There are hundreds paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only one wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain telling everyone that his or her path is wrong. – Hindu Proverb
Bali is a magnificent teacher. In many places, we meet people or plan events that shape our learning. In Bali, it is the island as a whole, with its people, food, religion, and diverse landscape that is challenging us to grow in new ways. After a few days here, all we know is how much we don’t know.
We did some research before arriving. The following facts were flying around the library in Sydney where we conducted our study:
- Indonesia is the world’s largest island country with more than 13,000 islands.
- Over 258 million people live in Indonesia and it is the 4th most populous country in the world. The island of Java is home to 60% of the country’s population making it the world’s most populous island.
- Indonesia is part of the Pacific Rim “Ring of Fire” and boasts 400 volcanoes, about 150 of these are active. Nearly 75% of all currently active volcanoes on Earth are in Indonesia.
- Although Indonesian is the only official language recognized here, more than 700 unofficial languages are spoken.
- 84% of Balinese practice Hinduism.
- Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population.
And then we landed …
With fellow airline passengers applying potent mosquito repellent before exiting the aircraft, we felt a little nauseous. As the sticky heat descended and we tripped over cobblestones to find our temporary home, everything was blurry.
After 10 bank machines, we found one that worked, struggling to convert our taxi fees into Rupiah. The smell of salty, satay perfumed the air and was in stark contrast with the odorous, neighborhood garbage burn pile. There is a woman squatting outside Starbucks selling paper fans for $.08, as people carrying $7 frappacinos pass her by.
Tourists wading at the beach are surrounded by plastic garbage and yet fisherman with woven hats, trudge out of the sea with nutritious gifts of sustenance. As we make our way through narrow paths cut between four-star resorts and tourist bars pouring cheap drinks, we wonder where we can go to see the real Bali.
The truth is, it is all real. We won’t see all of Indonesia. We will barely scratch the surface of the parts of it we are lucky enough to experience but we are here now. The shock is wearing off and the rhythm is starting to wash over us. We are starting to see more of what is in front of us as we accept that we are living here for a bit versus vacationing. We need haircuts and some clothing items for the kids. We need groceries and dental appointments. We need to work and that requires us to understand how things work. We can’t force it. We have to let this culture reveal itself to us with all the complexities inherent in the paradise reputation.
We bought our fruit before sunrise today at the morning produce market. Walking home, we tread lightly around the daily offerings of Canang Sari, adorning the sidewalks. Our kids call out differences in each basket, their hands sticky from freshly devoured banana pancakes and mango milkshakes.
Yesterday we were nervous, tired, and stressed. Today we are patient, present and open. We know although we landed several days ago, we just arrived today.
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