This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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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)


Beach from hell

SeminyakImagine fine white sand, and lazy waves rolling into shore. Imagine a man flying a ship-formed kite, and children playing on the beach. Imagine a golden glow sunset, a cool drink in your hand, and a snuggly bean bag.

Now add a musician in the next bar to the left, strumming a guitar and singing into a mike, with the speakers yanked up way too loud. Then add a stage with a band to your right, trying to blaze out any other sound on the beach. And finally add the bass vibes of your own bar, making your ears and lungs vibrate.

It is not a lovely loungey sunset. It is a cacophony and a night club on the beach. And it seems to be party heaven for Aussies. Thank goodness I only chose to stay one night. Never again, Seminyak.

(Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia; August 2015)


A pilgrimage and a lucky return


At Seminyak beach I jumped into a Bluebird cab. “Take me to Tanah Lot temple, please.” “It is quite far and we would need to agree on a price” said the driver. The sole reason for why I chose to endure the crazy-drunk-Aussie-vibe of Seminyak for one night was to see Tanah Lot temple. We agreed on a price and began the squiggly journey out North through the Aussie beach settlements.

Nearing the location I casually asked my drive how to get catch a cab back to Seminyak. “What do you mean catch a cab? There are no cabs at Tanah Lot” he replied, puzzled. No way to get back unless you had a hired car or were on a tour bus. It was too far to hail a scooter back into town. I had driven all the way out to see Tanah Lot but in worst case I would be stuck there for the night.

Fortunately, after settling the meter fare and offering a nice extra he agreed to stay and wait for me for an hour. I made him promise, swear on his mother, that he would not leave me stranded.

Slightly worried I slipped through the gates, through the touristy stalls, and hurried down to the beach – along with a few hundred other tourists. And there it was: a temple that was built on a rock, withstanding the crashing surf and only accessible during low tide. The most photographed site of Bali, and one of the holiest temples in Indonesia. Time stood still. Tanah Lot took my breath away for a full hour and a half, until I realized I should probably try my luck to see if the driver was still around.

He was. That wonderful, incorruptible man. He had been pestered by four separate tourist groups, offering him huge tips and double fare and whatnot to take them home. It could have been me in the late afternoon, desperately trying to get a ride back into town. But I had a ride. The Balinese once again proved to be more reliable than many other cultures (Finns excluded). 

We rode ahead of the sunset back to Seminyak. I had a camera full of photos, and an image burnt forever onto my retina: of Tanah Lot temple surrounded by a constant crashing surf but unyielding, like a courageous heart.
tanahlot-2(Tanah Lot temple, Bali, Indonesia; August 2015)


More water and rice fields – and ducks

riceterraces-2  Just like to every other culture on this planet, to the Balinese water is holy. To them rice is holy, too, and a gift of God. Thus perhaps life is best managed by managing rice growth and water supply? This seems to be the worldview of the Balinese, who have cultured rice in terraces for thousands of years. The subak system intertwines collective ownership, agriculture, water systems, and religious worship in water temples.

waterfallAs I looked out at the rice terraces I was reminded of an elementary school lesson where we were taught that circulation of crops keeps the soil fertile: grains, potatoes with stalks, and most importantly, nitrogen-binding peas in a continuous rotation. The Balinese have grown rice – and more rice – year after year, for thousands of years. No potatoes or peas. How could that be?

The answer is ducks. Yes, ducks. Dozens of ducks. Sometimes hundreds of ducks, invading the rice fields, eating insects and weeds, and pooping out the best organic fertilizer.

Organic agriculture rocks. Who needs chemicals when ones has fluffy quacky ducks at one’s disposal?

riceterraces-1(Jatiluwih, Bali, Indonesia; August 2015)

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Home of the Lady of the Lake

laketemple-2Up in the highlands, surrounded by mist, the lake is her home.  Her name is Dewi Danu. And sometimes, just sometimes, she surfaces to sit on the ledge of her temple. Never does she not find a sweet-and-rice offering from her people. Her well-being is of utmost importance to all Balinese because if she is not well there is no clean water. And if there is no clean water there is no rice – and no life on Bali.

The Lady of the Lake is elusive, but those who have seen her say she is more beautiful (and more terrifying) than any other lady.

laketemple-1(Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali, Indonesia; August 2015)

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Ubud organic craze

ubudrestaurants-1Cashew milk spirulina raw chocolate mint smoothie for breakfast at Clear Café, raw tex mex food for lunch at Earth, and lovely vegan candlenut coconut curry for dinner at Yellow Flower Café. Beer is not my cup of tea, the local wine tastes terrible, and most of the Indonesian fare is vegan. Ubud is probably the easiest place in the world to subconsciously slip into a healthy eating lifestyle.

ubudrestaurants-3Nothing better than lazy afternoons in café Atman sipping peppermint tea or a chocolate date almond milk shake, surrounded by pillows, people wired into the world on their MacBooks. And nothing worse than jamu health tonic at Clear Café. But they say it is good for you… and it colors your tongue and lips bright yellow. I drank it all. I hope the gods are happy with me.

ubudrestaurants-2 (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; August 2015)