Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Culture Installment

Every household and every business puts out small offerings to the gods each morning. Green saucer-sized plates made from woven grasses hold flowers, rice, cookies, and burning incense. The air smells like incense here day and night. Incense and these white aromatic flowers that grow like weeds. The women carry trays of these offerings and place them at strategic points around the building, in corners and doorways and entryways onto the street. They sprinkle holy water over them as they place the offerings on the ground. We have to be careful not to step on them everywhere we go.

There are shrines everywhere. The architecture here is amazing. Bridges aren't just bridges, they're massive, two-headed serpents. No flat walls, no stucco: every surface here is hand-carved. Most houses, no matter how humble, have an intricate cement statue of a diety in front. Many of the men wear the traditional sarong with a matching head scarf, tied like a cholo's bandana around the forehead (the look produces a very different effect when paired with a skirt). They also dress the statues in sarongs, and the shrines, and the palm trees, and the lampposts. If it can wear a checkered sarong, it probably does.

The policemen here dress in remarkably tight uniforms. They look more like strippers disguised as cops than actual officers of the law. Where posture and phisique are concerned, they put our American policemen to shame, but I don't know if they could apprehend anyone without ripping the seat of their snug brown pants and popping a few shirt buttons. It's a rather stark contrast to the men in long skirts and the surfers in baggy board shorts.

Everyone says hello here. "Halooo!" They have great smiles. All the children yell Halo! as we walk past the schoolyard, and run over to give us high-fives. People are incredibly friendly, incredibly generous. Some Indonesians invited us to have a drink with them last night and took us to a tiny little bar on the beach that one of them owned. They treated us to arak all night, a homemade rice liquor that they poured into shot glasses from what looked like a lemonade pitcher. The alcohol tasted like a very fine tequila, and we chased it with limes and salt as we lounged on a big wooden, pillow-covered bed on the sand.

We went scuba diving for the first time yesterday, and we absolutely loved it. No practicing in a swiming pool or bothering with certification here. They just strap a tank on you and throw you overboard. The reef was incredible, like being inside The Little Mermaid. I kept expecting Sebastian to jump out of a clam and break into song. We booked our trip with a guy that was standing outside our hotel when we got off the bus. No office, no phone number- we just handed over the money and hoped someone would show up the next morning to take us to the island nature reserve. And someone did. We got a package deal, a dolphin watching trip the following day included in the price. The man with whom we'd booked hadn't been there when we went scuba diving, and I was very skeptical as to whether someone would actually come to take us to see the dolphins today, since we'd already paid and the guy to whom we'd given the money wasn't anywhere to be found. But, sure enough, 5:30 this morning our boat captain is knocking on our hotel door, waking us up for a sunrise with the dolphins. And dolphins there were! We frolicked with them in a tiny boat (20ft by 2ft) until our captian informed us we were out of gas.

We stopped at a roadside market on our way to Lovina, in the north of Bali. One of the women had a big cage of teeny tiny bunnies and, hearing me squeal with glee upon spotting them, pulled one out by the ears for me to hold. As I was cuddling it in my arms, she said "Only 50,000 ( about five dollars ). Very good for eat." I was aghast. Seeing I wasn't quite sold, she offered to take me to the restaurant nextdoor where I could sample some myself. Please scroll down for photos of the bunny killer, among others.


Marla said...

Both of you write so well, I'm having a wonderful arm-chair vacation! Mia, you'll have material for a retrospective on bunnies around the world by the time you get home. I miss you and love you!

Bean's Thoughts said...

I love reading this blog. It's my escape from good old phx. I stare at each picture and can hear, "Halloooo" in the background and Mia's laughter. Mia, you should have saved the bunny! Where was the other bunny from? Was it food or a pet? Love you both.

Bridget said...

Nothing like fried rabbit in the afternoon, if you ask me...

We continue here to be quiet and comfortable. Your momma joined the padres and I for dinner at Carlos last night. We hashed through the game plan for my mom's real estate venture(s) and discussed Mike's broken collarbone - I'm a terrible cousin who hasn't been to see him since it happened.

This weekend the Arctic Monkeys are playing at the Rialto, and I'm headed down to Tucson to take advantage of music and friends. I put feelers out for a game of wallyball - to try to carry on the tradition you know...