Nusa Lembongan "Where are you going?"

Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
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Trip End Jun 30, 2009


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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nusa Lembongan is a little island just off of the east coast of Bali. It is only a short boat ride but seems far away from the hustle and bustle of south Bali. It is a small island that you can ride a bicycle around in a few hours (which we did one day on some rickety mountain bikes). There are a smattering of small budget hotels and some nicer villas around a few bays, and a good selection of basic restaurants. The draw here is a few apparently great surf breaks (that we can see from our villa), and snorkeling/diving. The main industry here is seaweed farming and fishing with tourism taking a backseat (there is no ATM on the island which is telling - a far cry from Kuta Beach). There are a handful of trucks but transportation is mainly by scooter or boat. We spent a very relaxing 9 days here, when most visitors only come for a day trip or at the most, 2-3 days.

Andy and Duncan have done 4 dives in 2 days (their first since their PADI course in Dahab). The first dive took to Manta point where, you guessed it, they saw massive manta rays.

Andy and Maddie and I also went on a snorkeling trip to 2 different bays. Crystal Bay had the most amazing coral and – bay equaled Koh Tao and the Red Sea by Jedha for the number of fish. They were obviously used to being fed as I didn't even have food but just rubbed my fingers together and they swarmed around me. Needless to say, this rather freaked Maddie out – who was already skittish from the boat ride where we encountered rolling surf and very large waves). Actually the traditional Balinese fishing boat we were on handled the waves amazing well with its wooden pontoons on either side.

One day we ventured out on scooters to explore the island and the nearby even tinier island, Nusa Cenigan that is connected to Nusa Lembongan by a small bridge that a scooter can cross (it took some courage to cross the bridge on the scooter, I can tell you!). Duncan had his turn at being the driver which he did very well at since he has had some opportunities to ride his friend’s dirt bikes back in Summerland. This was my chance to start getting used to the idea of him being old enough to get his L this August (how did my little boy get to be 16 already?!)

Another day we headed over by boat to Nusa Penida, the largest island of this group. This island has been largely overlooked by tourists despite having the best diving off it’s shores (but no good surf breaks so I guess it isn’t worth the trip for the Aussies). We spent the day on scooters traversing the island and only saw one other western couple. The island relies on fishing and seaweed farming with some basic farming thrown in. Andy was quite proud of himself as he was presented with a manual scooter and then had to prove himself by test driving it down the little laneway that was bustling with the morning market and an audience of local men watching with interest – talk about pressure. But he caught on quickly and off we went (without helmets – the things you do that you wouldn’t think of doing at home!). We rode through many little villages and as we passed the adults who were either working in the fields, drying seaweed, or lounging about a roadside bale and the children who were playing about shouted "hello, hello, hello" and then very often “where are you going?” We’ve learned that the Balinese often ask questions like “Where are you going?”, “Where do you stay?” or Where do you come from?” – it’s a Balinese small talk and at first can sometimes seem out of place until you understand. For example, I was going for an evening walk to explore a temple celebration I could here in the distance and the security guard at our villa said “Where are you going?” Nicely enough, but I thought – now why is he asking me that; it’s none of his business where I am going. But it was his way of small talk. I’ve thought that this question “Where are you going” was actually a very good one for our family as this journey has been, in part, an opportunity to reflect on just that – “Where are we going in life?”

One of the things we wanted to do while in Bali was to learn yoga. We skipped this experience in India (the rest of the family nixed a stay in an Ashram) so when in Rome…

We went to a couple early morning yoga sessions at the Laguna (on the grass by the beach in front of a temple – can’t get much more picturesque than that!) and wanted to continue with it. Low and behold, the villa we are in has a DVD that is by Lululemon (seems Lululemon has really made it’s mark if it is exporting DVD’s to the heart of yoga land!). And Maddie and I just happened to have our Lululemon yoga wear to complement the DVD J So, the whole family is now regularly starting the morning with a yoga session – even the kids (Duncan wouldn't want me to broadcast this though). We set up the computer on the balcony and there we all are, facing out towards the Bali Sea with volcanic Gungang Agung peaking out from it’s wrap of clouds in the distance and the sound of pounding surf to complement the meditative music on the DVD. We’ll have to see if we are able to commit to continuing with yoga once we are home but we do have good intentions. Tiggy would be proud of us as she started yoga back in the 70’s and kept it up for most of her life –even when it wasn’t fashionable!

Some random notes… Maddie and I went for a run one day along a road in the forest and came across a gathering of Balinese at the roadside, scooters all parked higglety pigglety on the side, children playing with dogs and sticks (isn’t that universal?), women huddled in little groups chatting and a raging fire being fueled by a propane tank in the middle of a collection of men. There seemed to be festive atmosphere. This was taking place in a patch of cleared land all overgrown with underbrush. Incongruously, there were little brightly coloured umbrellas randomly sprinkled about the bushes and when I looked closer, there were small piles of stones that the umbrellas were perched on. So, this was a Balinese cemetery and the propane fire was obviously a cremation. We paused at a respectful distance, nodding politely to the Balinese who smiled at us, then continued our run.

Most Balinese are named based on their birth order. First born – Wayan, Putu or Gede; second born – Made, Kadek, or Nengah; and third born Nyoman or Komang; the fourth – Ketut and then repeat for more children. We met so many Wayans and Mades…I wonder how a school teacher manages.

Thought the Balinese are Hindus, there aren’t any cows wandering the streets as in India (this privilege is reserved for the prize chickens and roosters – more on that later). Cattle are not really treated as holy, they are kept in pens and used for plowing, but are rarely eaten or milked.

A man’s cock is his prized possession in Bali – you can see groups of men squatting in a circle with their cocks out, gently and lovingly stroking them. OK, if you think I’ve resorted to porn in this blog, get your mind out of the gutter - I talking about their roosters! J Cockfighting is very popular – and is part of temple celebrations (part sport, part sacrifice, part gambling). Men keep fighting cocks as prized pets, carefully grooming and preparing them for their brief moment of glory or defeat. The winner gets to take the loosing rooster home for dinner. You can see them lined up in hoop shaped baskets outside homes everywhere.

The purpose of this whole adventure has been to be exposed to cultures, people and practices that are different from our own. We hope that individual moments like these, when woven together, will create a fabric of greater cultural understanding for Duncan and Maddie (and indeed for ourselves).
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