Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday Commute

Sunday morning rush hour. We come to a stop light and soon we are surrounded by motorcycles. Their handle bars tap our side mirrors as they squeeze through the narrow spaces between the cars.
 Their exhaust clouds the streets.

And we have become accustomed to it. Accustomed to the sight of a child riding between her parents. Accustomed to the buzzing rumble. Accustomed to weaving in and out. 

Just a normal Sunday commute.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lasting Impression

It is the end of the day. We unload and walk down the gravel street to the edge of the world. Or so it seems.

The road ends at the beginning of steep stone stairs that go down into a lush green valley. The steps are flanked by rickety shopping stalls. Each Ibu calls out "Good deal!" as we pass. One displays trinkets and necklaces draped over her forearm. Hand crocheted purses catch Leasie's eye. I promise an Ibu I will come back to look at her beautiful batik quilts.

The stones steps are worn to a smooth softness. Dipped in the center. The steps wear the footprints of one thousand years of travelers.

We climb down through rice paddies - layers of emerald green pools cut into the hillside. We descend, step after step until we enter a jungle valley. Our climb is like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. And it is here, amongst the towering trees, the hanging vines, the moss tipped rocks, and a babbling stream, that we see what we have come for. Gunung Kawi. A tenth century Hindu shrine.

The rock face holds eight shrines, carved out of the cliff. To add perspective to the picture below - the first three steps on the stone staircase in front of the shrines are at our head level. The temples then extend upward almost thirty feet. The massiveness.

There is a beauty in ancientness. There is a tangible reverence that fills the air. To see something that has lasted, existed, endured weather, earthquakes, and generations. It smells of earth, of stone, of mineral, of permanence.

I think of the many hands, the labor, the sweat, the hours, the days, the years of chinking away at the cliff to make these monuments. And I cannot help but ask as I look up at the towering shrines, what is my purpose here? What will I leave here? In what way will I leave my mark upon the earth?
In my least self-doubting moments, I think maybe I will leave my writing...even if it is only in the pages of my journals. Or perhaps it will be through my teaching - though sadly there is nothing lasting or permanent in any measurable or visible way.

And then I hear it. The sound of laughter that seems to fit perfectly even in the hush of this place. A laughter that rings above the rush of the stream and the call of the evening birds' song.

My children. My life's work. I place my hand on the stone step that is rough with lichen. It crumbles on my palm.

I listen to the music of laughter echo off the cliff shrines, and I am content.   

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monkey Business

Our friends, the Hale family, traveled to Bali a few years ago. I remember them telling about their experience at Monkey Forest in Ubud. Michael had purchased some bananas and uttered the infamous words, "I wonder if we'll see any monkeys." When the family entered the forest, the monkeys descended on them like a scene from Lord of the Rings when the orcs are attacking Frodo and the fellowship. Seeing his fate, Michael abandoned the bananas, and let the monkeys swarm!

It was with this image in mind, that I entered the Monkey forest. It did not disappoint. These monkeys were so tame and some pretty aggressive! They seemed just as interested in us as we were with them.

This monkey played with Tman for quite a while. Patty-cake on his head. Even checking Tman for any bugs.

I wasn't quite as eager to have any hands-on or back-on experiences with the monkeys. This was close enough for me.

Of course, my favorite monkeys of this trip are these monkeys of my very own!

On our last night in Bali, our beach dinner got rained out. And so we traveled back to our hotel, extremely hungry. It was 9:30 at night when we finally got to eat. Once my kids got food in their bellies, the exhaustion turned to a silly drunkenness.

How grateful I am to share these times with these wonderful little people. The giggles, the tears, the joy, the exhaustion, the goofiness, the memories.

The times together. Both small and large. Both bitterly sad and gloriously happy. Are what matters most.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Faces of Bali

On the stone steps leading to Gunug Kawi, we meet half way. She is going up. I am walking down. She is not out of breath, no dampness on her brow, no sign of exertion. I wonder how many times a day she makes this trek.

At the restaurant in Ubud, the waitress takes our friend, Teagan, and CJ by the hand. She leads them to the garden and takes pictures of them with her cell phone. She is much more shy when I ask to take her picture.
At first, we are adversaries because I am looking for a bargain while she is looking for a profit. We barter over the handmade batik quilt that hangs in her shop. When we finally strike a deal with a handshake, she is instantly my friend. (I think she was happy with the price). She marvels at my "lima anak anak" (FIVE children!) and tells me about her own daughter who also sews and does handiwork.
The Balinese dancer poses for pictures after the sunset show at Ulawatu. Her finger nails (unfortunately not pictured) extend at least an inch past her finger tips.

The Ibu selling sundresses at the beach. We bought four dresses ($6 each).
We hear the procession for the temple festival long before they arrive. Singing to a drum beat proceeds them. This group of ladies arrives first. They are the temple workers. They are old and at least half are toothless. But they smile brightly and come chat with me before the festival begins. I can't help but think of my own grandma who worked at the temple in Idaho in her later years.
The temple festival procession!

Of all the faces of Bali, these are my favorite. We loved sharing our experience with the Tree family. They are members of our churc,h and we are lucky enough to have them as neighbors. We stayed at the same hotel in Bali and enjoyed beach going, touring, and dining together.

This was our lunch in Ubud with a view of the rice paddies.