Saturday, 3 May 2014

Peace, Love and Sweat

A beautiful Indonesian family has adopted us.  Don’t be alarmed, it is quite a common practice for Indonesian families to accept strangers into their homes and treat them like family! Almost every family villa in Ubud, has a sign out front advertising a home stay. Most families in Ubud are Balinese Hindu, and along with those home stay signs out front, are daily offerings welcoming you in.  The offerings are gifts and are a very important part of their religion. It took us awhile to get used to these beautiful little bundles of flowers, food and decorative greenery, scattered about, but it is a common practice to leave offerings. Trying to avoid stepping on the offerings, while travelling from place to place, became our morning workout routine.  Dodging the offerings, combined with Yoga has certainly allowed us to work up a sweat.  Actually, we are sweating all the time here, regardless of whether we are working out or not.  Love, peace and sweat, I think that is what life in Bali is all about.
Our Balinese family in Ubud.
The words Aji and Ibu mean father and mother in the Balinese language.  Our friend Claire introduced them to us as such, and the names have stuck.  Aji has retired from teaching and was the former head of education in Bali.  He has become our number one resource and official tour guide, taking us on walks to the rice fields, the early morning market, the art museum and to community events and ceremonies.  Aji is a remarkable and humble man, who enjoys teaching about the Bali-Hindu culture and traditions.  He is an accomplished artist, musician, and leader in the community.  He has taught music lessons to Mark and Meghan on the tingklik and can be heard playing it throughout the day.  It is such peaceful and beautiful music.  In his retirement, he has established a pre-school in Ubud, continues to take part in teacher education programs while hosting American students, and plays an integral role in raising his grandchildren. He is a wonderful man and continues to live his life everyday, striving to be at one with God.
An early morning walk with Aji through the rice fields.

A trip to the market, we went very early before it turned into a tourist market.

Mark learning the tingklik.

Aji, a teacher through and through.

Cooling down with a beverage at the Museum of Art.

Ibu runs the household and has treated us like a mother. She made us beautiful breakfasts each day, offered us her many contacts in the community for restaurants, transportation, laundry services and has also been responsible for outfitting us in Balinese temple clothing.  Together, Ibu and Aji have raised three children.  Their daughter Kris has married into the royal family in Ubud and we had the pleasure of touring the palace and having tea with Kris and her son Jayden, a Balinese prince.   Their son, Ngurah lives in the family villa with his wife, Tutik and two sons, who are absolutely adorable.  Although the boys speak little English, they were able to request that I bring up YouTube on my computer! We also met their other daughter Artati, who is married to an architect.  Aji and Ibu are very close with their children and grandchildren and it was great to see the comings and goings of family around the villa.  It reminded me of a weekend at the Mitchell cottage. They also refer to our friend Claire as one of their daughters.  Claire was one of the first students to stay with Aji and Ibu back in in 1986 as part of her education. She encouraged Aji and Ibu to start their home stay business and they have been family every since.  We were welcomed with love and certainly felt at home. 

Beautiful Ibu preparing the offerings.

The preparation for the upcoming festival begins weeks before.

Aji's daughter Kris and her son Jayden.  In order to visit the palace we had to be dressed in
temple clothing. 

Aji's daughter when she used to perform in ceremonial dances.
The Balinese people are kind, accepting, and outgoing people.  They have created a peaceful community and most citizens extend a greeting to everyone that they see.  The community is also very spiritual and most days  include ceremonies and offerings that can be observed on a walk about town.  One sign said ‘Life is an Offering in Bali’ and this sums up our experience.  Small woven baskets containing gifts for the island’s spirits are left outside of homes and businesses each day.  Some are also placed on material items of significance.  The gifts express gratitude to the ‘good’ spirits and appease the bad ones.  Often we saw women preparing and blessing spiritual offerings, people collecting holy water, people attending the temple dressed in temple clothing, dance performances, and cremation ceremonies.  Currently, Ibu and Tatuk are preparing offerings for a celebration of their temple next week.  Aji has taught us a great deal about the Hindu beliefs and shared many cultural stories with us, through his artwork. He has also told us about what Ubud used to be like many years ago.  In many ways it is sad to see what the heart of Ubud has become, yet on the outskirts and intermixed between the shops, restaurants and motorbikes, the culture and traditions are still very much alive and evident.  I suppose that is why they say that Ubud is like no other place on earth.

A typical offering

Offerings at the morning market

The entrance to a villa signifying a wedding
Preparation for a cremation ceremony
One of Aji's pieces similar to our compass rose.  Each direction is represented by a God.
Yes, Ubud is amazing but I can honestly say I have never experienced the volumes of sweat that I have here in Bali. It is hot, hot, hot!  Unlike many of the tourists, we are living without air conditioning or a pool, and are slowly but surely adjusting to the heat.  We thought it quite odd to see our bed having only a fitted sheet, pillow and a sarong as a blanket, but we soon realized why.  There was absolutely no need for duvets, blankets or even clothing for that matter!  In the past, people didn’t wear clothing as it was expensive, and there was also no need for any warmth.  Even in the evening, the temperature does not really drop that much.  The locals say it does, but the only thing we noticed when the sun went down was the arrival of the mosquitos!
Beautiful scenery

The workers in the rice field on a lunch break

The ridge walk in Ubud

I captured this photo on the way back from the market one morning.  Right before I snapped the photo
the little guy had been holding onto his big brothers hand.

Ubud is stunning and we have experienced so much here, thanks to our wonderful extended family.  Peace, love and sweat, yes that is what Bali is about and I’ll take that any day!  

Our beautiful Aji and Ibu.  Thank you for making us feel so welcomed and at home.

Aji presented us with this gift on our last day in Ubud.  It is a copy of a painting he did of
the Balinese Calendar, a gift we will cherish forever.
Thanks so much to Claire for putting us in touch with your beautiful family in Ubud. Aji shared these photographs with us which were taken during Claire's first visit, back in 1986! 
Aji and Ibu's children, taken in the lane outside their family villa.

Aji's daughters with Claire and her sister

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