Bebek Crossing Ahead

Living in a city such as Ubud, and walking across town in the early morning hours (as I love to do), you are pretty sure to stumble across something, anything, and I mean almost anything imaginable (and beyond imaginable!) that you’ve not seen before; that boggles the mind; that stops you – stupefied, shocked or amused – in your tracks. So you’d be well advised to have camera in hand, because chances are that, in precisely those situations, people may not believe you. Especially when…

A guy steps out onto the west end of Jalan Raya (main road), waving his arms, attempting to slow down the very few motorbikes and cars passing by. I’m expecting a van-load of tourists to come barreling down the gravel road that veers off the main road up ahead; or at the very least, a pick-up truck loaded up with bicycles, on its way to Mount Batur for this day’s cycling adventure.

But what I see seconds later is so totally unexpected that it’s like a punch line to a joke that NOBODY saw coming.

A rice farmer, wearing rubber boots and wielding a tall bamboo stick, is coaxing his flock of loudly yakkin’ ducks (bebek) across the road. Another farmer, this one in bare feet, follows closely by, holding a duck by its neck – errant, I assume, hence punishment by dangling! Good thing those bebek have crossing guards, because they’re too busy chattering to look both ways.

But they follow a well-trodden path, turning the corner, en masse, when they reach the sidewalk, waddling up the hill with a sense of familiarity borne of routine. They’re likely on their way to the rice paddies adjoining the temple and cremation grounds next to Murni’s Villas.

We, the people, are just  intruders in their neck of the…um… fields.

Just when you think that motorbikes, tourist buses, taxi touts and villas have taken over the neighborhood, quite out of the blue, you might be treated to an insider’s view of authentic Ubud and its oft-forgotten, but not-too-distant agrarian past (and present).

Welcome to Bali: The island of never-ending surprises.

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