How well do you know your body and it’s needs? Are you able to read the cues and adjust your lifestyle, diet and thinking accordingly? Most of us romp through life knowing we SHOULD drink less, eat more healthily etc etc. But often it’s after a serious medical event that we start to tune in to what’s happening in our bodies and take the evidence before us more seriously.
I really learned about ” reading” my health cues after a sustained period of depression and chronic fatigue some 20 years ago. I know the spiral downwards and I’m hyper-alert to it’s symptoms. It doesn’t take much. Sometimes it’s joyful busyness thrown in with challenging busyness. Sometimes it’s the context of my life as much as it’s actual events in my life. The backdrop if you like. Bushfires, summer heat, the decision to sell up and move after 11 years, sick friends and the energy required to make transitions all took me to the top of the spiral. But I know this place, its cues and the darkness that hovers and some weeks ago decided I needed a spell in my healing home….Bali.
In the UK people head to Spain and for Aussie’s Bali is an inexpensive, and a close – to – home getaway with 5 hour flight from Melbourne. Once there you are in a consistent 30 degree heat, 90% humidity and 24 degree overnight temperature. The sea breeze comes in around 3pm. It rains most nights. A nice meal can cost less than $20. The Puri Santrian hotel on Sanur beach has been my Bali home for many years now and it never fails to provide the calm, friendly place to rest, reflect and heal. The gardens are exquisite, the 3 pools, and quiet setting immediately calm the mind and lift the spirit. It takes 24 hours to reset the healing clock. I had agreed to fly to Jakarta to attend the board meeting of an education foundation I have links with and I had made an appointment to interview an expat. living in Ubud. All of this can wait. I apologetically cancelled these arrangements knowing that I needed to put my health no. 1. Let the work begin.
Day 1, arrival day I unashamedly had an afternoon nap, booked a massage with Raka, the Balinese masseuse who came touting for business as I sat on the beach. Her smiling face and gentle sales pitch were perfectly timed. We agreed ” tomorrow under the tree near the green tables…not the blue tables…” Competition is strong here but the deal was made with a handshake…$100,000 Indonesian rupiah for one hour full body massage with coconut oil…. very specific…that’s $10 Australian….I know its $8 in the village but really…..am I going to haggle!?
I chatted to a couple of lovely beach cleaners as they sat in the shade of a Balinese shrine. Hindu shrines and temples are found scattered like confetti through the village and around the hotel. They sit with their brooms and quietly share their stories. The beach was clean. Their work done. It’s a quiet time here in February. Such lovely people. I asked if I could take their photo..yes of course.. big smiles… but the brooms had to go.. they didn’t want to be photographed with their brooms! With my 3 words of Balinese and 10 words of Bahasa Indonesian I could never learn why the brooms had to go! Image conscious?
Chicken satay and rice always taste so much better here in Sanur than in my Daylesford kitchen. Perhaps it’s the beach setting, the breath- taking colours of the sky or the gentle kindness of the people here. After dinner, I walk along the beach to the village past the shanty warung, little family businesses that are being squeezed out by the classy beach bars, big hotels and restaurants better serving the older travelers that come to this area. This is not Kuta beach. It’s miles away from the clubs and bar scene that attract the schoolie tribe. Sanur has always been the place of embassies, expat. villas and European grey nomads.
The sky puts on a majestic show. I’m always drawn to the contrasts in life. The ethereal sky and the brutality of the power lines. On every corner there’s a conversation to be had, a smile and laughter. I never feel alone in Bali and somehow they seem to manage this rather older woman, out on her own. chatting her way along the street.
Balinese culture is all about family and community. A family will live in the family compound, a cluster of houses and a shrine. Granny lives in one house, sons and their families in other homes in the compound. A Married daughter lives with the husband’s family. I once had a home- stay outside Ubud, in the centre of Bali. I was volunteer teaching and lived with a family for six weeks. Chickens, dogs and children roamed freely in the safety of compound walls. Cooking is communal with all the women gathering in the outdoor kitchen to prepare the meals. Most days we went to the village temple for a ceremony. I remember asking the women if they were ever depressed. They looked at me curiously. My translator tried again to convey my very Western concept. The closest we came too was being sad or unhappy… if a family member was sick or someone in the village died. The remedy? Reflection and quiet in the temple and offerings to the gods at the family shrine. I am sometimes asked in Bali..” You come alone?” I can never quite convey the concept of an independent Western woman who could actually enjoy solo travel. It’s outside the mindset of a community and family based society where the family is the social welfare unit and individualism is not part of the vocabulary.
Day one came to a close at 8.30 pm Balinese time, when I climb into my beautiful bed draped with soft, white muslin and slept soundly for 8 hours.
Day Two: Dawn breaks early here in Sanur and by 5am I was making my way to the beach for a morning walk. I feel so rested. The internet connection seems to be sleeping so no Instagram or Facebook could be attempted… guess I just don’t need to post EVERY day! The main photo for this article was taken this morning on my beach walk. It shows again how sometimes the simplest image is the most beautiful. Is there really a message waiting for me on every corner!!
Human beings love protocol and soon establish little rules and behaviours wherever they travel. Along the miles of beach front everyone is out early before sun and heat warm the day. There are the young runners in their Lululemon gear and headphones. They are in their cocoon and oblivious to others. The older Asian tourists are rugged up in sweat pants and wind breakers and walk along arms swinging, purposeful and determined. A quiet hello may be heard as you smile and pass by. The Balinese fisherman, cleaners and mothers with children in tow are all out there with wide grins and a few words of English but always warm and friendly. Salamat Pagi always works! Expat. couples tanned, lean and with designer dogs walk the beach front and chat to other expats…… whiffs of conversation as I pass and say hello…something about their disgust as the unreliability of wi-fi recently! Then there are the dive crews and boat operators. They are deeply tanned, young guys smoking Kreteks, (clove cigarettes) who gather at the beach wielding air tanks and diving gear and hoping for the mass arrival of young German tourists ready for adventure or older people ticking kite surfing off their bucket list. They have no interest in morning hello’s. They’re the alpha males and have their own tribe, apart from all others.
After over an hour of walking I’m ravenous. I hear the rich sounds of the Gamelan players welcoming the new day as I head beachside for my breakfast of fresh papaya, rice and vegetables and yes…. a cup of coffee. I’m eating like the Balinese… rice, veg. and a little fish or chicken 3 times a day…. we’ll see how long it lasts……I did see black sticky rice on the menu…. Oh dear…..