I was lucky enough to spend cumulatively a little over a month working in Bali, and despite being overrun with tourists, I still found it to be kind of a magic place.
Some things that tickled me:
- In the Balinese language there is no past or future tense, which really helped me understand why things seemed to rarely happen by my idea of a schedule.
- Sets of three are considered lucky, and in Balinese Hinduism a mindful offering (a handmade palm leaf box filled with different colored flower petals and a pinch of food) is given in sets of three, to represent honoring the earth, each other and the gods.
- The Balinese name their children in the order they are born, up to the number four. More than four kids and the cycle simply repeats itself, the fifth child would be ‘the other one,’ the sixth child ‘the other two,’ etc.
- Bali has the only international airport in the world that shuts down for an entire day. On nyepi, the Balinese New Year, everyone must stay inside without making any noise or using electricity in order to not lure any bad spirits onto the island.
- My Javanese coworker friend told me how he isn’t scared of spirits in Bali since they’re a different species all together, but he spent his years working in Boston terrified of ghosts, because American ghosts are humans.
Bali’s landscape is hard to beat, with distant volcanos and egrets flapping across wide expanses of emerald rice paddies. Weathered faces of farmers are instantly transformed by smiles that seem bright enough to light the whole world. Walking around Ubud or driving across the island you pass countless pastel temples with ornate carvings, women with baskets of fresh flowers decorating the deities outside. You can sail across crystal blue seas, and at night fireflies twinkle to accompany the starlight. In the jungle tree roots twice the width of me drape themselves casually over massive boulders, and lianas twirl down from the canopy above.
My final trip of the season might have been my favorite, a week spent teaching 8th graders about conservation and sustainability in West Bali National Park. On our last boat ride, blue sky mirroring the ocean below, I found my eyes brimming with tears, full of gratitude not only for that exact moment, but for all of my experiences over the course of the past year roaming around Asia. Moments of complete contentment are so fleeting, and I let myself fully revel in it- wind in my hair, sand on my feet, laughter from other boats carrying across the water.