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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reflections on Bali & Introducing Alma Rose

 I've been thinking about my experiences on Bali, about why this little island attracts so many people. What makes it so special? Certainly, the amazing scenery, the sun and the surf are all factors. But I've come to believe that it's the Balinese people, and their palatable spiritual energy, that draws people to Bali. During my recent visit, I had a chance to explore their way of life. This is a bit of what I learned:

Most Balinese live with their family for their entire lives. Each walled family compound has enough small homes for each nuclear family, a centrally located, shared, open-air kitchen, areas for livestock and a garden and most notably, a temple that is strictly for their family’s use.

Home of a family's elders   

Senior family members live in the compound’s nicest, and physically highest, home. Though females generally move to their husband’s home upon marriage, males stay in their parent’s compound for life. Family members eat together on special occasions but on regular days, each nuclear family eats by themselves.

Family members gather in their temple three times a day to pray.  The Balinese firmly believe that their ancestor’s spirits reside in their family’s temple thus family temples are vitally important to the Balinese. And so, regardless of income level, family temples are remarkably elaborate.  The Balinese believe that when someone prays in their temple, they are not only praying to their Gods, they are also beseeching their ancestors for guidance and care. This belief drives most Balinese to live with their family in their compound for their entire life, to destroy the family’s temple if they move, and to build a new temple at their new home. If a family member moves away for work or marriage, they return home regularly to visit their family and to pray.

Large numbers of Balinese gather regularly for weddings, funerals and spiritual festivals in village temples, community temples and public temples. Gedi Widianta, the wonderful driver who taught me about Bali’s form of Hinduism, estimated that there are more 1 million temples on the island of Bali. Though no one knows the exact number, temples are everywhere across Bali!

Balinese prayers do not stop at the temple gates. Every day, most Balinese make “offerings.” They make offerings by placing rice and flowers in a small, hand-made woven basket, which they reverently set on the street, the dash of a car, or in front of a statue or business. Some make offerings of beautiful arrangements of flower petals.  From what I understand, it’s the act of offering that is important. So if the dog eats the rice two minutes after an offering has been made, no one worries; the offering has already been heard.  

I read the phrase “All of life is your offering” painted in colorful letters on the side of a barn.  Gedi explained that these words explain why the Balinese pray so much, as well as why they are always happy to help others - it’s their offering.

The fact that generations of family members choose to live together in the same location, and that neighbors, whole villages, have known one another, have helped one another, and have prayed together for generations is simply remarkable. I can’t help to think that these deep bonds change the way a person lives, how lives are played out.  It’s fascinating to witness the ramification of so many long term friendships, such strong communities and of communities that pray together so often.  The Balinese people might not have much in terms of wealth, but they are truly rich in spirit!    

Jakarta Time and Introducing Alma Rose

From Bali, I headed to Jakarta, an absolutely massive, crowded, fascinating city. But it’s my second home, due to the fact that my oldest son, Jocean, his wife, Ayu and their two children, Nazla and Howi, live there.  Their third child, Alma Rose Maharani, arrived on October 18th, healthy as can be. I think Alma going to be a very kind girl; she must have known that I had to go home in early November so she came two weeks early so we could spend a bit more time together.  I feel so blessed to have had extra time to spend with perfect little Alma. It was also special to watch her family interact with and to get to know this new, tiny person! 
It’s fun to watch the enormous impact a tiny, 6 1/2 pound person can have on the people around them! Alma is 3 weeks old now. I thought you would enjoy my son’s recent report,
“…..Ms. Alma finally showed signs of sleeping at the proper hour last night. She is doing well, rounding out about the upper cheeks/temples, actually
considered naming her Alma-hungry-mungry, starting to smile and getting rather noisy. Still tiny, but growing quickly, avoided the flu that all the rest of us got, it seems. The combination of heavy antibacterial milk intake and her setting the rest schedule for herself in total disregard for all other family members seems to be treating her well...Oh! It appears she heard these complaints, time to grab her!"

Besides spending time admiring and tending to Alma and hanging out with with Howi and Nazla, I was able to celebrate Halloween with them, Jakarta-style. This means that we had a lot of fun dressing up and prowling about but not a lot of luck in the candy and trick-or-treating departments. The evening's highlight was having dinner in a mall restaurant. Folks thought our duck/dinosaur/p.j/old hippie clad crew were truly crazy Americans!  Lots of stares...

I also had time to work with my son at his organic farm and soon-to-be-open farm stay, Lodges Ecologicia.  I got to help arrange furniture in the main buildings, one of my favorite activities. They are creating quite a place there, a true refuge for those wishing to escape the Jakarta scene. I can’t wait until it’s open in earnest!    


While in Jakarta, I spent time at two schools, Global Jaya International School and Jakarta Montessori School. I had a fabulous time at each school. I would like to thank Carol Engmann and Deborah Clohesy for inviting me to their schools. A few photos from those visits are below.

 All hands up at Jakarta Montessori!

Miss Noni's preschoolers may be small, but they are good listeners!

Cute kids, especially the one to my left, who happens to be my grandson, Howi!

I had a wonderful day at Global Jaya International School, which has 700 students and is located in West Jakarta. 

Whenever I spend time in schools, I tell students, "Find books that you love! Books can take you anywhere you want to go! Adventures of the Treasure Fleet takes you back 600 years to explore a fascinating piece of Asian history, Gecko's Complaint takes you to a Balinese rain forest that's packed with foolish animals, while fantasies take you to places that don't even exist! There are books on every topic, so no matter what you enjoy, what you are interested in, there's a book for you. Go to your library and find that special book because..... books can take you anywhere!"

Luckily, the students at Jakarta Montessori and Global Jaya International Schools have great libraries to utilize. I wish all Indonesian children were so lucky!

I had one last snuggle with Alma Rose before heading home. 


Olivia Chase aka Mabel said...

Hello Annie..just stumbled onto your site, what a great accomplishment! Would love to stay in the lodge and introduce Steve to Jocean. Love Mabel

Erin Dealey said...

Finally had a chance to read about your latest adventure. What a wonderful opportunity you broght to those kids--and they to you.

And Alma is precious!

Ann Martin Bowler said...

Thank you Erin! I am glad you enjoyed my post.