Bali days begin

I’ve been in Bali for just over a week and apart from posting on Instagram and privately on Facebook, I’ve been slow to stir together a blog post. I could say I’ve been sun-struck, wonder-struck and frequently at the losing end of finicky internet—all true—but the fact is, photos have come more easily. Documenting this journey with words, even finding the words, has been more difficult. So I’ll backtrack and we can do some catching up together.

Oct 2, 2015 | Lodtunduh, Bali

I arrive in Bali late in the afternoon, enveloped by heat and the most serene airport I’ve ever experienced. I scan the hand-held signs for Dewa, my driver, who has waited patiently for my delayed flight. He smiles when I wave to him from behind the barrier and he seems as relieved as I am to know that I’ve touched ground. My body reverberates with fatigue but I find myself floating above it. The three flights I’ve taken have left me out of sync with time—I gave up trying to determine it in Taipei, having gone from three hours behind in Vancouver to too many hours ahead for my body to adjust. Dewa bundles my luggage in his van and whisks me off into the setting sun. Fragments of this new world rush past my window—ancient temples and new construction—beelines of motorbikes surround us and I feel stunned and thrilled to finally be here.

An hour later we stop at a restaurant near the rental villa so I can pickup dinner, and Dewa gives me my first lesson in currency conversion. The Indonesian Rupiah has a whole lot of zeros … I begin eliminating them until the denomination makes sense: 100,000IDR is a little over $11CDN today. My jet-lagged brain chooses to treat it as though it were only $10—easier math, happier brain.

It’s a short ride to the house and we’re greeted at the roadside by Nyoman and Tomblos (groundskeepers and fixit folk). This is my introduction to the motorbike—the Balinese family vehicle—and the awareness that nearly anything (proportionate or not) will fit on one. They strap on my suitcase and backpack and we set off in the dark, single file, down the long stone path that leads to an arched gateway at the end. Dewa opens the old, wood doors and I turn to see the villa, lit for the evening, its sliding teak doors open to the outdoors. We step over the moat that surrounds it on two sides, the fish moving quickly as we do, and I’m home—a pyramid-like Javanese Joglo, with carved teak and bamboo interior. Dewa and friends give me a quick run-through of my new surroundings before wishing me a good night. A stone breezeway joins the main house (a large living area with a raised platform—balé—in the centre) to the second building (kitchen, bedroom and bathroom partially open to the outdoors). They wish me a good night, and I introduce myself to the house. Outside, the darkness is punctuated by the sound of geckos, frogs and crickets who have struck-up a symphony and there are only glass doors between us. Or so I think. There’s a suction-like sound coming from somewhere in the living area. I discover a ladder at the base of the balé leading, it seems, to a loft under the pitched roof and the source of the sound. I take my flashlight and climb. And there at the top, is a small raised bed … and a gecko. I tell it: nice to meet you, buddy. Here’s the deal—you stay put and I’ll just climb downstairs. There’s lots of room for both of us, but you don’t get the living room.

I draw the mosquito netting around the canopy bed and fall against the pillows. I sleep better than I have for weeks, despite my knee swelling like a bad thing on the flight over (A few days later, a wonderful doctor makes the less-wonderful pronouncement: arthritis). For now the pain dims and I greet the day—my very first morning in Bali! I slide open the Joglo’s doors to a garden that spills over three terraces, the scent of frangipani hugs the air. A stone wall lies at the bottom of the garden. Opening the iron gate reveals another world—the rice paddies. I’m spellbound by the garden and slowly explore its beauty: coconut and mango trees, jackfruit and papaya, pink and yellow frangipani and tropical flowers and vines whose names I’ve yet to know. But there will be plenty of time for that …