Category Archives: Bali

Pictures from India

It’s taken a few months to organize and upload the photos from my trip to India, but I’m happy to report they are are ready! And good golly, there’s a lot of them. So a few options exist.

If you want the entire adventure, including all the work on Maya the musical and my subsequent travels to south India, follow this link.

If you want to see just the travels to south India, click here.

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1000 Words Each

We’ve opened MAYA and the kids have performed at two of the three venues already!  Here are some pictures 🙂

Technical rehearsal creep along at Ravindra Natya Mandir
Technical rehearsal creeps along at Ravindra Natya Mandir. oh, look! the Himalayas!
Baby tiger playing ukelele? I'd pay to see this show.
Baby tiger playing ukelele? I’d pay to see this show.
The dance number for "Beast Feast" tries to find its light.
The dance number for “Beast Feast” tries to find its light.
Stopping and starting in rehearsals was sort of difficult for those in more elaborate costumes.
Stopping and starting in rehearsals was sort of difficult for those in more elaborate costumes, but they smiled on!
Few can resist the selfie.
Few can resist the selfie.
The Dadar Gang—Raju, Sunita, Rohit, and Sajida—get ready to watch on opening night
The Dadar Gang—Raju, Sunita, Rohit, and Sajida—get ready to watch on opening night
Glowing. Just glowing.
Glowing. Just glowing.
Puppets that were cut from the show made their way to the photo booth in the lobby.
Puppets that were cut from the show made their way to the photo booth in the lobby.
I thought Astha was going to make the same face. Tricked again.
I thought Astha was going to make the same face. Tricked again.
Prasad as the wonderfully energetic peacock Indigo
Prasad as the wonderfully energetic peacock Indigo. His backstage face looks more nervous.
Priyanka has the most complicated costume of them all. Not only is it large, it has three detachable heads. She was especially gracious with all the futzing it took to get the kinks worked out.
Priyanka has the most complicated costume of them all. Not only is it large, it has three detachable heads. She was especially gracious with all the futzing it took to get the kinks worked out.
Faces at closing circle after curtain call. It's been great watching these kids learn so much.
Faces at closing circle after curtain call. It’s been great watching these kids learn so much.
Moiz has such a stong presence and joy onstage. He is a delight to watch. When he becomes famous, I'll be glad I have this picture.
Moiz has such a stong presence and joy onstage. He is a delight to watch. When he becomes famous, I’ll be glad I have this picture.
Look who came to visit! He was put to work right away during the last days of tech week. And then we had falooda!
Look who came to visit! He was put to work right away during the last days of tech week. And then we had falooda!

Horn OK Please

I’ve always been a very visual learner. When learning a new place, it is no different. Cross-referencing my physical experience of moving through a city with the visual representation of the journey on a map is important to me.

I had an idea of the location of my guest house before leaving, but only an idea. Addresses in India follow different syntax than what I am accustomed to, and many addresses include items like “nearby this prominent location” or “opposite of this building you will hopefully already know or be able to locate”. Building numbers and street names don’t’ seem to be used much, if it all.

My first night: Sector 8, New Panvel, Navi Mumbai
My first night: Sector 8, New Panvel, Navi Mumbai

At 11:30pm, it was a dark ride and over an hour’s drive from the airport. I’m not really sure the path we took, but traffic was not bad. As we got closer, the cab driver would stop and ask people on the street about the location of my guest house, or at least the hospital it was said to be nearby. I checked in, notified my contacts I had safely arrived, and was asleep by 1:30.

Thursday, First Day

Eastern view from the guest house
Eastern view from the guest house
Downward view from the guest house
Downward view from the guest house
Symmetrical view from the guest house
Symmetrical view from the guest house

I looked out of my 6th floor window in the morning to look at the suburb of New Panvel. There were some nearby hills, a lake, and some cows grazing in a grassy triangle between the street and the highway. After a breakfast and couple quick phone conversations, it was determined that I would be changing residence to a more central location in Mumbai. I packed up my things, had a quick lunch, and took a taxi to Vashi station to meet Sheetal, our artistic consultant/coordinator, wardrobe supervisor, charge painter, etc.

During our drizzly cab ride to join Jinal and Toral, who are working in production and stage management on Maya, Sheetal and I discussed a work plan. There was so much sensory information from the streets we passed along that it was difficult to focus. There were different styles of architecture and plant life. There was the constant (literally) honking of horns as cars, trucks, motorcles, scooters, rickshaws, hand drawn carts, and pedestrians wove the fabric of traffic. In many cases, traffic lanes and signals are merely a suggestion of what one might do if so inclined.

Haji Ali Dargh. This mosque is situated out in the water, and only accessible by foot path at low tide.
Haji Ali Dargah. This mosque is situated out in the water, and only accessible by foot path at low tid

We collected Jinal and Toral and looked at one of our two prospective workspaces. It was in an office in South Mumbai, not far from the beautiful Nariman Point. It was very clean, carpeted and formal, and the hours were restricted to 9-6. It’s pretty difficult to stay tidy when sculpting clay, using papier mache, etc. After the tour, we all agreed that it wasn’t optimal. The artistic process doesn’t always easily conform to a business day schedule. Sometimes the work you are doing suddenly takes off late in the day, and you would be a fool to stop working because of an external and arbitrary stop time…especially on the condensed time frame we are on.

With my wet bags up on the rack of the taxi, the four of us proceeded along the waterfront to Worli Sea Face and the home of Shaheen Mistri, founder and CEO of Teach For India. After meeting Raju, a former student of Sheetal and a recent arts school graduate, the five us stepped through each of the masks and puppets needed, the materials required and so on. After a delicious meal of dal, rice, and vegetable dishes, I moved my belongings into a room at Shaheen’s place.

Character designs from the show!
A character design from the show!
Keeper-Obsidian
I will be interpreting the designs of Simi as I create these creatures

Shop til you Drop

The next day was shopping day. or more like an education day.  Either way you look at it, it was ALL day.

My new trusty sidekick Raju took me all around streets and streets of markets. I think we were in Crawford Market. Each street of stalls is sort of thematic: “Plastics”,  “Stationery”, “Machine parts”, etc. Traffic is of course insane, and the horns remained constant. Social relationships were at play, it was very clear, though I don’t know who was which part. it took quite some time to break out of the spell of it and remember what things I was looking for. Most vendors spoke Marathi or Hindi, and very few spoke a little English. I still only have only the most general idea where we were most of the time.

Morning in South Mumbai
Morning in South Mumbai

After dodging crumbling pavements and suspicious pools of water for sometime, we entered a primarily Muslim neighborhood. Here was much more of a ‘junk store’ approach. It reminded me of a parallel experience in years ago in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where at the time there were many stores of collected junk for resale under awkward lighting. All this junk, however, is laid out in the street on tarps and such. According to Raju, all of it is second hand and/or stolen. This was in the Chor Bazaar (“Thief Bazaar”). Raju reminded me to watch my pockets.
At 1:30, the muezzin started calling, and the street was about to close for prayer. We caught a cab as soon as we could and got out of the neighborhood before it was impossible. We ventured forth and north to Dadar. This is where I will be working, close to the Dadar West train station.  We grabbed lunch from a restaurant to go— really I suppose it was a food stand. Samosa chaat, a noodle roti and something else potatoey. It was all very good (though the next day Sheetal chided Raju for giving my untrained stomach street food).  The work space is a little small, but accessible at all hours and surrounded by other markets. It will be awesome!

The first day!
The first day!

We looked for more materials—it just takes sooo long! I was simultaneously taking note of, well, everything. The sounds, the signs, the traffic, the experience of being the only person who looks like me in a group of thousands, what materials are common in US but hard to find here, what materials are in both but with radically different names, and what the Indians like to use. Which is apparently thermocol. That’s styrofoam. There’s a lot of thermocol that has been intricately shaped and is often used for a variety of festivals. I may be learning some new materials!

Looking at the bottom of a mask carved from thermocol by Sunil
Looking at the bottom of a mask carved from thermocol by Sunil

With things still running a bit slowly, and with all my senses still being assaulted, we took the train up to Mahim Junction to look at the baskets woven on the street. We commissioned a full sphere basket as a test as an armature for sculpting some of the helmet masks. We had at least and hour before it would be ready, so we took the train two stops back down to Dadar. Traveling back to Dadar was more hectic because of rush hour. The trains doors are left open, and many people sort of hang out the sides. New Yorkers: if you think you know the stress of a rush hour subway, think again. Mumbai has you on this one.

Suddenly the purchasing mojo sort of kicked in and things were found without too much trouble. Hooray! We dropped it off at the workspace.  Once back in Dadar, we were suddenly able to find many materials we wanted right away. The reward of the day!

View out of our workspace.
View out of our workspace.

We closed up the studio and went once more to the train to collect our new basket. As we let several overcrowded trains pass in the hope of a less populated car, Raju told me that he had once seen a drunk man climb on top of the train because it was so crowded. However, he hit the power line and was dead on the ground in six seconds. His entire person was aflame.

We took a cab.

The basket collected and the day ended, we traveled back to Worli Sea Face for some food and rest.

Setting it all up

The Sculpting area!
The Sculpting area!

The next day was full of plotting out work schedules for each day and setting up the studio. A well-organized workspace cannot be beat! Having experienced a bit of what was available in the markets, I tried to determine with what material each masks could be made. Sheetal brought me some powdered clay – I had never used it before and was dubious. As Raju painted some of the thermocol pieces created by another artist on the project, I managed to figure it out (I think). And now the first mask is underway!

Getting designs ready.
Getting designs ready.
Draft version of our monkey! I will make a mold and cast 9 of them.
Draft version of our monkey! I will make a mold and cast 9 of them.
Sheetal and Zamir
Sheetal and Zamir
Sunil's work stored above, transforming the studio into an installation piece at the same time.
Sunil’s work stored above, transforming the studio into an installation piece at the same time.

Rest easy

The following day I took off from studio work to change residence again. Now I am locate just between Worli and Dadar in Prabhadevi. A quick walk around yesterday afternoon yielded the location of Starbucks (and therefore internet) and thus I am able to write this all now. I don’t know how often my workload will permit blogging, but I will try to keep you all updated at least with a couple of pictures now and then!

Rest easy, Portlanders. I am not so far from home. We even have a LLoyd Center.
Rest easy, Portlanders. I am not so far from home. We even have a LLoyd Center.

Dancing (and chanting) the night away

I’ve been back a month now! And I haven’t been dancing nearly enough. Here are some moments that take me back.

Topeng

In dance class, we tied our sarongs high to simulate the costume we would eventually wear.
In dance class, we tied our sarongs high to simulate the costume we would eventually wear.
IMG_1031-andrewdance
One of the more genial masks of the ones we used in class
Another variation of the keras mask.
Another variation of the keras mask.

After a few weeks of study, we started wearing  a mask and the basic parts of the costume in class.  Both really change the way you move.

We began each class with a review as a whole, then dancing in pairs for greater detail work.
We began each class with a review as a whole, then dancing in pairs for greater detail work.

The costume frames the mask—which is typically carved slightly smaller than a face—in a way such that the arms and shoulders must be held high for it to play correctly. It feels odd at first, but it’s much easier to get a feeling for the choreography  when observing others use the mask and costume pieces.

Some of the costume pieces—the wig, the hat, and the flowers by the ears—we used for the first time before performing for the public. It can be a little disorienting to add things at the last minute, but that’s how it goes. Below is a video of our final dance performance. It should give you a sense of what we were doing. It should be noted that normally the dance is actually done solo, and the music follows the dancer.  Conversely, we danced in a group, and were attempting to follow the music. We got it mostly right.  🙂

(Psst! I’m on the right.)

Kecak

On that night, we ended with our kecak performance.  There are six interlocking rhythms that form the majority of the chant (we each learned one of the six), as well as a bit of singing.  Originally, the kecak was done as a part of a trance ceremony. Since the artistic intervention of Walter Spies in the 1920s, this chant includes the story of the Ramayana when performed for tourists.

The video below is a section toward the beginning of the piece, so unfortunately you don’t get to see the exciting part we chase each other with fire …which we used for the first time during our actual performance. Can you say “trust exercise”?

 

This trip was made possible in part by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

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Bali 2014 Photos

Bali 2014 Photos

As promised, more photos!  Click on the link above to see all the photos in the blog and many, many more.  It is such a pleasure to share them with you, and to give a little visual context for all I’ve been writing about.

This trip was done through a program of Dell’Arte International. It was made possible in part by funding from the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

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Photos from the Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets

Photos from the Setia Darma House of Masks & Puppets

Here are my photos from our visit to the mask and puppet museum near the village of Mas in Bali.  There are many masks from major Balinese performance traditions of Calonarang, Topeng, and Wayang Wong included. There were also masks from other Indonesian isles and many other countries. I’ve included text from the museum placards (or at least the spirit of it) in the descriptions for each photo.

Enjoy!  Full photo album from the trip forthcoming!

Your friendly neighborhood mask maker,

Tony

 

This trip was made possible in part by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

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Things to Remember

The Surprises of Surprise

Wearing one of I.B. Anom's creations the first week in Bali.
Wearing one of I.B. Anom’s creations the first week in Bali.

Re-entry is interesting. And by interesting, I mean full of surprises. Surprise is also, itself, interesting. And therefore surprise is…surprising.

I’m not just playing circular word games.  Surprise, like accidents, cannot ever be fully predicted.  For example, when thinking about my reactions to coming back to the US after studying abroad, I could see some likely outcomes, and was therefore relatively prepared for those. But re-entry is surprising (=interesting (=surprising)). No matter how much I might look ahead or prepare, there will always be something surprising, something I won’t see coming.  Yet somehow I’m always surprised by the fact that I get surprised. And that’s interesting.

Melati Cottages, our home away from home. At the time this picture was taken, Portland was 66 degrees colder than Bali. But that was to be the least surprising change.
Melati Cottages, our home away from home. At the time this picture was taken, Portland was 66 degrees colder than Bali. But that was to be the least surprising change.

It was surprising to me to find the way in which the known parts of my life at home were feeling foreign. Suddenly awake and confused with jetlag at 4am, I looked at everything  in my room.  “This is mine. I chose these things. This is the way they look.”  Somehow it felt all very faraway. Recognizable, yes; but the thread of connection was difficult to perceive.

Nyoman Setiawan and I at the last group class in Pondok Pekak.
Nyoman Setiawan and I at the last group carving class in the Pondok Pekak Learning Center in Ubud.

A few days have passed, and the feeling has largely diminished. And as my home reality takes precedence, I want to record a list of sights and impressions from my trip before they, too, seem distant and difficult to connect with.

Sights and Sites

The second room I enjoyed at Melati Cottages. Much whiter and open than my first accommodations. Aren't mosquito nets ineffably romantic?
The second room I enjoyed at Melati Cottages.  Aren’t mosquito nets ineffably romantic?

(These are in no particular order)

° Sidewalks are segmented, and some stones  have metal handles. The walkway often has several stones which have fallen in, revealing the water channels beneath. These channels are all connected to each other.

Lucy and I in temple dress at a ceremony in Batuan.
Lucy and I in temple dress at a ceremony in Batuan.

° Sarongs, sarongs, sarongs! They are commonly sold in printed, batik, or ikat fabrics.

° Shops that are all selling mostly the same things, right next to each other. Bargaining is the way things are done. “I give you good price, for luck.” Keep your sense of humor.

School children in their uniforms are frequently seen on motorbikes or waiting for the bemo. Very sharp looking crowd.
School children in their uniforms are frequently seen on motorbikes or waiting for the bemo. Very sharp looking crowd.
Amazing statuary at major intersections is very popular. I vote no billboards, more huge sculpture, America
Amazing statuary at major intersections is very popular. I vote no billboards, more huge sculpture, America.

° The lack of idle chatter about first world problems, celebrities, and so on. How refreshing!

Tempe, a favorite of mine for many years, is an Indonesian food that is a fermented soybean cake. As pictured here, it also battered and fried and served with several types of spicy sambal.
Tempe, a favorite of mine for many years, is an Indonesian food that is a fermented soybean cake. As pictured here, it is also battered and fried and served with several types of spicy sambal.

This is not to say I didn’t witness some very odd Javanese game shows and soap operas on mute in the central room at the hotel.

° Coconut, banana, papaya, and jackfruit trees are widespread. There was even a mangosteen tree on the grounds of the hotel! Thankfully durian were more rare.

Daily breakfast at the hotel included fresh fruit (papaya, pineapple, watermelon, lime), some sort of eggs, and ALWAYS banana crepes.
Daily breakfast at the hotel included fresh fruit (papaya, pineapple, watermelon, lime), some sort of eggs, and ALWAYS banana crepes.

° The frequent appearance of the words “spa” and “villa.” These words are replacing the words “rice paddies” with increasing frequency.

° Bottles of petrol for sale on the side of the road. You can buy in either kecil (small) or besar (large). The large fills your motor scooter tank, and costs 1400 rupiah. That’s about $1.

° Very noticeable is the red and grey and black coloration of so many housing compounds and temples.

Much is exposed to the elements in Bali. Many buildings and restaurants and shops have few external walls, if any.
Much is exposed to the elements in Bali. Many buildings and restaurants and shops have few external walls, if any.

° I enjoyed the moments where I started to understand what I was seeing.  Just the beginning of understanding really, like when you’re learning a language, and every so often you recognize a word instead of only hearing sounds.  The positions of the golden statues I’d seen along the road when I arrived were suddenly recognizable choreography.  When looking at  a painting or temple figure,  I could recognize a character or sometimes a part of the story of the Mahabharata or Ramayana. What was aesthetic appreciation at first now carries more context and has more meaning.

Rice paddies along Jalan Bisma.
Rice paddies along Jalan Bisma.

° Black and white checkered sarongs wrapped around banyan trees, signifying they have a spirit and are protected. These sarongs also sometimes appear on certain statues.  Balinese religion is a fascinating mix of Buddhism, Hinduism, and animism. Good and evil are both acknowledged as forces in the world—our purpose is to keep them in balance.

The family temple, as seen from above, of my mask carving teacher. Note the Moe (of Larry, Curly, and) hairstyle of the small towers.
The family temple, as seen from above, of my mask carving teacher. Note the Moe (of Larry, Curly, and…) hairstyle of the small towers.
Dewi Suraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts. Careful observers will note that in this rendition, a toothbrush is in the mouth of the goose. Much debate among international scholars about the relevance of said toothbrush doubtless to follow.
Dewi Suraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts. Careful observers will note that in this rendition, a toothbrush is in the mouth of the goose. Much debate among international scholars about the relevance of said toothbrush doubtless to follow.
Architectural detail. Much of the construction is cinder block. Scaffolding is done with bamboo.
Architectural detail. Much of the construction is cinder block. Scaffolding is done with bamboo.

° Offerings are everywhere. Not just on the front porch, or in a little box at the corner of a building. Even in the middle of the supermarket, there are offerings.

° Wayan Wija talking to us about his role as a dalang (puppeteer). The dalang is also a sort of a priest and philosopher. He often deals in ancient stories that bring to life questions of philosophy, while also providing something for the eyes to enjoy. Wija says that even in Bali, so many now are filled up with material concerns, few have room in them for philosophy.

I.W. Wija lets us experiment with this amazing expressive shadow puppets at his house in Ubud. (Photo by Yavni Bar-Yam)
I.W. Wija lets us experiment with this amazing expressive shadow puppets at his house in Ubud. (Photo by Yavni Bar-Yam)
At least I looked completely inconspicuous and at ease at all times.
At least I looked completely inconspicuous and at ease at all times.

° Parisawata tour buses choke the small, winding back roads… Chinese and Australian tourists wander in downtown Ubud… white people look hot and uncomfortable while some Balinese are wearing jackets, because it’s cold to them.

° The smell of cempaka incense.

° Frogs performing their own version of a kecak or a gamelan. All three—frogs, chant, and orchestra—produce interlocking sounds that are beautifully trance-like and transporting. But how do the frogs all know to cease at same time?

Nyoman shows off his dancing hands. Carvers are also dancers.
Nyoman shows off his dancing hands. Carvers are also dancers.

° Our mask carving teacher talked to us about the meaning of the progression of the characters in the one-man topeng pajegang. The progression of the story mirrors the the entire life of a person. The dancer moves from the rough path of youth with strong will and body (topeng keras) to the strength of mind and experience (topeng tua) to the enrichment of life gained from sharing experience (topeng penasar) to the leadership of others (topeng dalem) and finally to  success and prosperity (topeng sida karya).

The large market is Ubud is a confusing trail of stalls spanning several buildings and multiple levels.  FYI the scent does not improve as you descend.
The large market is Ubud is a confusing trail of stalls spanning several buildings and multiple levels. FYI the scent does not improve as you descend.
Snake deities called naga line the staircases of this temple at Goa Lawah.
Snake deities called naga line the staircases of this temple at Goa Lawah.
Shadow puppets!  They are painted because they are sometimes used in daylight. Also, the paint design helps remind the puppeteer of the feeling of the character.
Shadow puppets! They are painted because they are sometimes used in daylight. Also, the paint design helps remind the puppeteer of the feeling of the character.

This trip was made possible in part by a professional development grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

At left, how the camera captured Mt. Agung on my last morning walk. However, it was much more visible to the naked eye. At right, a highly altered photograph reveals the outline of the peak. Tricksy mountain.
At left, how the camera captured Mt. Agung on my last morning walk. However, it was much more visible to the naked eye. At right, a highly altered photograph reveals the outline of the peak. Tricksy mountain.

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Whittle by whittle

Mask Progress

I write this blog from the airport as I wait for my flight to Portland to board. I wanted to catch you all up on the masks I’ve been making in Bali. In my last post, you saw the old man bondres  I completed.  My teacher pushed me to start two more, so that I could get the hang of beginning from a simple block of wood.

This is a block of pule wood. It is a bit harder than balsa, but softer than pine. I'm excited to see which woods I might work on in the NW.
This is a block of pule wood. It is a bit harder than balsa, but softer than pine. I’m excited to see which woods I might work on in the NW.

Mask 2:  Gajah Mada

For the second mask, I decided to make one that could be used in the dance we were learning.  I sketched a version of the prime minister that I wanted  to create. He’s a warrior, and the first to dance in the topeng.

Evening out the block of wood in the afternoon.
Evening out the block of wood in the afternoon.
After the first rough blocking, we saw our dance teacher Gustu perform his version of this character. I was inspired by the ferocity of expression in his mask. My sketch changed a bit after that.
After the first rough blocking, we saw our dance teacher Gustu perform his version of this character. I was inspired by the ferocity of expression in his mask. My sketch changed a bit after that.

After I showed my sketch to my teacher, he said it was a “Gajah Mada” character. I was confused, as gajah means elephant. (Remember when I went to the Goa Gajah cave? That was fun.) He said it was more of a metaphor, and refers the feeling of strength of the character.

I am taking this one home to Portland to complete the sanding and painting. This mask will have the eyes painted on, and the dancer sees through the shadow-like slit beneath the eye.
I am taking this one home to Portland to complete the sanding and painting. This mask will have the eyes painted on, and the dancer sees through the shadow-like slit beneath the eye.
topengfinal
This is me performing the topeng keras dance on our performance night. Imagine it danced to firelight if you can. The mask was loaned by our dance teacher, and is very powerful.

Mask 3: The Gentle Giant

Halfway there!
Halfway there!

For my final mask I was to start in Bali, I knew I wanted something a little coarser and with a moving jaw.

Chiseling out the teeth. As I look through his eyes, I realized he a little more dim in the bulb than I originally thought.
Chiseling out the teeth. As I look through his eyes, I realized he a little more dim in the bulb than I originally thought.

While working on this mask, Pak Nyoman stood back and let me figure things out as much as he could, which I appreciated. It can be difficult to willingly dive in to your own inevitable mistakes, but it’s much more worthwhile.

And it’s also a bit slower going! I elected to take a couple of extra classes to get some more guidance.  It was fun to work one on one. We got to talk about mask styles from around the world. Nyoman also mentioned that although he is happy to carve traditional Balinese characters, he also welcomes the challenge of other styles, traditional or modern.

But then again, who wouldn’t?  It’s part of the artist’s work and the human condition to follow inspiration and find those things that feed your soul.

Back in San Francisco, my friend Bird models the latest mask.
Back in San Francisco, my friend Bird models the latest mask.

Though I am en route to Portland, fear not, faithful readers! I will be continuing my blog into the future. There are still some things about Bali to write about, and there will always be more masks I’d love to share with you!

racc_orange_horizThis trip was made possible in part by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

 

A Weekend Outing

Friday Night

Calonarang

Late Friday night at 10:30 pm, we drove to a pura dalem (temple of the dead) in a nearby village to witness a Calonarang ritual. After mistakenly landing at what seemed to be a carnival, then finding a Calonarang, but at the wrong temple, we  arrived and settled in to watch. It was a little hard to follow, but it deals with white and black magic, and honoring the balance between good and evil. We got home around 2:30 am.  To the pictures!

Somewhere after an young woman sings and an old man sings, these 3 clowns come out. I didn't understand the jokes, but the young men around me laughed. Their faces are painted in a sculptural way, making me wonder if sometimes these are masked characters.
Somewhere after an young woman sings and an old man sings, these 3 clowns come out. I didn’t understand the jokes, but the young men around me laughed. Their faces are painted in a sculptural way, making me wonder if sometimes these are masked characters.
Celuluk, a follower of Rangda, is sort of a funny witch. She taunts the clowns.
Celuluk, a follower of Rangda, is sort of a funny witch. She taunts the clowns.
Rangda, the head witch and . Later in the show, a character tries to stab her, but fails.  The end of the ritual involved a dance of Rangda and a human body on the ground which might be dead or alive. It is paraded around a few blocks and then brought to the cemetery, where he revives.
Rangda, the head witch. Later in the show, a character tries to stab her, but fails. The end of the ritual involved a dance of Rangda and a human body on the ground which might be dead or alive. It is paraded around a few blocks and then brought to the cemetery, where he revives.

Saturday

Turtha Empul

The next morning, five of us went to a water temple in Tempaskiring. It was a really awesome place.

My favorite statue at the water temple.
My favorite statue at the water temple.
The spring burbles
The spring burbles
Ariel gets excited about rules.
Ariel gets excited about rules.

A spring billows up through the sand in a rectangular pool populated by some plants, a few minnows and an eel.

Not far away are a couple of pools featuring many spouts from the spring, each with it’s own spiritual function in a purification ritual. The first ten are for cleansing the undesirable aspects of character, the next two for death and cremation rituals (most necessarily skip these), then one for cleansing bad dreams, one for supplying wisdom,  one for erasing unkept promises, one for bad memories, and the final seven for cleansing the seven chakras of the body. It’s a special experience.

The first sequence of purification. Offerings are placed at the spout as a sign of good faith and pure intention in entering into the purification ritual.
Offerings are placed at the spout as a sign of good faith and pure intention in entering into the purification ritual.

Coffee Plantation

Afterwards, a trip to a coffee plantation last weekend was also pretty amazing.  We were lead through a path containing a couple kinds of coffee plants, vanilla vines, cinnamon and clove trees (the leaves smell too!!), ginger flowers, cocoa pods, lemongrass, citronella, and snakefruit.

A Cinnamon tree. From my vantage point, the only way to see the difference between it and clove was the bit of red at then end of the clove leaf.
A Cinnamon tree. From my vantage point, the only way to see the difference between it and clove was the bit of red at then end of the clove leaf.

We reached a small hut where another fellow was slow roasting (2 hours) a small batch of coffee next to another small cage where the luwak (civet) was kept.

Cocoa pods!
Cocoa pods!

For those unfamiliar, this small weasel-like mammal has a taste for ripe coffee cherries–but it can’t actually fully digest the bean. A delicacy (and purported aphrodisiac) is the coffee made from the beans collected from the poo of the luwak. At our subsequent coffee tasting, some elected to pay 50,000 rupiah (about $4) to try the luwak coffee. I elected to to stick with the other complimentary and poo-free varieties. Call me unadventurous if you will, but there was nothing but a tepid response among those who dared.

This guy roasts coffee over a very low fire for two hours – the flames aren't directly under the pan, but offset. In the foreground are Bali kopi and cocoa.
This guy roasts coffee over a very low fire for two hours – the flames aren’t directly under the pan, but offset. In the foreground are Bali kopi and cocoa.
From R to L: Bali kopi, Ginseng coffee, Ginger coffee, Vanilla coffee, Coconut coffee, Rosella tea, Ginger tea, Lemon tea, Bali herbal tea and Pure chocolate.  Ginger won the day for me.
From R to L: Bali kopi, Ginseng coffee, Ginger coffee, Vanilla coffee, Coconut coffee, Rosella tea, Ginger tea, Lemon tea, Bali herbal tea and Pure chocolate. Ginger won the day for me.

Sunday

The Wonders of Klungkung

I began the last day of our only full weekend  looking at the murals at Kertha Gosa (the Hall of Justice) at the Klungkung Palace. These grounds were largely destroyed in conflicts with the Dutch in the early 20th century.   The grounds were renovated in the 1960s.

Murals depicting a story from the Mahabharata in which Bhima rescues his parents from torment in the afterlife. The painting style is very similar to the style of shadow puppetry.
Murals depicting a story from the Mahabharata in which Bhima rescues his parents from torment in the afterlife. The painting style is very similar to the style of shadow puppetry.
Lots of heads!
Lots of heads!

In addition to the morally instructive depictions, there are also series of panels telling the Balinese story that parallels A Thousand and One Nights as well as instructions for marriage… or at least our guide told us. We weren’t sure how much he was making up and how much was accurate. We also visited the museum nearby.

IMG_0914-kerthagosa
More of the Palace Grounds
Roundabout: Klungkung
Roundabout: Klungkung
An array of colors in the woven fabrics available at the market in Klungkung.
An array of colors in the woven fabrics available at the market in Klungkung.

Pasir Putih

It is a small trek to get to this white sand beach, but the reward is worth it! The water was an amazing blue blue blue and it was so warm and buoyant. I even went snorkeling for the first time!

These feet didn't know it, but they would be getting a massage before the day was over
These feet didn’t know it, but they would be getting a massage before the day was over.

As someone who grew up in a landlocked place, I’ve always found the prospect of purposely immersing yourself a location where simply anything can eat, sting, or drown you to be mortifying. But after a few mistaken gulps of salt water, it wasn’t too bad. Seeing a school (I almost typed “herd.” See also: Midwestern) of medium-sized black fish swim through the coral was fantastic. I actually look forward to the chance to do it again!

Goa Lawah

The day rounded out with a dusk visit to Goa Lawah, the Bat Cave Temple. As we waited for the evening exodus of the bats, we watched the evening offerings being made and chatted with some Hungarian ex-pats who were showing the sights to visiting relatives.

At the entrance to the temple, all of which was carved from volcanic rock.
Being an idiot at the entrance to the temple, all of which was carved from volcanic rock.

When the bats started leaving, it was a real sight—not quite like a horror movie, but a pretty dense cloud of flying mammal. I wasn’t sure how long to stay, but the bats let me know with an offering of their own placed on my head. As I was in full temple gear, I was mostly relieved it didn’t get on my udeng—and really grateful for the packages of baby wipes my boyfriend had packed for me.

Looking out the temple doors to the sea at dusk.
Looking out the temple doors to the sea at dusk.

 

racc_orange_horizThis trip was made possible in part by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council.