Under My Nose

Like many people who come to Ubud for a short while and then decide to stay longer, I’ve been trying to find a little house to rent. Typically, because there is a considerable ex-pat community here – some more transient than others – and construction of foreigner-friendly homes has increased, the residential revolving door is an oft-discussed topic among bules (pronounced bu-lays, Balinese for foreigners).

Postings all over town boast of luxury villas overlooking rice paddies, artist-friendly retreats, rooms to rent in communal co-ops. Friends meet at dinners, film gatherings and group meetings, exchanging news about the latest available options, mulling over tempting – but often overpriced – offerings posted on the ubiquitous Facebook accommodation page.

I’ve certainly done my share of asking around, scanning postings, stopping locals on a path to inquire about possible rentals in the area. I’ve checked out a couple of modern villas overlooking paddies; a second-floor suite in the home of an older American ex-pat woman; some run-down rooms that are in dire need of a facelift and discount. I’ve pondered the possibility of taking over homes from Renata, Stephanie, Daniel and Juan-Carlos.

I’ve been directed to homes that are more than 1 km from the main road, which I nix on the basis of distance – I walk (nearly) everywhere. I’ve looked around the neighborhoods of Penestanan, Tebesaya, Kutuh Kelod and Nyuh Kuning. And I’ve popped my head into a fair share of other Balinese guesthouses and homestays.

Why have I been looking so diligently? It always boils down to noise; the 4 am wake-up crow c/o my neighboring roosters; the late night, midnight, early morning, any-time-of-day howls and growls of Bali dogs on my street; the never-ending roar of motorbikes outside my window. I decided that a good night’s sleep was worth the effort of searching high and low for a peaceful refuge. But nothing I saw was quite right. Until yesterday afternoon, when I followed Kristin’s suggestion to see a room that had become available in her guesthouse – quiet, with a jungle view. Sounded perfect.

I showed up at the Lecuk Inn on Jalan Kajeng and Made (a Balinese name, pronounced Mad-ay) showed me the room, at the far end of the property, with a terrace overlooking the jungle-like forest. He assured me that roosters don’t reside nearby; just birds and breeze in the trees. I felt an immense sense of peace and calm. I promised Made that I would call him by this morning to confirm…

I returned to my room last night, did Reiki, meditated and went to sleep asking for guidance – should I stay or should I go?

And then, this morning, awakened like clockwork (the roosters’ clock, that is) before dawn, I lay in bed, gazing out the window. I opened the door, crept back into bed and watched as the sun made a grand entrance into the steel-blue sky, its beams glowing directly into my sleepy eyes. I stepped out onto my terrace, where grace and the sky joined to meet and greet me; and then I stretched and sat in lotus position as the first of the day’s kites soared above my head.

Dressed and ready to leave to yoga, I went downstairs for a bowl of fruit when I saw Ayu, hard at work creating a crown from palm leaves and bamboo sticks. She wasn’t interested (or couldn’t understand) that I wanted to leave for class; instead she took my hand and led me around, wanting me to see the bird in the cage and to take its photo.

There was no stopping her: She insisted on taking more photos of our surroundings – including one of her and I and another of Wayan, heading from the family temple back to her workroom for more offerings. Concerned that I would arrive late to class, I reminded Ayu that I have to jalan-jalan (take a walk) to yoga and waved goodbye. Goodbye, she said with a broad smile and walked to the kitchen.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes of walking down the road; past the man who grills meat satays at sunrise, past the dogs – some of whom have begun to ignore me, past Ibu Dayu’s bubur stall, past Rona’s guesthouse and the bakery across the road, past the Tebesaya bale banjar (village meeting pavilion), past Yummy-Yummy restaurant and my favorite warung for cheap and tasty noodle soup, past the Anjani laundry ladies – already well into folding and ironing the day’s piles, past my friends’ warungs – Manis’ and Enik’s (mysteriously called Shekinah) across the street from each other, past the brand new Golden Leaf Gallery, the temple – stopping at the back to fill up on spring water – and past the taxi driver eternally asleep in his car… to realize that I wasn’t moving anywhere anytime soon.

Perhaps, like the constant humming of my pain, the noise that engulfs me while I live at the Family Guesthouse, is nothing more than a reminder of the daily unfolding of life; and that my life/body/pain and Bali are – and can fall – short of perfection; can be a nuisance, the germ of frustration and the reason to wail, whine (preferably kept to a minimum!) and seek a cure. However, there’s no quick fix – not for life, for pain, nor for insomniac Bali dogs. Sometimes, what is, is best.

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