Traveling with 3 scientists I’m not allowed to get away with bad science: “sample size too small,” “speculation,” “why don’t you ask instead of wondering or guessing?” All fair bits of feedback, but I live more comfortably in vague generalizations and anecdotal evidence. So, I’m going to say it: The Balinese are the warmest, friendliest and most heart centered people I’ve ever met. (sample size approximately 15 or so, more with fleeting encounters).
I know this belief is commonly reported about the Balinese people, but I don’t think you can conceptualize it until you are here. There is a depth of warmth and kindness that feels rare and special. Even the touts trying to sell you things. In the end, there is a smile and graciousness that says we are now connected.
With the handful of Balinese that I spent more time with, I felt at ease. I noticed that it was strangely easy to gaze into people’s eyes and faces. Similar to staring at your own child’s face, you start to see them in a different way, deeply, without barriers, no inside and outside, it is just purely them. I found myself a few times looking so intently into someone’s face, getting lost in the eyes, the skin, the smile. Then realizing that I don’t need to catch myself. Maybe this is normal. Maybe this is truly how to see and be seen.
Religion must play a part. Most Balinese prepare and place offerings multiple times per day. Colorful woven baskets filled with flowers, rice and incense. These offerings are everywhere, placed on the ground to ward off the demons, at eye level to bless people and up high to give thanks to god. It seems that people are always in preparation for daily offerings or regular temple ceremonies and celebrations.
I have been trying to use the word beautiful (cantik) to expand my interactions with people. I’ve used it often with kids, but it really came in handy at the art market. I was starting the friendly ritual of haggling over a sun dress. The woman implied that it was good for my slim figure, “you slim, me so fat.”
I replied, “no, you cantik” It was all giggles, smiles and familiarity from there (and maybe a good price on the dress??).
Since I wrote this first bit about Bali, we have now been to Lombok as well. Lombok is the predominantly Muslim island east of Bali, also filled with lovely and generous people. On both islands, it is all in the smile. No matter the initial look on someone’s face as they check us out scootering by (which I LOVE by the way), a smile or wave from us elicits the biggest most heartwarming smile in return. The kind of smile you only get from a long lost friend or when you visit Grandma and Grandpa. I think my smile is growing, I’m strengthening the smile happiness muscles. It’s contagious and wonderful.
The kids have also experienced a bit of celebrity on Lombok in particular. Many requests for photos, mostly with Indonesian tourists. Mia and Maya were asked to pose with a lovely 17 year old girl (who was shorter than Mia!!!!!) and then she asked them to kiss her on the cheek for another photo.
I’m off subject now and this post is probably too long, but one more reflection about Lombok since we are now leaving Indonesia. Several times each day, one can hear the call to prayer. It is somber and reflective, beautiful at times. I have found that it inspires a welcome moment of self-reflection. John however responded with feeling like an ass, sitting poolside, looking down at his hairy Bintang belly, knowing that others are using this time for thoughtful prayer. It’s all how you spin it. I quite enjoyed the call to prayer as the soundtrack to my nearly naked and very public Indonesian massage under the palapa at our quest house.
Well, the scientists shut me down again last night, as I futilely tried to argue some point about categories of manners. Apparently I needed some sort of historical evidence for my point to be valid. They weren’t buying my intuitive sense on the matter. Off to Malaysia. Stay tuned for more baseless opinions, over generalizations and mildly interesting anecdotes.