I’m home! Ok not home home, but close enough.
When I landed and headed down Sunset Road with my favourite driver and my man on my arm, my heart skipped a beat. I love Bali, I love the people, I love the food, I love the weather and I love the culture. Saddled up back on my scooter, shorts and singlets on (no more dress codes to adhere to), sun shining and an ice cold been in my hand – heaven!
I’ve just missed Nyepi – the Balinese Hindu New Year where the island shuts up shop for 24 hours and everyone stays inside, meditates, and spends time with family and God, all ready for the year ahead. Even the airport shuts down. It’s a full lock down to be at peace. Sorry to have missed it but I’m in time for Galungan and its wedding season! The Balinese calendar dictates certain times and days that are suitable for marriage and New Year that are perfect.
I’ve never been to a Balinese wedding so when I notice one being set up on my morning ride for a delicious organic brekky down at Canggu, I brush up on my Indo and sweet talk the uncle to let me come in. Not a hard task because the Balinese are so welcoming and open. He says absolutely, throw your sarong on and in you go. What a magnificent set up! I’m always so impressed with the beautiful creations that the Balinese achieve with such simple resources. Flowers, bamboo and cocoa leaves adorn the pathways into the house.
The Gamelan plays and the traditional dancers entertain us for over an hour. The arrival of the bride and groom sparks wide smiles and glowing looks from the crowd. As the series of rituals unfold, the guests for the most part go about their own business. Offerings overflow at various altars, the Pemangku (Bali Hindu Priest) offers a live duck to the temple, another collection of women chant softly yet purposefully off to the sides. The traditional wedding attire is simply magnificent. Bright red with gold from top to toe, traditional make up and the happy couple look calm, hot, and happy. Again, with the open-mindedness they happily pose for photos with the two foreign strangers who have turned up and after a bite to eat and feeling bit sun stroked, we say our goodbyes and leave.
A sucker for ceremony I drag my adopted family the Dillons off to the temple for Galungan and explain the Odalan, offerings and holy water. We watch the people focused in prayer and admire the offerings that come and go through the temple on this the second most important ceremony of the year (second to Nyepi).
I remember that I have water from the Ganges in my backpack and ask the Pemangku if he would like it. By his animated and excited response hugging me and clutching my hands I think the answer is yes. I knew I was right not to leave India without some, given so many Hindus were bottling it up for ceremony. This year I was happy to be celebrating Galungan in Bali and whilst it was much more subdued than the three-day extravaganza of last year in the village, I loved that one year on I could teach my friends a thing or two about what was going on. And I not only tied my own sarong, but I dressed the whole family too. I’m obviously learning a thing or two on this journey, and it’s nice to know it’s sticking.
With sadness, I leave my second home but with Jerusalem as the next stop, I’m about to tick off the number one on my bucket list!
Yours in Faith,
The Unlikely Pilgrim