But don't worry, I eventually found something for everybody.

Sunday, July 11, 2010:

"Sunday was an unbelievably phenomenal day.  I might even say that it was the best day I have spent in Bali so far.  Seriously, it blew my mind!"

The day began at 8:30am as we headed out east to go snorkeling along the coast.  I didn't really know what to expect and I was a little uncomfortable when we showed up.  We were taken through a back alley to a little shack where they began pulling out random pairs of flippers, snorkels, and masks to have us try on.  It all just seemed very sketchy to me and I had no idea if I should trust these guys.  After we got our scuba gear, they loaded us onto two small, skinny boats with runners (like a catamaran) and took us over huge swells (okay, they were probably tiny, but I'm new to this whole ocean thing) and out into the ocean to a small, rocky island where they simply told us to "jump!".

The middle island in the distance is where we went to snorkel
There was no shore and whatever possessions we brought on the boat (camera, wallet, sunscreen, etc.) were left on the boat with the drivers in the plastic bags we had used to try to keep them dry from all the splashes on the trip out to the island.

Snorkeling itself was incredible!  The fih were so brightly colored and many of them were larger than I would have expected.  The coral wasn't too spectacular, but it was still really amazing to see all of this marine life.  I saw many of the fish that are so popular in photographs because of their bright colors and interesting shapes.  I saw Nemo and Dory and Gill and eve Crush (the sea turtle)!  It was such a breathtaking experience to be out by that island swimming along its rocky cliffs and seeing all the beauty that nature had to offer.

We climbed back onto the boat after a short duration in the water and began a 20 minute boat ride to a beautiful white sand beach.  The boat ride there may have been the best part, though.  We passed by beautiful islands rising right out of the ocean and covered with rich, luscious green foliage, separated from everything else by the waves crashing upon their rocky faces.

As we passed by the shore, misty silhouettes of rounded mountains appeared and passed, their surface thick with trees.

Many ended with a steep cliff, topped by carefully carved rice terraces complete with cows.  It really was a sight to be seen.

The volcanic mountains were obviously very old as they were worn smooth into a beautiful curved landscape and the lush vegetation and thin layer of mist really made them something very special.

The white sand beach to which we traveled was tucked between two such mountains and set out in seclusion from all other beaches.

White sand beach - not so white
I played in the waves for a bit while others lounged under umbrellas and enjoyed fresh coconuts.

I know it looks like I photoshopped my feet into this picture, but I was really there
A boat kite!  I love it
I also spent about an hour doing some more snorkeling, exploring all the areas of the beach, including a cave along the side of one of the cliffs that flanked the beach.

My boat, Suci, in front of the cave I explored
I also spent a good amount of time diving down to get right near the fish and coral.  It was absolutely unbelievable and I think now that snorkeling is right there at the top of my list of favorite things to do.  It can be a social activity, but once you're in the water you enter a world that is completely removed from everything else, including those around you.  In an instant you find yourself in total seclusion, but also surrounded by the most amazing creatures as you're cradled by the sea.  It is definitely my kind of activity.

Once we had all soaked in as much sun as possible, we headed back to where we started, past all the unbelievable scenery again, to meet Danu for the next leg of our adventure.

After eating a meal in an empty restaurant with a nice view of the jungle while being serenaded by the vocal talents of Celine Dion circa early 1990s, we got in the car and drove to Tanganan, the oldest village in Bali.

A dark picture, but look at that view!
This village is only open to visitors until 6pm and each home that lines the street doubles as a storefront in which each family is competes to sell the same sarongs and scarves.

A few houses were selling ekat, which are pieces of weaving done in a traditional style for which this village is famous.  I didn't find any such pieces that I liked, but I picked up a silk scarf for each of my sisters after seeing them over and over again in the houses.

Out in the street were several oxen (are they oxen?  ETA:  Mel tells me that they're water buffalo.  I actually remembered this while in the car after writing the post, and knew full well that he would correct me as soon as he saw it.) resting or headbutting, while roosters of every color looked on from their crates - obviously waiting until the next cockfight.

Many villagers were standing around the firepit in the middle of the village where a pig was being roasted.  It was almost time to leave, but there was one more thing I had seen that I wanted to buy.  Before paper and pen, the Balinese wrote their stories down on palm leaves by etching the words and pictures into the surface with a small knife and then rubbing it with charred hazelnut to fill in the small scratches.  In the morning as I was thinking about the day to come I had thought to myself, "I would love to find a map of Bali to hang on my apartment wall back in Pittsburgh."  Never did I think that I would find such a map created in this traditional style and elaborately decorated with designs and flowers, framed by carved palm wood (bamboo?).

It was, perhaps, the most serendipitous thing to have happened to me in Bali and now I have the map I didn't even know I wanted when I woke up to hang on my wall.  The artist even carved my name in English and in Balinese.  Could it have gotten any better?!