Is the book by Adrian Vickers that I started reading on my flight here, and planned to finish but was unable because (read previous posts). While I haven't gotten to the real point of the book, this analogy echoes what I have seen so far, with the limited time, knowledge and resource at my disposal aka I'm just a noob here.
The first thing you see driving around the streets are the massive and extraordinary statues of Ramayana characters for which they built roundabouts, are paid by not-so-enthusiastic taxpayers seeing them as the product of corruption. It is rather ill-fitting in the background of visibly poor neighborhood with street vendors pushing carts on foot. Cityside is by no means picturesque and not pleasant to walk around or move around unless you trust your motorbike riding skill, or trust a stranger and sit on the back of his bike, or be patient sitting in a traffic inside 4-wheels. Most of the streetside warung probably gets an F in LA, let alone the street vendors. The restrooms are polar-opposite of what the name stands for, constantly attacking you with odor and splat of unknown liquids, and in the case of westerners with the required yoga squat (which will help you in the long term). Last but not least; hundreds of beat-up dogs on the street will tear your heart out. They did mine. Did not see anyone beating them up but I'd have to assume they get horrendous treatment due to the belief that they're reincarnated sinners.
The picturesque parts of the island are getting sold to resorts and villas, rapidly developed/destroyed or already infested by Eat, Pray, Love readers, surfer dudes, neo-hippies and new rich. Every spot where Google Maps lists as "Tourist Attraction" there are tour busses (which are too large to be let through around here to begin with) full of East Asians and motors with white couples walking up to rows of stores selling batik clothings, woodcarvings, shadow puppets, cheap sunglasses, Bintang beers, Bali kopi and espressos, crepes, coconuts, good toilets and the list never ends. Tourism has always been the center of their economy and sometimes the influence on the culture; kecak performance that I kept seeking out was a trance ritual for (virgin) sacrifices in the times of disaster, which later reconstructed by a westerner to the story of Ramayana and shortened from 3 days to and hour. Now it comes with out-of-context firewalking part at the end to spice it up for non-nerds who get sick of topless old men going chak-chak-chak. That being said, as the government invests more on attracting foreign visitors which doubled in numbers in the last decade. Outer islands on the east side of Bali still remain comparatively untouched, but once the word is out as you know it doesn't take long for it to spread these days.
One thing I admire the most; #zerofucksgiven level = Bali.
Maybe because it's in their bones to think that "everything's gonna be alright" or their religious nature, or that their concept of life is so damn simple. Simple joy of raising a family as I witnessed in Dewi/Dek Bang and Eron, of the connection with community as I witnessed in Banjar, of "playing music worthy of Gods' love" as I witnessed in Sarga the guru. I wanted to play it right not just because I wanna sound good, but so I can hear him play his Sanshi, the counterpoint that sounds like Bach was on acid and speed at the same time. And they do work hard for these simple joys, often unassumingly and naturally. They bring their kids to Banjar so they get exposed to the traditional culture which is gradually pushed aside by internet and smartphones in the hope or the expectation of them eventually carrying the torch in maintaining the banjar, the basis of their community. The parents don't scold if the kids spend the majority of time with the technologies (facebook is blowing the fuck up yall), but do make sure they're there (as I saw the same group of kids all four nights). They work hard to create and maintain this paradise which consists of thounds of these small communities, and which we as individualists often take advantage of by sneaking a peek at this "exotic" and "ancient" culture thus helping them financially and hurting them socio-ecomonically. I believe that it gets worse where we the visitors never get to see, if we ignore to respect what they respect and value beyond the surface and the formality, to appreciate what they offer us and what we have. That's the least I can do before I plan my return.
As I danced with the devil inside occasionally poking at my bowel, I had to bid farewell to the place and the people that I had come to love. There was a time that I questioned my decision to spend as long as I did in one place without hopping all over, but now I wished I could stay longer. It's good that I'm leaving to kind of make sense of what happened here, what I saw and listened, what I was taught. And I will be back to see these faces again.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. New EP "Six Songs from Insomnia" is out on all major streaming platforms.