Friday, June 10, 2011

C(h)okwah's New House

May 9

            As I leave for my last outing, we run into C(h)okwah, and he invites us to see his “small house” right now. We drive a short way from the royal palace where his uncles live, turn onto a side road and find ourselves in front of an incredibly intricate and imposing  sculpted entrance way towering above us still under construction.

            Inside is an unbelievable mansion/palace with intricate, stunning wood and stone carvings. There is a view of a terraced rice field. It turns out there was none there—he had it built for his viewing pleasure. As he did with the waterfall and stream we see. Incredible, especially considering that many of Bali’s rice fields are being sold and transformed into hotels and villas for tourists.

C(h)owah and his rice field
            During all the preparations and ceremonies  at his family temple, I have not seen C(h)okwah with any particular woman or children. He talked to everyone amiably, but no one particular connection. I wonder if he is single — just can’t help that “prince in the castle” fantasy! Too ingrained! My friend asks who will live here with him and he says his wife and children will live on the lower floor. Of course.  He is the lord and master, indeed. I make sure to get many photos of him at his “small house.”

            Farewell, quasi-prince of Ubud. I graciously thank you for encouraging my curiosity, inviting me into your family circle and fanning my prince fantasies. May our paths cross again soon.

Yes, I confess I  had a crush on him, if you didn't guess it already! What's a girl to do . . . blame it on those Disney films!

One more post coming about Bali in the next few days -- I left the day after I took these images. I miss it still and am making plans to return next year. Will probably organize a small group trip, so if you're interested in joining, let me know.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Royal Ceremony Day

May 7

Saraswati Goddess + Dragon (Naga) Banner
More offerings from the family and villagers begin to arrive to add to the already abundant offerings. C(h)okwah explains what each building in the temple compound is for, where the priest will sit. I ask if I can take the water blessing with the priest. Yes, of course, he says. Just follow what the others do.
I have seen foreigners do this and know the Balinese are always welcoming, but I ask since this is the family ceremony. When the ceremony begins, I do the series of prayers and feel deeply moved by the water sprinkled by the priest and drinking the sacred water (tirta). The women and priest giggle as I hold my hands incorrectly for the first drink. The women show me how, and I do it correctly for the next two libations.
Next, I sprinkle water on my face and head as they do, then do my best to place the cooked rice on my third eye, collarbone and mouth as the Balinese do, but mine is a bit messy not a smooth patch as the others have. Practice makes perfect. It is my first initiation of the evening. My friend Ati takes a photo for me.

Mara receives tirta (in gold sash) Photo: Ati Citron
The ceremonies are moving as always, and accompanied by laughter and talking and performances not watched by anyone but the tourists, as usual. C(ho)wah comes by to tell me the prayers will start soon. I go next door to my conveniently located room, refresh the battery and recording media, ready for the grand finale.

Only a video can begin to capture the multi-faceted sights and sounds . . .

I continue to record images, until I see a general movement of the crowd in one direction. I follow them eagerly to document the final prayers. My camera is on, but hanging at my side, pointing toward the crowd randomly.

Chokwah finds me and says: Would you like to pray with us or do you want to take pictures? I instantly reply I want to pray with you. Follow me, he says and leads me to where his immediate family sits, seats me next to his mother. Is your camera off, he asks. Yes, I say forgetting, it is still on. I see the red light, he says. Oh! I press it off, glad to find there are some things beyond the lens eye, too sacred for video.
Ibu Raka places a plate of various flower and palm leaf offerings in front of me. She lights a stick of incense, hands it to me. I watch to see what others do with theirs and place it on the plate among the flowers. As the priest calls out each phase, she lifts the correct flower offering, and hands it to me, shows me what to do. I follow gladly. There are five prayers and by the end, I feel truly blessed, accepted as an initiate. I will leave Bali with these blessings in my heart.