Galungan Redux

It’s 11:11 am as I begin to write. An auspicious time on an auspicious day.

After close to 18 hours’ worth of rain, Bali woke up to a day of bright sunshine and a near-cloudless sky. Perfect for Galungan, the start of the much-adored Balinese festival (culminating, eleven days later in Kuningan) that celebrates the victory of good over evil.

Penjors went up as early as last week and today they adorn the sides of roads all over Ubud. Balinese women and girls have, for hours already, been walking about, baskets in their arms, placing offerings on shrines, in front of homes, at temples, just about everywhere. The kulkul (traditional hollowed-wood bell) began to ring early in the morning, calling people to temple. Priests are ringing their bells, chanting and offering incense to the gods all over the island.

Kadek, Karma, Rai, Bagus and others are probably now napping after their traditional middle-of-the-night pig slaughter and early-morning ritual of chopping and preparing lawar and other pork-based delicacies.

And then, there are my ex-pat friends…

H woke up this morning to a view of rice paddies on one side of her home and construction on the other side. Sunshine for her birthday too. Party planned for this evening, complete with pizza, Andrea Bocelli’s Ave Maria, a chic-flick and, if the weather holds, a little dip in the pool.

B is off in Ahmed for a few days, thanks to Ninggah and his family, eager to immerse herself amongst the locals, curious to get a closer look at how Balinese celebrate in that village by the sea.

A is in Bangkok (on her way to visit family and friends in the US), embarking on a full-day body checkup, top to bottom. It’s a tradition among numerous ex-pats here, a yearly junket to Bangkok or Singapore for a full medical; scans, blood tests, the whole nine yards.

P is still in solitude-mode, safely ensconced in her octagonal-shaped home, surrounded by fruit trees, compost heap and a veggie and medicinal garden to die for.

R’s morning ritual of pilates has probably wound down by now… she is likely conjuring up plans for her upcoming English class at the school near her home. We will catch up on each others’ lives while breaking bread tomorrow night.

Still, even among my Balinese friends, there are exceptions: M stayed in Ubud rather than return to her family home in Kintamani because, due to her grandmother’s death last week, she is considered sebel (impure) and thus prohibited from celebrating Galungan in the usual way; no grand offerings, no visits to the village temple.

And, due to a little unexpected premature visit to my body from a moon-source (datang bulan) – bummer! – I too am deemed sebel, hence prohibited from entering a temple. There goes my intended plan of joining others in the nearby pura for prayers and getting sprinkled by holy water from the priests.

I figured that since M and I are both apparently awash in impurities… we might as well commiserate. So she will drop by to fill me in on her 100-year-old grandmother’s death and funeral, her upcoming yoga teacher training course, and other matters of the heart and spirit.

A Galungan quite different than my first… 210 days ago.

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