Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Meanwhile back in Ubud

Meanwhile back in Ubud, the rice paddies surrounding our villa are waterbeds, filled to the brim. The men working in the fields slosh their way through the mud, having to lift the feet high to move forward. The flocks of noisy ducks swim and peck their way through what looks like duckweed floating on the surface. It is the time to catch the eel that lives in the paddies. The young kids do it when it is dark, first with their fathers and then when they are a little older on their own.

Villages have hung out the flags of the countries participating in the World Cup, Jip names them all as we pass, some have just one or two, we assume the favorites. The illegal betting season is hereby underway. Kites fly everywhere in the sky, kite season is also starting- and sometimes little boys chase each other like mad along the road, to be the first one to catch a run-away kite, just like in the Kite runner.

Traffic is increasing in Ubud and we have been told it will only get worse. I hide in Bar Luna when I can, often being the only one, writing in the corner. The fans rotate softly and the coffee is good.

We have bought two big aluminum spades at a dusty hardware store for Jip to dig. He likes digging deep holes and the plastic shovel in Rosie’s beach set wasn’t cutting it. Balinese stop to ask what we are doing. “Digging to America” we say together and they stand and look on in amazement at this pointless exercise.

Rosie biggest act of revenge this week was to convert Jip’s special drawing of a fierce knight in armor, brandishing a sword, into a girl, by adding a skirt, and a flower at the tip of his sword. This was after Jip refused to let her play his game. She knows how to hit him where it hurts.

Every time I say rainy season is finally over, it rains again.

The bali bugs multiply; grasshoppers are hopping, big buzzing things are buzzing, fruit flies hover and ants march in line, transporting the crumbs we care to drop on the tiles. We hear creatures running across our roof at night and sometimes we hear a thud as one falls. The word rat has been mentioned.

I bought a big blue hat from Panama.

My husband is on his way to meet me bali style, with both children on the scooter. Rosie sings as she sits up front: “turn on the sun, turn on the sun, light up the world, tell everyone…” It is not as warm as it has been and the breeze is gentle. A scooter ride is quite the best way to go.

School year is over. Reports handed out. It seems we have hardly had time to get into the groove. We are preparing for our month long trip, through Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia. I know it’s like an American whizzing through Europe in a week, but we are not doing everything in 30 days, just a lot.

We have been spending a lot of time on the internet, looking at hotels on wotif.com, cross-referencing with trip advisor, booking.com and the hotels own sites, before deciding what to do. We will be taking 10 flights, one train ride, many boat excursions, sleep in 15 different hotels, 4 campsites and on a boat before ending at friends in Sydney.

My children don’t like change.

Off in an hour. See you along the way.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Liquid Image

I aliken the process of painting to swimming in a pool. The bottom, seen through the water, and the patterns of its tiling; on it, rippling shadows appear. These swirl as my body moves through the water. The shapes of the shadows warp with the refracting light in the water. There is the water itself, a tumultuous texture that clings to me. It bears me aloft and lets me slide into it, when I hold my breath, glides me along when I swim through. Shafts of light appear. In bright circumstances flecks of light can be seen right through it. Like milk. The third is the top layer that reflects the sky in its surface, sends flashes of light into my eyes. It fractures at each stroke I take. There are splashes, patterns, waves. And then there is me, in the thick of it, turning around, simultaneously making and contemplating the image. In it and of it.

Then there is the element of time and memories, and swirl of what I am aware of in a singular moment. It stands as a fragment in time that supersedes all usual measurement. In this broken open moment into which I swim, I am no longer aware of the pool’s edges, just as the painting is edgeless. The swelling surface holds me up, seems round, the moment infinite as miniature whirlpools form around me. I wonder which traces will be left after I get out and it all returns to flatness, reflecting a perpetual sky. Leaving only the drum roll of the rain, swallows and thirsty dragonflies occasionally pock-marking the perfect surface, to create some mild and temporary disturbance.

S2 (with a little editing by S1)

Bali dreams

Dear Sisters,

I never, ever had a pedicure before. That is, until I visited Bali. If I had visited alone, I probably never would have had one either. But S1 guided me to the top of a house where a girl with a fan would give me one. I could choose the colour I wanted from a rack of bottles, three stories high. Arnolfini Wedding green. You should have seen my toes before, or perhaps not. I told the girl the story about the peacock - a christian symbol for several things, I read somewhere - one of them appears in a story: the peacock is prancing about being wonderful and thinking he is beautiful, until he looks down and sees his own, very ugly feet. I said to the girl that I felt like the peacock that day. She took care of that. Green shiny toenails that reflect the sky: perfect colouring for the tropics. Afterwards she had fun comparing the colour of our skin...how pale I was!

It seems I am the lucky one. Not only do I get to visit Prague and get wrapped up in the warmest hospitality and taken to all the best, most exciting places. In San Francisco, in Bali, this happens too, and I get swept along in all things Californian and Indonesian, and all because of my wayward, traveling sisters. And in doing so you give me the greatest gift. I almost wish I lived in a more outlandish situation to be able to return the favour.

Jip says it best.

Yes, I have been to Ubud. Yes, it blew me away, part of me is still up there somewhere in the outer stratosphere, so my consciousness, we could say, has expanded. It is hard to sum it all up in a nutshell. And just as my postcards have taken a stunning 7 weeks to reach home, so too, it seems, have my thoughts taken their time to settle into something that can be communicated. Time to recollect while it is still fresh!

I LOVE BALI. Did I tell you that already?
When I left I was at a loss for words to describe everything that had happened. Like a dream with many rooms, or a room with many dreams in it, such intensity. Every experience is also soft as a smooth stone: by comparison, any scramble of words seems rough in its description.

Number one treat: hanging out with Jip and Rosie. They grow and have grown so quickly. It is a pity we can't see you all more often. I so enjoyed reading with Jip and giggling together about the book we were reading. It is heartening to know we have a similar sense of humour. Having a sarong photo session with Rosie. Hearing her sing: "One mata hari, two mata hari, three mata hari", as she was counting the suns on her drawing. The desperate begging session (which lasted for the duration of my visit) after she cast her magpie eye on my special fountain pen. In the end I relented. Unwrapping the musical instruments I had bought, partly to entertain them, and also to find out which ones they liked the best.. And the staring competitions with Jip are a real showdown. Of course when you leave you think of all the things you could have done better. At the same time, life is life, and you do the best you can as it rolls. I just think it is great to be a part of their lives and for this I am so very grateful.

strange creatures.

Bali had this effect of overwhelming me. The first couple of days I was simply amazed: didn't know what I was seeing. I knew beforehand that i couldn't fathom much about the culture I would be visiting, but upon getting there, it turned out to be a real shock, of the kind when you see a picture for the first time, that is so full of complexities that you sense that, in order to understand it, you would have to study every tiny aspect in great detail. This stands in stark contrast with all the information and sensations that come streaming in.

You end up helpless........it made me pause, because that was all I could do. Pause and take in the smallest fragments, impressions, limiting my view almost, to what I could handle. The shadows and light in the pool. The mountain range of the sheets on my bed. The slow and the wide. The drawings the children made (amazing!). Luckily S1 had the wherewithal to take us both for several pampering sessions..and then slowly I dropped my consciousness that wishes to grasp it all at the same time...and slowly let go, submit to the treacly heat and the dreams full of mythological creatures (that do not make up part of your cultural background) that interfere with your spirit as you sleep, like all the energies want to get to know you. Feeling something stick to you after gazing into a green, mossy cave....

I got caught in the rain in a forest at the Botanical Gardens, without an umbrella, and went into the meditation court. It said "silence" but since I thought there was nobody there, I did some singing. The rain also did some singing which I recorded:

It turned out I was not alone but the tourists who passed me did not seem too disturbed by the tones coming from the bale I was sheltering under. It took a long time to subside, I wrote most of my postcards sitting under that roof in the company of ants, and when it stopped I continued, heading further into the forest, spotting droopy butterflies among the dripping bamboo trees and almost stepping on a tiny, slithering snake. I sort of got lost in the forest. Not a great idea when wearing flip-flops. I excelled as the dipsy traveler when I slipped in the mud and fell, hitting my arm on a post and just narrowly missing the steep drop to the right. It twisted me, got me off-balance, and prepared me to be careful for our adventure of the next day, climbing the big volcano.

There too I wore inadequate footwear, and the biggest confrontation was the effort it took me to climb up it, as I saw S1 dart up the mountainside like a gazelle. Never thought I would be the red-faced, puffing tourist that can't get up the mountain. At the same time, I sensed, when we were almost at the top, that we were being pushed, by the guides, to get up there more quickly. It transpired (as I perspired) that they race each other, or have some sort of deal going on with their groups going up...and who gets there first....and I suddenly realised I could do it in any tempo that I wanted. The guide later told me we had made very good time. So why had they pushed so hard? I am glad, and this is one of the lessons, I realised I can do it in my own time. When we got to the top I met my new friend, Vertigo, who seems intent on following me, after we were told of someone who plummeted into the crater after fooling around. One learns to have respect for mountains and hard earned sunrises. The view was amazing.

The signal to get fitter was maybe even better. In those mists, and in all the lessons I have taken, I in fact encountered the shadows of my own resistence. And that is essential to letting them go.

To be continued. You see my story is incomplete. S1, I don't know how you deal with narrative in Bali. Time is non-linear, expressly so... I have given up trying to convey the experience accurately. I hope this gives you an insight at least. It will for ever be big chunks of experience, like the emeralds I felt coming out of my throat when we were doing the group kirtan singing. Bubbles of intensity waiting to be digested; perhaps they never will. Maybe the Bali story is to be expanded on. I have bought books and listen to the music. Joined the prayer and tasted the food. The other night I dreamt I heard a gamelan playing in Belgium and it was so beautiful. I certainly am ready for more.
Love to you.
xxx S2

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hong Kong themes

Dear sisters,

This should be my 'month four and my month 5 in paradise' post, but where did those months go? Filled with guests of the one and other.

S2 came and was taken up by the Ubud energy, she floated in orange and blue pools of light and sang along to Tibetan chiming bells, while I stood waiting outside. She even met someone who saw an alien. So, S2 has been to Ubud.

I will talk about Hong Kong now. We returned and as I have admitted earlier, I took 1000 pictures.

"Of what??!" seasoned travelers to Hong Kong ask me, with that look in their eye.

"She's one of those." Yes.

So for the benefit of you all, I will summarize and categorize that, which I captured.
I generally have a few themes running at one time; some ongoing, some spontaneously occurring during the trip. You can never tell beforehand, which is what is so exciting about it all.

So here are a few of this trip:

1. Of course, we cannot come back without the classic "feet in a hotel room" shot.

2. I expanded on my running 'horizontal bar in the middle" theme, which must not be confused with our fathers "vertical pole in the middle" theme.

3. Scaffolding seemed to be a theme this trip:

4. I took many photos of nearly nothing in the Hong Kong Fog:

5. Somehow attendants with glasses caught my eye.

6. What about photos of photos of my toilet attendants?

7. Or pictures of pictures of food?

8. Signs on the street?

9. Instructions?

10. Pictures of Hong Kong media:

11. Urban princesses:

12. Oranges

13. One of my favorite, pictures of people posing to have their picture taken. They like doing that in Asia. No inhibitions.

Maybe this sign should apply to the above person:

14. And finally, we always end with a picture of the taxi on the way to the airport.

The list above does not include the 100 or so shots, I took of my children smiling in front of landmarks, thereby fulfilling my parental obligation of documenting their childhood. You can look forward to seeing those in an i-photo slideshow the next time we meet.

Do I have to change the name of this blog to scattered sister?

With love,