Rave 101

Unbelievable. I’ve been bouncing around this island for almost two weeks and have yet to attend one of its infamous raves. Chasing the inland beach trails and zinging to the beat of my own inner trance-dance, has instead kept me quite distracted. But determined to appease the cosmic overlords of all things techno, I set out last night with the sole intent of tripping the lights fantastic and showing the kids how this is really done.

While there is certainly something to be said for being treated like family, my new brothers and sisters around where I’m staying are not only abundant, they are also curious. Where you been? Where you going?Why you not eat breakfast? Having spent most of my days South of the harbor, my habits have taken on the scrutiny of a culture observed under a microscope. And last night — this amoeba crawled out of the petri dish and made a break for it.

I took my pre-rave activities North of the harbor in search of something a little different. After passing dive shops, restaurants and ATMs that didn’t exist one year ago, a colorful chalkboard sign leaning against a post caught my attention. Very much like getting my temple-groove on, it was no sooner that I finished reading the colorful print and looked up than I knew; instinct had led me to the right spot.

The four pavilions are a miniature version of the beachside spot I’ve passed many an hour on the last fourteen days. Located on the opposite side of the street, it’s got the perfect distractive combination of streaming street parade and soothing backdrop of rolling waves. And this isn’t even the best part.

The spot is not only cozy and propels sweet vibes in every direction; it’s also where I meet my favorite person on the island. His name is D; like the letter D. Like the other young men on the island he’s in his twenties. But unlike the other boys, he sports a full head of dreadlocks. He possesses a gorgeous outlook with the disposition of an angel and his virtue-based beliefs were, in part, the inspiration for my last post.

The night I find D is also the night I discover the best live show in town, directly across the path from my newfound friend! The six musicians play everything from Santana to Sade, and the best bit — they perform every night of the week. Experimental, soulful and from the sounds of it, having a blast!

Thrilled at the prospect of a new friend, comfortable hangout and rockin’ entertainment, I take my leave of D with every intention of continuing my mischief into the wee hours. Reaching the outdoor party club I survey the crowd of twenty-somethings spilling over the path and crammed into the large sections of bar, dance floor and pavilions on either side. The beat pumps auditory jams, every cell in my body is thumping to. Circumnavigating the sweaty, gyrating bodies, avoiding lit cigarettes and ducking swinging drinks, I finally succeed in making it to the other side of mayhem street.

Heaving a sigh of relief I follow the beacon back to my bungalow-boys and finished my night in the comfort of my favorite beachfront perch. When I finally do retire, the party is still in full swing and I smile an enormous grin as I climb into bed; it only took forty years, but perhaps I’ve finally reached adulthood. My mother will be so pleased.

~ by Christine Fowle

Temple Groove

My island-to-island excursions aren’t just about playing with small children. I’ve also got big plans to kick off my exploration of the churches, temples, mosques and holy sites draped across this side of civilization. There are a mind-blowing number, each shining a divine spotlight onto the age, style and mojo of the period. The fundamental essence varies dramatically from site to site, each distinct sanctuary providing a journey within a journey. Having found recreational pursuits more important than geographical or historical throughout most of this lifetime, my personal temple-dance gleefully removes the necessity of lengthy explanation and guilt derived from scant retention.

One of my favorite aspects of this side-trip does not involve averting the stares of creepy gargoyles or traipsing through the playgrounds of the Gods. It is the ride on the public boat that bookends this outing on either side. There is an opening that occurs between islanders and travelers when the buying and selling stops. Riding with locals through their villages or in this case across the sea to their island home, allows separateness to dissipate and natural curiosity to win over. A genuine interest in features, clothing and demeanor are entertained and for one brief moment in time, a common destiny is shared.

The wooden boat is filled with baskets overflowing with everything from smoked fish to textiles — and no local bus, boat or even pushcart would be complete without a chicken. You’ve got to have the chicken or the experience just isn’t authentic. After we anchor, I wade ashore, assure the dozen taxi drivers that I do indeed have transport and then catch a horse-drawn cart to a waiting car.

After visiting the children’s center, my day consists of a handful of temple tours. These are the first I’ve explored since my arrival in a precautionary attempt to pace myself, as I have been known to contract severe cases of temple-overload. The symptoms include extreme drowsiness, glazed eyes, and lulling beeeeeep, flatlining throughout my brain. This comforting white-noise replaces all useful thought and is accompanied by shortness of attention span and slight agitation.

Fortunately for my condition, Pura Lingsar is the first site we visit and also where I receive the most elaborate education. After tying the red sash around my waist I am greeted by Yuda, who introduces himself as a temple guide. He’s wearing a black button-down shirt that on closer inspection, bears three red, green and yellow, Rastafarian patches. I happily accept his assistance and we begin our stroll. Crossing the path between two natural lily ponds toward the lush, expansive grounds he explains that the temple is unusual in that both Sasak Muslims and Hindus share the space — with a spoonful of Confucianists mixed in for good measure. Continuing our religious discussion I am led to the vast temple pools; there are two, one for men and one for women, utilized for washing and bathing with a separate area for drawing drinking water.

Next, I am directed toward the gates to the temple itself and instructed to enter between the two creepy guys holding batons (their checkered skirts make them appear much less ominous); Yuda waits outside. The strategy I employ for getting my temple-groove on is to step inside and allow my senses to guide me. I have found that places, like people, emanate a vibe and there is tremendous strength in the energy emitted from holy sites. Each is unique and by sitting quietly, a harmonizing little dance occurs between my self and the surrounding space. Once comfortable, I simply chill out for a spell and allow the experience to run its course.

The religious beliefs within Indonesia are a severe mix, with six official religions recognized by the government. Islam is predominating with Hinduism and Buddhism representing the minority. Having experienced the extremes between the Muslim culture in Sumatra and concentration of Hindus in Bali, it’s the harmony observed on the streets of the smaller islands however, that impart the consummate lessons. There is an unspoken understanding; behavior is more meaningful than faith, and humanity, more important than doctrine. And Pura Lingsar is a luminous star lighting the way of religious acceptance, proving it makes no difference on which side of the boat we sit.

~ by Christine Fowle

Center of Hope

After a week in paradise it is time to venture into new territory. Last year I picked up a flyer for the Peduli Anak Foundation. It’s a child development center on a nearby island that caught my eye because of the brief mention of UNICEF in the literature. This is significant because the European division of the hotel company I worked for has been partnered with UNICEF for over 15 years in a program called Check-out for Children. Donations received from hotel guests and employee fundraising efforts have generated over $25 million dollars toward immunizations and educational aid for children very much in need. It’s an outstanding program that I was proud to be a part of and it sparked my interest in checking out what was going on in Peduli Anak.

The program is supported by an organization out of the Netherlands and my tour guide, a bubbly 28-year old named Muslaeni, confirms something I learned in Banda Aceh last year but did not wish to believe. The majority of the children are here not because their parents are incapable of caring for them, but because they do not want them. She explains that marriage in Indonesia occurs at a very young age and unlike views of many other Asian cultures, the union does not carry the weight of permanent consequence. It is commonplace to marry multiple times and it has also grown acceptable to give up children from previous marriages. This means either handing the child off to a grandparent, or if it is an option, to an orphanage. Granted, this scenario is not the case for all abandonments and many parents exercise visitation privileges, but with the majority of the circumstances in Peduli Anak and at the orphanage I worked with in Banda Aceh, falling into this category, it does make one stand up and take notice.

Every choice we make in this lifetime comes with personal consequence, but guilt doesn’t provide food and shelter for children left without a home or family. The core solution is not to build more centers. What is required here is a stern talking to and societal change. Only once social norms deem a parent’s unloading of their child as unacceptable, will it be acknowledged as such. Until an invisible Big Brother steps in to begin the process of enacting change and educating the population, centers like Peduli Anak, need not only be celebrated, but also supported.

The 80 boys and girls living at the center have been assimilated into a lifestyle that provides a real sense of self: a safe environment, good education and positive social interaction. Indonesia is a country, like many in this part of the world, bursting at the seams with need and while funding exists for visible physical improvements to the center, educational support is their biggest challenge. There are any number of ways to provide assistance and taking one look at these children provides more than 80 ample reasons.

The experience Muslaeni provided me with was as unforgettable as her gregarious personality and upon completion of my tour she was very close to climbing into my backpack to join me. So I make her a deal, next year when I return, I promised to whisk her away for a one-week excursion. We’re both adding the dates to our calendars and I hope she’s ready because I intend to keep my word.

Rainy Day Musings

Surrounded by a thickening haze engulfing the tropical greenery, my absorption in the dark, swollen clouds and looming showers is distracted by the women in leafy-patterned sarongs. Observing their gentle maneuvering over the narrow stone bridges I scan the breakfast trays, each conveying two freshly squeezed glasses of juice and two plates of food.

It occurs to me, that I will immediately know which delivery is mine, and it isn’t because of the bright pink beverage and bowl of fruit I’ve requested. The single most identifiable feature of my order — the settings are prepared for a table for one. Before anyone puts on a sad face, don’t worry; this is by choice.

Traveling this way gives one a tremendous amount of headspace in which to ping around such persistent inquiries as to why I’ve chosen the singular path. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

It’s kind of like adopting a new puppy. The exhilaration of taking the initial decision generates a euphoric buzz as daydreams of frolicking through the park, long hikes in the woods and latte-runs to Java Pup, pander through your mind. Excitedly, you create a list of mental boundaries: Rule Number One: No sleeping in my bed. This leads to Exception Number One: Okay — but just this once.

Then there's the anticipation of the trip to Furburbia. Playing with ears of each potential pup, patting their fluffy heads, holding their soft, scrunchy faces, cuddling their fuzzy little bodies — does he whimper when you walk away, the allure is overwhelming — soft fur, wet nose and happy wagging tail! It's all too much! The tug on your heartstrings releases a fervor you can’t resist and finally you buckle under the pressure of the little puppy panting.

Bringing him home and opening the door you know, life will never be the same. After giving your new playmate a sniff around, it appears this new arrangement may just be acceptable. A few more tentative steps into your life and what does he do? He pittles on the carpet. Then the realization sets in; this is going to take some work. No, I’m not saying the men in my life have urinated on my rug; it’s a metaphor, keep up. What I am saying is that good relationships, puppies or men, are a commitment and commitments require effort. I’ve instead used this time to work on myself.

In a very real sense, my reasons for traveling this way are analogous for my lifestyle. Setting the routes and determining the random rights and random lefts are a measure of self-reliance — pushing the limits of resourcefulness, personal capabilities and tolerance, tapping a river of inner strength hovering dormant beneath the surface. The rewards flow generously; a truly sustainable high.

But the question could certainly be asked; do I miss the look in a man’s eyes as he holds me and tells me he loves me?

Only when it rains.

~ by Christine Fowle