My cousin Dawn and I went to a number of shops in Gianyar and Ubud on errands yesterday, my first day in Bali. Gianyar and Ubud are cities to the east and west of her home in Tegallinggah. Ubud is a big tourist area, so I saw many Westerners there. The towns and cities run into each other along the road, so it is difficult to ascertain where one ends and the next begins. Families live in compounds with walls around them that abut the road, and behind the compounds are the rice fields. One doesn’t get much of a glimpse of them here in the very crowded south. I suspect there are fewer people in the north.
Mopeds rule here, and when I say that, you probably can’t even imagine. The law of the road is: whoever gets there first. They pass on the right and on the left, families of four on one bike with a chicken in a basket on the back. Imagine Harley fest for mopeds. The police stand at busy intersections, and if you break the law they wave at you to pull over. Haha.
We had long (20 inches) green beans from the garden last night, with some large white mushrooms I have never seen before, tofu, and fresh garlic, over rice. It was delicious. For dessert was snake fruit. A thick, red bumpy skin, peeled, the fruit was the color and texture of an apple but had a citrusy flavor. In the middle was a large nut like an almond, which was a treat for Hana, the German Shepard. Crunch, crunch, crunch, she chomped it down, in 7th heaven. There is a new kitten, Javan, which Hana harasses constantly. The last cat was captured on the roof by a Monitor lizard and eaten. I haven’t seen one of the lizards, but I hear them of the roof tiles at night. Nor have I seen the porcupines that live along the river and eat the coconuts. No snakes yet, either. Dawn does have the twelve-foot long skeleton of the python that invaded her shower last year, and which her husband Suadai killed with a baseball bat, though not quickly enough to save the cat who was in the shower with Dawn.
My house is built into a ridge above a large river that flows fast and deep at the bottom of the gorge. Streams rush down the hill on both sides of the house and into the river below. The sound of constant, rushing water surrounds the house and is very soothing. Beetles in the trees, crickets, birds, and I have no idea what other creatures, create a constant chorus. The cacophony is joined by the priests in the nearby temple, who sing most of the day. I can hear a gamelon orchestra playing in the temple, the sound floating over the hills.
Dawn brought very old, carved teak from houses in Java, to build this house. I have bamboo shades that close over the windows in the bedroom. The living room and kitchen are open on two sides to the forest of bamboo, coconut, banana trees, and various flowering plants. It is very damp. I have a small refrigerator and a stove, on which I boil water for everything, because the tap water is not potable. It is difficult to remember to use this water when I brush my teeth. So far my stomach is fine, but I am sure I will acquire “travelers tummy” sooner or later.
At night I pull my mosquito netting around the bed, and turn off my reading light. It is warm, but not uncomfortable. In the middle of the night I must pull up the crisp and thick, white cotton sheet, because it gets a little cool. Because I have been drinking tea all evening, I have to get up in the night. I find the mice have taken bites out of the bar of soap in the bathroom.
At 5 a.m. bats swoop through the living room and kitchen, eating the insects that are ubiquitous here.
My desk in the kitchen