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Here is a shot of a lovely little boy coming home from his bath in the river where he also washed his family’s clothes. His face is so expressive, I could just imagine how heavy those wet clothes were. Just a small reminder that not everyone has a washing machine, or even an indoor bathroom. Many people are still living in very basic conditions

Mystery

Bali is shrouded in mystery, there are so many things that go on here which are inexplicable. Black and white magic are used on a daily basis, to attack and protect. People seem to be able to go in to a trance at the drop of a hat. Dancers can stab themselves with a knife and be unharmed, and dance over hot coals without feeling a thing, all with the encouragement of frenzied chanting, as can be seen in this photo below:bali superstitions

Next is the belief that if you feel sick, it is because there is too much wind in your body, which can be expelled through the use of cups, or horns, as can be seen here:agus masuk angin

or the burning of incense to keep away bad spirits:

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and the biggest mystery of all, is how these structures that are paraded around the streets every year and then ceremoniously burned before we all hide away and meditate for 24 hours can bring peace to the island

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However, it is this mystery that brings people back to Bali again and again, it holds so much mystique and intrigue, and for those like me, who call this island home, it has an inexplicable draw. So much so that going back to England just is not an option.

Sushi Tei

We went to Sushi Tei last night, it is a Japanese restaurant in quite an impressive building down on Sunset road. It was my son’s birthday and so we decided to treat ourselves. We arrived at around 7.30pm, which is clearly peak dinner hour, as we had to wait to be seated. I am not one to book anything, I always think I should be able to find a table anywhere. However, this is becoming less and less the case in the better restaurants in Bali these days.So, piece of advice from me, book ahead! Anyway, it was not so bad, we did not have to wait long, and when we did get in, we got a table right next to the revolving food.

This was an experience in itself, food just keeps coming round, and you can take whatever you want. I am not sure how the billing works, I think the plates are color coded, as our bill had several colors listed! Anyway, we helped ourselves to various plates of sushi rolls, as well as Sashimi as they came past, and also ordered a few dishes from the menu. For drinks, we had various flavored teas, and as  I have never tried Sake, we decided to try a small bottle. It was interesting, but I do not think I would order it again. Not really my taste.

We even got a Japanese style sushi birthday cake! Everything was served very promptly and we all felt very satisfied at the end. For a family of 5 the bill came to AUS$100 which is really not a bad deal. I would highly recommend going, especially for a special occasion, just do not forget to book!

Making peanut sauce

I mentioned in my food glorious food post that I had learned how to make peanut sauce the traditional Indonesian way. Some of you have requested the recipe so here it is. There are more modern ways to make this now, like using a food processor to produce the paste, but here is the traditional way:

There are just a few ingredients needed, peanuts, chili, salt, lemon, garlic and sugar 

step one: fry the peanuts in coconut oil until they are soft

step two: take the peanuts out of the pan, and place them on a stone mortar, together with the garlic and chili, crush them all together with the pestle until they become a fine texture

 step three: squeeze lemon in water and add  sugar then add this liquid to the peanut mix,to make a soft paste, the amount you add will depend on how liquid you like it

step four:

Serve in a bowl, this can be used for a dip with raw or cooked  vegetables, tofu, sate or just about anything you like.

 

Threads of Life

Yesterday, I went to a fascinating presentation by the foundation “Threads of Life” they are a fair trade business that works with culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. They have worked tirelessly for the past ten years to support local weavers in Timor, Sulawesi, Flores, as well as parts of Bali.  The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets they commission are made with local materials and natural dyes to an exquisite standard usually seen only in museums.
They work directly with over 1,000 women on 11 islands across Indonesia, helping weavers to form independent cooperatives, to recover the skills of their ancestors, to manage their resources in a sustainable way, and to express their culture identity while building their financial security.
They have a shop in Ubud where they sell these amazing works of art, and its well worth making a visit there if you are interested in supporting their work, or go to their website   http://threadsoflife.com/
While you are in Bali you could also make a trip to the traditional village Tenganan,outside of Candidasa, and see first hand the work being done there. This village embodies the old values of weaving, and they create the double ikat style, which is extremely complex.
All textiles that the Threads of Life sell are one of a kind pieces, that can take up to two years to create. This is due to the fact that they use natural dyes from the plants and they have to wait for harvest time in order to obtain the materials.
Textiles have played such an important role in trading in Indonesia for hundreds of years, and it is such an integral part of the culture and traditions here. It would be a shame if this skill and beautiful cloths were to disappear due to lack of support. Threads of Life are providing that support, but they need us to help too.

How to learn Bahasa Indonesia

Indonesia consists of thousands of islands, and there are 300 different languages being spoken all over the country. Bali alone has 3 levels of the Balinese language, that differ depending on the caste of the person speaking, or being spoken to. It is a very complicated system of hierarchy, where the person from a low caste must speak “up” to a person of a high caste who in turn must speak “down” to them.

On first meeting a fellow Balinese, they will need to figure out the caste, in order to know which language to speak. This can be detected from the name. Agung, Gusti, and Ida Bagus are all high caste names. My husband comes from a high caste, but is very uncomfortable with the whole idea, and advised me to simply learn the more neutral language spoken throughout Indonesia. That is Bahasa Indonesia.

Bahasa Indonesia is the national language, used on TV, radio, and for instruction at school. A Balinese child would speak Balinese at home, and Indonesian at school. Everyone, with the exception of a few of the older generation, speaks Indonesian, so if you are looking for a language that you can use in all islands, that is the one to choose.

Bahasa Indonesia is actually very easy to learn. I love languages, and speak French and a bit of Spanish, and found Indonesia a breeze compared to those 2. There are no tenses!! Once you know a verb, all you have to do is qualify it with time, for example, the verb “go” is pergi. Saya pergi means I go, then all you have to do is add the time. Yesterday I go, tomorrow I go, last week I go..(kemarin saya pergi, besok saya pergi, minggu kemarin saya pergi) .its really that simple.

Learning from a book is very dry, and you end up speaking like a dictionary. The best way is to learn by listening. Ideally, by being here, and surrounded by people speaking Indonesian every day. Alternatively, I found listening to Indonesian music very helpful. My favorite was Iwan Fals, as he sings very clearly, but any slow love songs will do. Get a copy of the lyrics, and listen to how the words are pronounced, and then sing along! Learning a language can be fun, and the Indonesian people love it when we make an effort. If you are going to be spending any length of time in Bali, or any of the other islands, it is worth trying to learn a few basic words.

Give it a go, and let me know how you get along!

Nusa Lembongan; an island to remember!

A small island just off Bali, well worth a visit

An Irish Girl Abroad

IMG_8180Nusa Lembongan was everything that we hoped it would be. It was so chilled and not at all like what I heard the beaches in South Bali were like. The beaches were rugged, the food was delicious, the people were so friendly and the pace of life was so relaxed that it was perfect!

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We went during the rainy season which meant that we had beautiful sunny mornings that turned in to cloudy evenings. This was great for us as we are early birds anyway so We managed to get so much done in our mornings.

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One of the most popular things to do on Nusa Lembongan is to rent a moped and drive around the island. I’ve already written about our day driving around the neighbouring island of Nusa Ceningan here.

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After our drive around Nusa Ceningan we decided to have dinner at The Sandy Bay Beach Club (it’s…

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Salsa in a Javanese Joglo

Last night, I had my salsa class in a wonderful, traditional style Joglo, situated in the rice fields, with the most beautiful view. I look forward to this weekly event, where I learn Cuban Salsa, with a very talented Indonesian lady. I had her all to myself last night, and we did all sorts of twists and turns until I felt quite dizzy with joy.

The setting for this class is in a very traditional Indonesian building, called a Joglo, this style is originally from Java, not Bali, but these old structures are able to have their memory preserved by being brought to Bali to sell. This road alone has many similar structures being used for offices, and restaurants. It is a very popular style of building these days, as it is a portable structure, that does not require a building permit. This means you can take it with you when ever your lease of the land expires. This is something to consider as it gets harder for foreigners to own land here.

This particular joglo has been transformed in to a restaurant, selling traditional Indonesian food. The food is beautifully served, and the view is spectacular. As the structure consists of only pillars holding up a roof, with no windows or doors, you feel as if you are at one with the nature around you. It is a very peaceful place to enjoy drinks at sunset, or a lunch time meal. They have live music once a week, free salsa classes every Sundayrice field from joglo entrance to joglo and a salsa party once a month. The staff are beautifully dressed in batik clothing, and offer a very understated service. I highly recommend a visit.

Men and their chickens

As I was on my way home from work yesterday,  I stumbled across a group of guys from my office in a huddle. As I approached and asked what they were doing, I discovered that they were in the process of making a hutch for their chickens. This got me to thinking about men and their chickens, and what its really all about.

Chickens play a very important role in Balinese life, they are found in small bamboo cages in the front of every house, and in the late afternoons, you can see men, sitting by the road sides, literally stroking their cocks (cockerels). These creatures are held in high esteem, as they are used for the centuries old tradition of cockfighting. Cock fights, known as Tajen, are performed in religious rituals, in order to offer a sacrifice to the gods, and expel any evil spirits. Cockfighting is always part of every religious ceremony or temple blessing.

Cockfighting in this form, it is a cultural, and religious activity, and completely accepted.  However, cockfighting has also spilled over to every day life, and has become a gambling activity, which is illegal. Despite being against the law, makeshift cockfighting rings can be found all over the island. The roosters are primed for at least 6 months, before a fight, being fed the best food, to develop their strength. Men will compare sizes and weights with their friends cocks, and by extension, attempt to prove their own manhood.

Roosters are naturally aggressive toward other males, so do not need much encouragement to fight, and traditionally, they would fight a fair fight to death. These days,cocks razor sharp knives are tied to the birds legs, making the fight very bloody and quick. Bets are placed, of anything between 50,000 to 1,000,000 Rupiah per fight, and the winner takes home the losing bird to eat at the end.

Its a blood sport, and not one that I approve of personally, but I respect the culture, and the religious meaning behind it. Being a woman, I do not need to be part of the action and that suits me fine.