Hope Blooms

Even in Ubud, you can bet that the first day of summer will prove to be an auspicious one – even if it’s not specifically indicated on any Balinese calendar, even if there are no temple ceremonies to mark this most welcome of seasonal transitions – and even if there is an unmistakable whiff of autumnal weather in the air (or as close to fall as the tropics might ever reach); I am greeted most mornings these days with some combination of wind, drizzle and cloud cover, with a smattering of rays peeking through greyness.

But never mind that. On my calendar, yesterday was the first official day of summer and I was going to see to it that it would be duly marked. Which naturally meant that I was going to market. First, a stop nearby for a glass of young coconut water (air kelapa muda) freshly cut and poured. Then I caught sight of Jasmine, and we made plans for lunch later in the week.

As soon as Pak Djoko pulled up, the centrifugal force of the crowd gathered everyone close to his table in the shade. The ever-cheerful Pak Djoko, together with his assistant, lugged large Styrofoam crates out of the van, barely landing them on tables when the covers flew off and hands lunged in from every direction, grabbing great big bunches of freshly harvested produce bursting with color and fragrance.

Like bees buzzing around a hive, Pak Djoko’s devotees and followers carried large rattan baskets and cotton recycled bags, circling and swooping down like vultures to get first pick: red and green lettuce, boxes of strawberries, carrots, mangosteen, arugula, basil, passionfruit and much more. A microcosm of nutritionally-minded purists with barely satiable cravings for organically grown garlic and strawberries.

Oh the bounty, the flavors, the dazzling bright colors! How do I thank you, dear Pak Djoko?!

And then, munching a carrot while climbing a hill, I found the place; set back from the main road, not a sign in view, just following directions from the neighbors, I walked through the gates of the compound onto the newly opened grounds of the spa, drank a cup of tea, soaked my feet in frangipani-scented water, and there I met Kadek.

Before Kadek there were many others: First there was Chet, who bore a striking resemblance (in looks and speech) to Tony Robbins, and though he charged an equally hefty fee, I still wondered, long after the treatment, just why. Then came Ketut Arsana, the bearded and elfin-sized Bodyworks guru, who led me to his rooftop hideaway and dared to stand on my sacrum. Yes he did, he stood on my sacrum. Of course there was Pak Man. Then, a line of almost forgettable treatments: the deep tissue masseuse at Bodyworks who coughed heavily as she absent-mindedly kneaded my body; Kadek, whose combined style of acupressure and Balinese massage didn’t quite make the grade; and Nyoman, who answered his phone mid-treatment, and (absent-mindedly also) continued massaging my toes while he spoke with a client.

… and then there was Kadek…  (stay tuned)

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