Hi! I’m back with a bunch of activity and a dense update to give you. I always think I’m going to have more time to write but… you know how it goes. The story of my life! So much has happened since I have last written so I’m going to try and give a concise summary of the excitement and then try to be more regular at writing in the future (no promises but a genuine desire is there!). A few main events have lit up my last three weeks:
Full Moon at Besakih
If I told you that I was going to the temple on Full Moon in the west, I may get a chuckle or two, or even a few whispered words that I’ve gone a little bit crazy, but here it’s a regular part of life to pay attention to the moon’s cycles here. This past full moon, Ketut and I went to the Mother Temple, Besakih, in Karangasam. It is close to the big mountain, and up quite high, so the temperature is generally a bit lower. During this particular season, the night was especially cold and goosebumps accompanied my skin the whole time. A chorus of wild Bali dogs from every direction would surely seal the experience as creepy, but this temple continues to be one of the most peaceful places I have ever been in my whole life.
It’s fairly difficult to describe in words… here are a few more pictures.
A New Friend and Colleague: Bethany
Shortly after reconnecting with Bu Candri, I was visiting the Singapadu residence when a fellow Ethnomusicologist arrived to study Arja with Bu. Bethany, a professor at the University of Bucknell, has now become a good friend and we have been roaming around the streets attending performances and lessons together.
She has since invited me to meet some performers and academics out in Mengwi, where rehearsals have been going on for an upcoming Arja production performed by kids aged 14-20 (plus a few supporting adult performers). The directors also teach voice at the University here so I am glad to make a new connection for study after performances are finished. Last night, Bethany and I went to a full rehearsal with the gamelan, actors/singers/dancers and I was given a fantastic opportunity to teach! Four dancers were given a song to sing -but given that they weren’t singers, they were having a very difficult time trying to sing in unison. Bethany offered-up my choir directing, voice-coaching skills and I worked with the girls for an hour or so. Luckily, having studied their music, I was able to coach their style of singing with some translation help from Bethany.
Most interesting for me, was that at certain points, without translation and with a limited vocabulary, I was able to use gesture only to communicate vocal technique. Thankfully they responded well and their singing success was well on its way! I’ve also been giving lessons to an Australian lady during her stay here… My career seems to follow me everywhere! It’s wonderful!
Bethany and I have also been taking dance lessons together from Bu Partini, a University professor here at ISI. She has taught and performed around the world, and already in five lessons, my basic “stance” has improved greatly. My endurance also, has definitely passed the beginning stages where one move created as much sweat as an hour aerobic class. (Do you remember my complaints last year?) Currently, she is very busy with a bus-load of Japanese students but I will start my lessons again in July to compliment my vocal studies, and am hoping to study with another dancer here in Ubud, Ayu Eka. Dance is not only important to my studies in gesture and voice-body connection, but pertinent to studying Arja and other vocal genres here. As with many cultures outside of the Anglo-Saxon world, body movement is inseparable with the voice.
Another fortunate crossing occurred when I went to Moena Fresh to get an Es Teler (a delicious drink / snack comprised of fruit, young coconut meat, avocado, condensed milk and ice). A puppy was roaming around and decided to make friends with me while I was awaiting my delightful snack. Within a few minutes we had bonded. The staff, in awe of our quick relationship, explained that she had arrived a few days beforehand without an owner and was sleeping there every night, and told me me I could take her home. They laughed hysterically as they told me the ironic name they gave her, “Gek Bulan”, meaning, beautiful lady moon. Of course that is ridiculous here… have you ever met a Bali Dog?!?
I called Ketut and he softheartedly said I could do what I thought was best, although he was hesitant of all my activities here not mixing well with having a new baby dog. But I at least wanted to get her off the busy streets of Denpasar, so I agreed to take her and they helped by making a doggy-bag container for me out of fruit boxes and attached her to the back of my motorbike.
The next 24 hours turned into Dog Day. Gek inhabited my orange purse and we went everywhere together… on the motorbike, to dinner, to performances at the Arts Centre. Then I realized Ketut was right. I am too busy here to have another priority. I was waiting until the next day to take her to the adoption centre… but luckily, after Gek Bulan attended dinner with my other new friend Bethany, we found a new solution. Bethany called the family she was staying with and asked if they wanted a dog, and they excitedly said yes! Now I can visit Gek anytime, she’s off the streets and on a new journey to a great life!
Bu Candri, Arja and the PKB
It was so great to see Bu Candri and the musical family out in Singapadu again. Their schedule has been very crazy in preparation for the PKB (Arts Centre) Festival performances and so I’m glad I’m here for a few months because I haven’t been able to take lessons yet out there. I have been attending rehearsals and other social events, one of which was a special “Six-Month Ceremony” for Bu Candri’s newest granddaughter, Miley. I am going to write about this in more detail later, as I would like to save a special space to post all the beautiful pictures that transpired from this event!
The last few days have been spent away from the computer in the small village of Nongan where Ketut’s parents live. When the Balinese go back to their family residence they use the phrase “pulang kampung” which literally means going home to the village. I love it there so much. They have rice fields and acreage filled with coffee and fruit trees, vanilla plants and coconut trees. There are pigs and chickens and ducks and delicious home cooked food. I helped cook, did some reading, played a lot of rindik, and spent a large portion of time in the back property landscaping and having fun making the land more useable, like making steps between divisions of land layers. (Is that English? I’m starting to blur the lines)… Some of my favourite memories growing up were in the corn fields or down by the river making forts and finding beautiful spots to spend my time. Ketut’s parents laugh because it’s not normal “girly” behaviour to want to be working and getting dirty in the untamed land. But they love my ambition and their laugh is more a reflection of the joy they see in me when I come back home.
I suppose this may have subconsciously influenced my mispronunciation of the Balinese cake they were buying for us at the market in the mornings. I woke up and went into the kitchen where they pointed out the food and said “Ada lak-lak” [translation: there is lak-lak]. I, somehow in between the kitchen and Ketut’s bedroom had made the infamous “telephone” mistake and relayed this message as “Ketut, selamat pagi cayang, sudah ada luk-luk”. Regardless of how closed his eyes were, he burst out into laughter. Later I learned that I said, “good morning honey, there’s mud!” in a very excited fashion, of course. Now everyone teases me in the morning that the “mud” has arrived!
The Present Tense
Now I’m back to Ubud, checking email, writing a blog and reconnecting with the musical community. Tonight Bethany are attending Pete Steele’s gamelan group performance (a group of students from North Eastern University in Boston, U.S.) after their summer study program, or gamelan “bootcamp”, if you will.
I’ll be back to write again soon!