Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Nyepi (Bali New Year)

First, let me apologize.  I have not posted these for months, I was so caught in writing my novel.  But I will go back and find them soon, and if you didn't get one, you can find it. Meanwhile, here's today's Report.

    So as the sun sinks not so slowly in the West, which it does here, too, even though we are upside down in time, we bid almost Farewell to the beautiful(and exceedingly magical and strange) island of Bali.  Today is Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, which is marked by an end of the many celebrations that have led up to this day, by a day of silence, how the Balinese celebrate their holiday.  No one is allowed out of their house, the only people in the streets the pecalangs who are patrolling them for disbelievers or disobeyers who will be punished.  No cars, no motorcycles or bikes, no lights tonight, no planes taking off or landing or permitted to fly over, so the island will disappear in the darkness, and the evil spirits will be unable to find Bali, and so will go away, and the island will be free of evil for another year.  Ha.  Not laughing at the holiday, but at the corruption that is rife here, that is hardly paid any attention to anymore unless a bigwig gets caught stealing a couple of trillion, which some of them do, in which case they can also often pay their way out of being punished. Police pay to becomes policemen and for every promotion, so it is not all that unusual for you to be stopped on the road for no apparent reason and have to pay one of them off to continue, so you can imagine what they can pull in in the case of an actual crime.  Apparently for a hundred dollars you can get out of jail for the day, gangs incarcerated continue to do business from inside the jail, often improving their network of felons, can have Tvs in their rooms, and many better movies than I was able to buy.  It is my theory, based on observed fact, that the reason the five suspected terrorists here were shot dead rather than arrested for questioning, was because if they had gone to jail they could have possibly connected with so many criminals that might have been even smarter, and so wiped out the entire world.
    But the hearts of the Balinese people are pure, if a bit childlike, and this holiday season has been marked with many colorful celebrations, most of which I have attended, some of which I have written about in my new novel, which I am radiant to say is about a day away from being finished.  Tonight, Nyepi, I am not supposed to work, as it is designated as a time of reflection and contemplation, so I will just quickly finish this up so I do not violate any spiritual laws, the ones I usually respect most.  Nor are we allowed to have any lights, for the reason already noted.  So the Baaaas, the way you call your servants or the waiters in Bali, BAAAAAAA you call out like a lamb, have lowered the slatted blinds made from pandan, a leaf that makes hats too and is also used in tea, so we are closed against the light even as it is fading in the sky, in case we want to be in violation of the ordinance and turn on a lamp or light a candle, one of which I will probably do.
    This has been, without question, the most exciting creative adventure of my life, as I came here with a project in mind that mattered a great deal to me, and I hope will matter in some measure to many other people, since it concerns justice.  I have been engaged since coming here in the writing of this, so I am probably the only one in Bali who came here to work hard.  I have been essentially on a retreat, with little or no communication with the outer world, except for you guys, and only a few occasional forays into civilization, such as it is here, mostly involving restaurants it didn't hurt to discover and enjoy as I did get hungry, and was, for a while in my lucky life, writing restaurant reviews for the Wall Street Journal Europe as part of my travel writing job, and it was a really great assignment, thank you Jim.  But there have been no movies, except for illegal DVDs which they sell quite openly all over, and that only because I did have to give my fevered brain(which it was, though I tried, I hope successfully, to avoid Dengue) some diversion, and could hardly read, my eyes were so tired from staring at the computer. But I did manage an occasional New Yorker, which still has the best short stories and the worst poems, and consistently brilliant theater reviews from John Lahr, Bert's little boy. My movie IQ has been kept up by e-mailed reviews from Rex Reed(thank you Rex) though I have been occasionally deeply frustrated by not being able to get the ones(very few) he raved about, great relief coming at last when I was able to get My Week with Marilyn, my idea of the best movie in a long time, Michelle Williams being so brilliant she should have won but Meryl Streep is unstoppable.  I still liked her Julia Child better than her Margaret Thatcher, as I knew that wonderful woman as she was exiting Cambridge and soon afterwards the planet, and she was enough like Meryl Streep's portrayal to be Meryl Streep.
    I have been blessed(it is after all, a spiritual day) in my sojourn to have been given sanctuary by arguably the most adorable family in Bali(I would state absolutely but I did not meet them all,) an Australian cattle man and his delicate Javanese princess wife, and their two miniature children, the mother being so tiny the children came downsized, and their two really ugly but lovable dogs, one actually named Mimi, the dog whose death I came here to try and recover from, but mine was beautiful as opposed to wall-eyed and stupid which this Mimi, a part Jack Russell definitely is, her sister, a chihuahua/dachshund(I know, I don't know how it could have happened either) named MuMu having gotten the only brains in the litter, which also included a big hairy dog (I know, I know.)
    They have recently acquired two kittens which rapidly became big ugly cats, so I will not be sad to leave them.  But I will feel a true sense of loss at leaving my family, which they really have become.  It  has been a long time since I was in a family situation and I don't think mine was ever this adorable, grandchildren aside.
    Anyway, I love you all, and thank you for sustaining me by allowing me to be in touch with you.  I wish you in the Western world a Happy Spring, my friends in Oz a happy autumn, and I wish the world peace (Good Luck) and the Republicans no better a candidate.

     xxx Gwen of(not much longer) Bali