Last week during a mountain bike trip my friend Iyan took a nasty, nasty fall. I believe the technical term for what he did is going ass over teakettle. Mercifully, all that was donated to the asphalt gods that day was a fair amount of skin and 30% of his MCL. Iyan and I taught a class together last fall when he broke his ankle and I am beginning to take it personally that he gets hurt whenever I arrive in Bali.
Iyan is now in a full-leg cast, which makes asana practice a bit challenging, so I have been offered the opportunity to teach his two retreats as well as mine. Today I began my month of employment by teaching a class to a lovely group of beginner yoginis from Canada and it was bliss for me.
To my surprise and sheer delight one of my favorite artists had a gig here last week. Years ago I got to see Michael Franti play at a private party/mini-festival in Golden, British Columbia, it was a magical night and it solidified my status as a die-hard fan. Just a couple of weeks ago I sat on my rooftop in Mysore with two of my favorite woman watching the documentary he made about the war-torn areas of the Middle East and we each professed our adoration/admiration for him.
The Bali concert was equally as magical as the Canadian one had been. My new friends and I made our way to the front row, we danced until we dropped from exhaustion and after Franti finished playing he came down into the crowd to dole out hugs, laughs and generously share his energy with all of us. I had the opportunity to meet him and I told him about the rooftop movie night. For me, it was a really special event and one I won’t soon forget.
The very next night I got to wrap up the yoga/music path that Shiva had introduced us all to during the retreat by attending one final Dave Stringer Kirtan. Through Shiva’s workshop I got to meet and befriend some amazing artists who filled my first weeks back here with beautiful music. Dave, Patrick, Daphne, Maya, Steve and Anne Emily, thank you for the gifts of your harmony and rhythm.
The final Kirtan was attended by over a hundred people, (including Michael Franti). It seemed as if every musician in Ubud was in attendance and with their beautiful voices there to drown out my own cat screeching I felt free to belt out Govinda Jaya Jaya, Gopala Jaya Jaya at the top of my lungs and found the energy to dance around the room even though I had been too exhausted to sit upright most of the day.
I knew a big crash was coming. Five weeks in Mysore followed by Shiva’s retreat, I was certain that the moment I stopped moving I would be rendered useless … Sunday the crash hit like a ton of bricks, trying to get up in the morning my back protested, my hips laughed at my feeble attempts to rise from my bed and my mind went completely blank. This state lasted all of Sunday and well in to Monday. I almost allowed my dead-girl-walking status to prevent me from accepting an offer to see some new parts of Bali, but mercifully my travel partner was up for the company of a non-communicative tag along.
Kim is a yogini from California, she and I became fast friends once we discovered we had both been raft guides. She was staying on in Bali for a few more days so we packed up and headed to Amed. Pande, my friend and resident Bali-know-it-all drove. For three days we let water be our guide, visiting holy water springs, black sand beaches, underwater coral reefs, dolphin-infested lagoons, waterfalls and hot springs. After the fire of Shiva’s retreat, a water week was just what the alchemic doctor ordered.
Once we arrived in Amed I took a big sigh and breathed the life back into my bone-tired body. After a sunset snorkel and a dinner on the beach I felt almost human again. In the morning a full Ashtanga practice, a massage and a sunrise snorkel led me back to the world of the living. Amed was the perfect calm after my six-week yoga torrent.
From there we ventured north and west along the coast to Lovina Beach. All of the things I adored about sleepy, quiet Amed were absent from Lovina. It is a resort area catering to tourists and famous, or infamous, for dolphin viewing tours. We of course hired a boat and set out with the masses at 6 a.m. It quickly became obvious that this was not going to be my kind of deal. The tour boats are hollowed-out coconut trees with outriggers and while I loved being in the boat, I did not love the 30 other identical boats jockeying for position in the dolphin hunting melee.
The best way I can describe the boat frenzy was to liken it to little league soccer, you know like when the kids are too young to understand plays, or defense and so they all just swarm around the ball. This was how the boats reacted, when a dolphin surfaced. After about five minutes my concern for the dolphins mounted and I had to just meditate on their safe passage through the plethora of spinning long-tail props until the swarm dispersed and we were returned to the shore.
After breakfast we went back out in the boat to do some snorkeling and to generally lounge out in the sun, this part of the tour suited me just fine.
While in Lovina we visited the local holy hot springs and bathed in the opaque blue, sulfur-tinged waters with dozens of Balinese families. Back in Colorado I am a hot springs junkie. Here sitting a few degrees from the equator, hot water is a bit less appealing, but nonetheless it was a special experience.
On our return trip to Ubud we stopped at the base of a 100’ waterfall and visited a few palatial temples. The drive took us through terraced rice fields, panjor-lined villages and coffee plantations, the beauty of Bali continues to amaze and mystify me.
In Mysore my friend Shueb described a trip he took to a sea-side village by saying that the town “redefined beauty” for him. For me Bali has done that. Bali is now my beauty litmus test. I have said here before that is the most aesthetic place I have ever been, the feel of the air, the smell of incense and flowers, the color palette, they all combine to overwhelm the senses and create a state of beauty bliss for me. I really do love it here.
Nine months ago I set out to travel for a while through yoga, always assuming that I would circumnavigate the globe and then return to the states to set up my life again largely like how I had left it. But the more I travel, the less I identify with what was my stationary, US-based life and the more I love being nomadic.
The longer I am away from ‘home’ the harder it becomes to answer questions like, where are you from and where do you live. Should I say I am from Colorado or Ohio? And really, where DO I live???
I am trying on a few new answers for size:
I am from America – period.
I am splitting my time traveling between India and Bali.
Yeah, I like the sound of that … I live half the year in Mysore and half in Bali. That suits me very well. So in order to make this statement my reality, I have made plans to return to Colorado in June, to move my collection of Tupperware boxes to Ohio for safe keeping and then to set out once again. I think I am now officially a traveler, a homeless nomad, a wandering yogic gypsy. Yeah, those labels suit me too.
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