Back to Bali

Today marks almost one week to the day since I returned to Bali, after a whirlwind two months of travel, gorgeous landscapes, family celebrations, paperwork (lordy, lordy, so much paperwork!), friends, selling crafts, and yet more travel.

It’s taking me awhile to get settled back into life here, but I’m in awe and grateful that my journey has brought me back full-circle; back to Ubud; back to my 2nd-floor perch in the guesthouse; back to much that is familiar – and a few sights and sounds that are most definitely not.

Same same but different.

Same guesthouse – but two new statues, that for some reason bear a peculiar resemblance to the man of the house, Pak Ketut.

Same staff – but pregnant Kadek now, less than 2 months shy of her due date, waddles by like a bebek (duck). I don’t dare ask her for anything more than a glass of water.

Same Dede (Pak and Ibu’s grandson) – but older and bolder now; certainly not the same shy boy who once hid behind his mothe; now unabashedly calling out to me upstairs; apparently wanting to show off his latest Superman pyjamas.

Same Joni – but now with a longer mane of hair, perhaps a way of compensating for the celebratory haircut his youngest son will undergo on an upcoming auspicious day.

Same Bali Buddha restaurant – but now renamed Bali Buda in deference to the (Ub-)Buddhists in our midst.

Same Pasar Ubud (Ubud central market) – but now being severed, its upper levels decapitated by sledgehammers, undergoing radical reconstruction, thereby re-directing all souvenir-seeking tourists and touts to a newly-built market a few kilometers away. Amen to the freeing, de-clogging results on the main road!

Same yoga studio & teacher – but the sure and sorry signs of construction on a once-lovely patch of green next door – a house (nay, villa they say!) – are making me reconsider other, more peaceful options for the immediate future.

Same friends – but some with more vigor, others healing from injuries and operations; still others planning their departure. Some not yet seen, others missed as they left overseas merely days before my return.

Same butterflies, ants & insects – but I’m convinced that a new species of bird has set up nest outside my bathroom window, but beyond view. If only I could see that lovely songbird…!

Same moon – but somehow, nearing full moon status, it just SEEMS larger, brighter and more potent here in Bali.

But one sight, really not the same at all, has completely caught me by surprise, off guard, gobsmacked and downright shocked: Someone has seen fit to begin outfitting parts of my neighborhood, yes Tebesaya, with (hold your breath) sidewalks! Yes, straight, tiled, proper width, even with a slight curve at the curb, reaching down to the road.

But wait, something must be amiss: where are the usual inclines every few meters, carved out of sidewalks for the benefit of scooter riders everywhere, facilitating an easy ride up onto the sidewalk and into their compounds? Gone, I tell you: gone! Apparently necessitating some quick-thinking and ingenuous solutions… which comes so naturally to the Balinese.

But bless these road-workers: they’ve not entirely relinquished their danger-zone mentality. Massive blocks-worth of sidewalk have been left empty and gaping, a risk to life and limb at every step. Who knows why? Who knows when, if at all, these craters will be covered. And please, banish the thought that each one ought to be cordoned off by yellow tape.

Ahhh… so some things really do not change.

Terima kasih, my Balinese neighbors & friends; thank you for welcoming me back with the old, the slightly tarnished and the partly, haphazardly, quite-possibly-dangerously new.


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