I sat in the lounge re-reading Elizabeth Pisani’s amazing ‘Indonesia Etc’ today. What an enchanting combination of true adventure and poetic writing. A French accent interrupted me.
There was a tall woman, super-glamorous, to my eyes the ilk of Naomi Campbell or Halle Berry.
‘Can you tell me please where I can go for yoga?’
I wish I could write the accent and the husky tone in words, but use your imagination.
I ran through the three best known options, Radiantly Alive, The Yoga Barn and Intuitive Flow—the names alone keep me at a distance—and she chose The Yoga Barn.
‘Oh yes, I ‘ave ‘erd of it’
I asked if it was her first time in Bali.
‘Yes, and tomorrow I ‘ave to return to Paris. Paris is good, but ‘ere there is a great energy. I feel it as soon as I got off the plane. People tell me this, but now I know for myself. I am so sad to leave.’
At which point she cried, clasping her hands to her face—embarrassment, emphasis, I’m not sure.
‘I don’t want to go; it ‘urts in here. (indicates heart) Is Bali in your ‘art?’
‘Yes, it is. The people, the culture, the physical beauty of Bali all call me back again and again.’
‘It is too much. I must go to yoga now. Goodbye.’
And with quick wipe of the tears, and a flourish of her long scarf over her minimalist crochet top, she was gone.
This sort of thing rarely happens for me in Adelaide. Am I just looking in the wrong places, or don’t these people come there?
Tonight, I am off to a movie at a friend’s house. They host anything up to thirty people, and we must all bring a plate to make a collective feast. Last week I sat with a woman in her eighties who speaks six languages–Russian, German, French, Italian English, and Indonesian—and likes to read in all of them except Indonesian.
‘I confess I am not fluent enough to read Indonesian without a dictionary.’
Ah, not so smart then.
‘And are your languages useful to you, apart from reading?’
‘Reading is wonderful, especially in Russian which I like the best, but it is very good to keep up correspondence with people who exhibit my textiles in many cities. Most speak a little English, but you can’t carry on a proper discussion about the nature of art, and properly describe what you are making right now, in a language you don’t speak well.’
Oh, very smart, actually.
Maybe I’ll sit with Anne-Marie again, or maybe some other exotic, gifted and wildly experienced person, traveling through or living here, will engage me in conversation. Or one of the hosts will. Dave is an energetic, voluble local, originally from Texas. He’s keen to talk politics, especially his visceral dislike of Trump and the Republican Party in general. He’s also a keen environmentalist, who has dived most of the best locations in the Archipelago.
Pong, who comes from Thailand, is a soft-spoken, warm woman who exudes almost saintly calm and gentility in the best possible way. She works the room, greeting everybody like her best friend. A couple of minutes talking with Pong has as much impact on your grounded well-being as many two-hour mindfulness workshops. In terms of social skills, Pong is a rock star.
And apart from my morning two-hour ride on my own through all manner of Balinese settings, and getting my butt kicked at pool by my friend Barry this afternoon, that will be one day in Ubud.
She is right. The energy here is palpable. Call it sacred, mystical or just, as I do, a perfect blend of people and place making each day feel slightly out of this world. And I do feel it right after I get out of the airport.