Friday, August 29, 2008

Yoga in Bali's Festival Season

I'm having way too much fun teaching and touring Bali to make time to blog. Cameron is keep a day-by-day account of my yoga retreat complete with beautiful photographs. Take a sneak peak, see what you're missing ;-) and subscribe at

Sampai Jungpa Lagi (See you soon)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Selemat Datang

In Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling novel Eat Pray Love, Bali is a place of balance: a place where the indulgences of Italy and the spiritual fervor of India join to form the quintessential middle path. My experience of Bali however is far less about balance and much more about counterbalance. I worked my way through Australia if only to exert myself as little as possible in Bali. Fortunately, I have arrived in a place where my beer budget can eclipse my champagne tastes.

Another long day of travel brought us to the Denpasar airport. We stepped into the long awaited warmth of the night air and were immediately welcomed. Cameron’s high school friend Lily and her partner Randy relieved us from the demands of uncharted territory and without any strain of mind we were quickly enroute to our first destination, Bali Mountain Retreat. The pair have been teaching English to this budding hotel’s staff and tutoring the children of the generous Australian owners for the past nine months. All of who ensured our every comfort and tilled the soil for future yoga retreats.

For the last week we have been bungalow hopping our way through paradise. Bali Mountain Retreat nestled in the foothills of Mount Batu Karu, Pondok Pisang, oceanside oasis just outside of Candi Dasa and finally Balian beach’s secret hideaway, Pondok Pisces. With the exception of a brief shopping expedition, we have thus far been true to form in our avoidance of tourist traps. Even Kuta with its tourist ghetto reputation proved to be the perfect dose of sensory over-stimulation and material prowess.

Bali has it’s own interesting relationship with balance. It is a place where the slower pace of tradition and culture juxtapose the backbreaking speed of modern day hedonism. It’s a contemporary rendition of the fabled Tortoise and the Hare and I’m still rooting for the latter. The depth of this opposition is noticeable in the sound bytes singled out by my finely tuned ears. The bass of a 24/7 party, the buzz and rattle of motorbikes and the innumerable solicitations for transport miraculously transform into the rustle of banana leaves, the bark of geckos and the constant song of the sea. Kuta's only recognizable bird songs include that of giant homemade kites and airplanes but this morning, safely sequestered in my mosquito netted bed, I woke to the pride of a neighboring rooster. Moving from concrete labyrinth to terraced rice field is merely a matter of distance and desire.

Despite this collision of worlds, Bali and her people are amongst the most relaxed and accommodating I have come across in my travels so far. The triumph of simplicity and directness are perhaps most evident in the language. Verbs don’t change their form to show person or number, or even tense. Whether an action is past or present is indicated entirely by context. I cringe recalling how many hours labored memorizing irregular verbs and tenses while learning Spanish? Indonesian is also more phonetic than Spanish. Words like restoran (restaurant), parkir (park here) and joos (juice) amuse me in the way the cut out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Some grow impatient with the Balinese pace of life and judge that it reflects a want of ambition or ingenuity. Those who agree might do good in considering whether they desire too much too quick or are attached to the false sense of importance or purpose which complexity imparts. I would argue that it stems from a profound connection to their family, cultural history and a true appreciation of the moment. According to Jack, an ex-pat with whom we hitched a ride from Candi Dasa to Kuta, the presence of outsiders in Bali, like in so many other countries before it, is drastically changing traditional family and village infrastructure.

Jack has been living the dream of following the surf around Indonesia for the past twenty-five years and knowledgeably shared and argued in favor of the Balinese. I can’t pretend to know anything about the complexities of Balinese social, religious and political interests, nor can I deny that in the end I am a tourist seeing what has been carefully laid out for me see. Further I recognize how easy it is to demonize your own culture while enjoying only the best of another. To the point Jack said, “You think the US democracy is messed up, the Indonesian government is twice as corrupt.” Some things don’t change know matter where you are: if you have money you can get off the hook. I can confidently say that tourists are welcome in Bali now more than ever to alleviate the devastating affects two bombings had on the tourist industry. No doubt Danu Tours will share a more genuine view of the culture, dance and ceremony with the upcoming yoga retreat. For now I will continue to enjoy the sweetness of the banana pancake, the bold thickness of the “cowboy” coffee and the ecstasy of the daily massage included in my bungalow package. It is easy to understand why Gilbert decided to devote the chapters of her book about Bali to love. What is not to love about Bali?

Don't forget to visit Cameron's blog for more beautiful pictures and words about our adventures.