Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Sacred Waters of Bali" video coming soon

Mara Alper's documentary "Sacred Waters of Bali" will be available on next week. Watch here for the link to view it.

This evocative short film shows Bali Hindu devotion to water in ceremonies for cremations, New Year's Melasti, Saraswati and water purification with High Priestess Ida Resi Alit. Beautiful images, music, sounds of water and nature draw the viewer into Balinese daily life and ceremonies.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Perfect Day

What makes a perfect day? For me, it's one where my spirit leads me where I need to go. I may have an agenda but it interlaces with the present moment, until the plan becomes secondary and the river takes me where I need to be.

It begins: I come downstairs from my room, ready to find a motor scooter ride for a late breakfast at Kakiang, the best bakery in Ubud. Agung, the hotel manager, stops his work to chat with me, offers a ride with his wife Made and off we go with three helmets for her, their son Nanda and me.
Made (Ma-DAY) and Nanda

We take the long way round, uphills and down into the jungle ravine and when we arrive, I ask what is her favorite cake, dash in and get it in return for the favor.

My next ride is a short distance past the monkey forest to a bead store. I search for a missing stone for my beautiful pendant.

They direct me up the block to a silver shop. The woman there is friendly and offers to polish the necklace for me and then we find a better clasp. It is a necklace made for tourists but the Balinese like it and comment on its beauty. It is serene and prayerful.  She sends me to a stone shop for the missing piece.

Outside, a man offers me a taxi ride. I decline, but when he reads my t-shirt from the Green School, he breaks out into a song and dance to the words "Bye-bye plastic bags!" I laugh and add "bye bye plastic water bottles" and ask him to do an encore performance for video-- he does! And I can't resist joining in.

This made my day! The other side of his sign said "Taxi"

                               (Not sure if this video will play- hope so)

The stone store is well stocked. I sift through the amethyst bin and find none like the small teardrop stone I lost. I browse the other bins and find a green peridot, so perfectly cut that when I put it in the necklace to see if it fits, the shopkeeper cannot dislodge it -- clearly meant to stay there.

 A short stroll -- passed orchid seller on bicycle, tourist buses, lunch stand and workers -- to my friend Koni's garlanded pathway.

Today, Koni tells me how his destiny was shaped by Bizet's opera "The Pearl Fisher," that it led him to live by the sea in Sri Lanka for years when he was young, in search of this love story come true. But that's another tale, much better than the film "Big Eyes" that we watched afterwards.

A feast with Koni on an earlier visit
It is still light when I leave -- 5:30 p.m. It is dark every night here all year at 7. Equatorial. I meander down Jalan Sukma and savor the street life of this community as the day closes down to night.

I wander into a store with fabrics, see a beautiful old metal Singer sewing machine. After I photograph it, the tailor asks me to take his photo too. I will bring him a copy next week. So easy, so open, so friendly. 

The tailor's wife
His wife gets up to help customers at their fried chicken stand. Many stop to buy it so I get some too.

My perfect day of ends back at home, eating the chicken with the evening star bright in my window, a candle, incense and this page.

Friday, April 17, 2015

7th World Water Forum, Korea - Pt. 1

What an intense and remarkable experience at this week-long event. It was truly international, with panels and presentations were from every continent-- except the coldest one. The stories that were strongest for me -- restoration of the the Upper Jordan River for Jordan, Israel and Palestine; ideas for the food-water-energy nexus; innovations in irrigation that use smart phones to control timing and flow of water.

OK, I have no photos to show yet because I'm posting from my iPod, so this doesn't have the "wow" effect of my usual posts but . . . Wow! I spent 5 days listening, talking, eating with 1000s of other people working for water. Very gratifying. And the range-- from indigenous rites and rights to the World Bank. A rare event.

More in a few days once I leave Korea and go "home" to Bali.

Monday, March 30, 2015

To The Sea -- Water Purification for Balinese New Year

It's 5 a.m., still dark. We are all assembled at the village temple in Nyuh Kuning where I live. Hundreds of people in ceremonial clothes are busy loading trucks with sacred objects from the temple. The dark moon is a thin waning crescent, new moon approaching to mark the New Year. A gamelan orchestra plays music.

I heard about the New Year water ceremony performed by every Balinese village once a year; this is my first time. I could ride in a car, but instead climb up onto an empty open truck with many others and ride in open air.

We reach Purnama Beach-- Full Moon Beach. The shrines and offerings are unloaded and we join the parade to the sea.

Thousands of people from other villages are already here. The ceremony is spaced through the week, but this is the assigned time for many. The energy is electric, the colors are dazzling, the sacred objects are beautiful. 

An essential part of all Balinese ceremonies is waiting. We wait for priests to arrive, for their special mantras to be chanted, for our turn to accept the holy water and the blessings. While waiting, people do what they do . . .

Modern times in ancient ceremonies . . .

and things that never change . . .
After an hour or so, my village prays together, then marches to the sea where the priests gather water for blessings.

Everyone goes to the sea with offerings, shrines and protector figures.

At the sea edge . . .
Receiving the water blessings . . .

New year photo ops

We return -- a five hour journey all in all. I am honored to visit the sea for its blessing. This is what re-imagining water is all about for me, having a strong relationship with water, a deep connection. This is why I am here.

The next day is the parade of Ogoh-Ogoh from my last post. And the day after that is actually New Year's Day-- Nyepi  -- the day of silence and introspection. The entire island is silent, with all families at home. The rules: no electricity, no fires for cooking, no talking, fasting. The devout follow it precisely, the rest . . . Even the international airport is closed - no flights in or out of Bali this one day of the year. Amazing.

A friend snuck out to shoot the empty Ubud street. I will shoot another on a normal day and post it to show you the contrast!

Ubud street

Monday, March 23, 2015

Balinese New Year -- Nyepi -- Ogoh-Ogoh -- Water Ceremony Parade of Giant Monsters and Silent Day

Each year the entire island of Bali celebrates New Year together on the new moon in March. This year Nyepi was March 20 - 21. For a month before, the young men in each village built the Ogoh-Ogoh monsters. Day by day, I watched them progress.

For weeks before preparations are made for the three day event, beginning with the ritual of going to the sea for the sacred objects from every village temple to be purified and blessed by the waters.

The parade of the giant monsters is the night before Nyepi, the Silent Day. Their job is to chase demons away from Bali so the New Year ahead will go well. Live gamelan music plays for each one -- the video at the end has a bit of it.

Magnificent creatures! Every village makes them, but the ones in Ubud are legendary as this is the cultural center of Bali, the town of artists.

People come from everywhere to see the Ogoh-Ogoh

Performers enact stories about the monsters

When these giants pass by carried on bamboo platforms by dozens of men, we are all shoved back by the traditional Balinese police so we won't be trampled, especially when they spin around -- very exciting indeed. We all yell in fear and glee.

The next story -- To the sea for purification! I have waited years to see this.
In my next post . . .