This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Departing is the only way to return

departure-2It was a long day of departure. Getting to the dock from the south end of the island took one hour instead of 20 minutes, thanks to road closures and cremation parade. There is only one main road on Lembongan – and lots of sandy wannabe-roads in the boondocks, absolutely not made for a pickup truck.

Getting from Lembongan to mainland Bali took a good while due to the wind. I sat next to the captain who was wearing a huge chunky watch and a carefree smile. “You will come back next year” he said. I just might.

Getting from Sanur beach to the airport took a good while. I had to wait for another boat to arrive. The captain with the chunky watch and smile kept me company. This was his life, every day, and I was one among 365 people in a year he probably kept company in wait of the next boat. “You will come back next year” he repeated.

departure-1I waited for my flight for 4 hours and acquainted with an Australian couple. “We come back every year, for 20 years now” they said.

The last leg from Zurich to Helsinki I flew in business class together with a world-famous rapper, his babe, and his entourage. We deciphered the Scandinavian foods on the menu together. He will probably not come back next year.

But I might just return to Bali next year. And the year after that. Get old, get stuck on one thing, and just go back to Bali because – well, it is Bali.

balideparture(Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia; and above Switzerland; August, 2015)

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Devil’s tear

devilstear-1Lava rock is full of holes. Strong but the opposite of solid. Lying in bed in my reed hut at night I could hear the ground rumble and the waves crash into Devil’s Tear, a good 100 meters away. Rumble, boom, splash. Every night, every day, for millions of years in the past and perhaps millions of years in the future.

In the morning I ventured out to the lava rock ledges. They looked weathered, torn, desolate, and old. Life had happened to them, just like it happens to us, too. Every spray of water wears down the rock just a little.

Standing by the edge I looked closer – and saw a glimmer of purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. The sprays of water may slowly eat out the rock during a million years, but during every single day of thoseĀ  years there is a rainbow in every splash, if you only look at it from the right perspective.

devilstear-2(Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia; August 2015)


About yoga and living instead of existing

lembonganbeach-4There are 3 main reasons people seem to come to Bali: yoga, surfing, or diving. Watching the surfers navigate the surfs breaking offshore at Jungutbatu I realized that all three lifestyle “sports” combine overcoming, or mastering, your body’s capabilities. All three also are grounded in nature. Even yoga, even if it perhaps is grounded in the universe at large. lembonganbeach-3Surfing, diving, climbing, and yoga seem to attract similar people. Many gear shops and brands specialize in more than one of these at once. Yet I felt as out of place in the Jungutbatu surfing community as I did in the Mushroom bay diving community. Ubud and its yoga community, however, felt just right. Organic, raw food, wellness shops and quiet temples in town; and rice paddies, chickens, and rural life just around the corner. Yet Ubud is a bubble far from ordinary Balinese life – just like a surf shack village is.lembonganbeach-2In the end, any activity that increases awareness of ourselves as well as of the health of our beautiful but threatened planet is good. I wish more people chose surfing, diving, or yoga over computer games or the gym. I wish more people prioritized to live in the world, instead of just existing in it. Our world is beautiful – but it is not forever, not for us humans. lembonganbeach-1(Jungutbatu and Mushroom Bay, Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia; August 2015)

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Dream beach

dreambeach-1A day at the beach. Nothing more than sky blue nail polish, turquoise water, golden sand, and a nutty dog. I watched a lady connect with him: after unsuccessful experiments of attempting to pet him or throw sticks, she frustratedly splashed water at the dog. He jumped high into the air to catch the splash. She threw some wet sand at him. He almost ate it and got it smeared all over his nose. She threw some more, and he expertly caught every blob before they sank into the waves. When she gave up he went to somebody else and patiently repeated the process of teaching the human what he liked the most. When I left the beach 2 hours later he was still trotting in the waves, looking for somebody to play with.

Today was a beach day for the dog. Nothing else to worry about than spending all day in the surf, caught in the moment for a whole day. When was the last time you decided to do something fun and continued to do it all day until the sun set?dreambeach-2(Dream Beach, Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia; August 2015)

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Seaweed farmers

seaweed-1 Life on Lembongan used to be all about seaweed farming, and rectangular plots of seaweed used to grow in shallow waters everywhere. Now it is less seaweed and more tourists. In Jungutbatu the seaweed plots have given way to tourist boat moorings. But in the strait between Lembongan and Ceningan islands one can still feel life before tourism. The brave ones can try seaweed cookies and even ice cream.

Most of the seaweed goes for cosmetics use, tells a farmer working on the harvest with his wife. “But in bad times, we survived by eating it.” Come to think of it, so many creams and ointments touting benefit by seaweed and minerals must source their ingredients somewhere. And while we dabbed on our cheeks drops of expensive “luxury” creams, the poor farmers got so little they sometimes had nothing else to eat but seaweed. It may cost a ton in skin creams, but there is not much nutritional value in seaweed.seaweed-2(Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia; August 2015)

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Death wails and sleeping relatives

lembongan-3Last night was the night of death at Nusa Lembongan island, and the night of grief. I sat on my reed hut porch in the dark and listened to the death wails from the village. Sounds of men and women, mostly older, blended with the crashing surf from the sea into a hum, like a hive filled with singing bees. Leading the lamentations were wails broadcasted from the village temples.

It was the first night of three before the cremation ceremony, and the eerie cries were keeping grave diggers company. This time, bodies were dug out of the graves, where they had been sleeping in wait of an auspicious day and wealthy times when a proper communal cremation could be done.

Relatives sleeping underground means grief sleeps, too. After 3 years of waiting, now there will be liberation for the soul and closure for the relatives. Whatever happens, regardless of whether the soul will be united with atman the world soul or be reincarnated, death is both the end of a chapter and a second chance.

A Balinese cremation is a celebration where grief gives over to joy and freedom, and where the body and soul is released to the five elements. After burning in a hot funeral pyre, the ashes will be scattered into the sea and wind.

lembongan-2On Bali people grieve together. There is time and understanding for the process, and nobody is alone in their grief. There is also an end to grief, a letting go, and smiles and laughs during the funeral. For the Balinese, unlike us Westerners, life includes death – and then perhaps yet another life or something even better. Death is not the end, not a failure like we Westerners tend to see it. It is simply the end of a chapter among many.

And it is alright to smile and talk and celebrate a loved one’s passing. As I watched the construction of the coffins and the offerings for the procession, I could not help but feel that when it comes to this major aspect of existence, humanity is more advanced on this island than in many other places.lembongan-1  (Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia; August 2015)