Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Good morning, Ubud

Jalan Dewi Sita is a short street linking Monkey Forest and Hanoman roads, a block back from Ubud’s main road. It is lined with cafes and warungs, losmens (bungalows for rent), reflexology and aromatherapy clinics, and shops selling locally designed clothes, hand-made soaps, leather goods, crystals and Tibetan thankas.

Parked outside Café Havana is a bright red Chevrolet.

A narrow, fast-moving stream dips beneath the roadway before disappearing from sight around a corner.

During the day, motor scooters, taxis and minivans pass by in a steady, noisy flow, and tourists pick their way warily along the broken footpaths.

At one end is a large sports field; at the other, a temple complex. The road slopes up to meet both, like a bow.

I have come to love this street, which I run up and down twelve times each morning from 6 a.m. There are mostly only local people out and about, a few stray dogs, and always some startled-looking poultry debating whether or not to cross the road.

Kids wearing school uniforms congregate at the soccer field for morning sports training. They arrive on foot together in clumps, often holding hands with their friends, or are dropped off on the back of mum or dad’s scooter.

A gaggle of women with infants settle in their regular spot on a shop verandah, after grooming themselves in the stream. They chat and laugh together easily. Later in the day they may be seen begging for money from tourists.

A minivan owner uses a hose to wash his vehicle on the roadside. A father carries a baby and holds the hand of a toddler as he strolls slowly along the street, stopping every now and then to allow the child to rest. Two young men wait for their lift to arrive to take them to their jobs. An old man wearing the traditional Balinese wrapped skirt walks his golden retriever on a leash. A blonde woman heads to the nearby market to buy the makings for the morning devotional offerings to demonstrate to the tour group she has brought from Arizona. A cyclist wearing blue-and-white lycra rides circuits, pedalling hard up the hill near the temple.

I am the foreign woman running back and forth, back and forth, as the sky steadily lightens. For that half-hour, I am one of them. We all greet each other, “Good morning! Selamat pagi!”

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Back to the future

I could have stayed on in Australia. It’s comfortable and familiar. I know I could pick up where I left off there in an instant. I had most of my stuff with me, in a suitcase, a carry-on bag and a laptop backpack. If I’d set off in May 2010 with the idea of travelling the world for a couple of years, I would have had that and a bonus six months and I could have honestly said I’d had a ball. But it didn’t cross my mind to stop what I’m doing. A stay of six weeks in Oz is just another piece of the whole jigsaw, and that’s the way I like it.

I like to establish routines wherever I go; I love to catch up with old friends; and I’m always grateful to make new friends. Australia offered all that, and it was fun and productive. Now I’m in Indonesia for six weeks, and I’m going through the process again of adjusting my routines to suit my location.

Just days into the new year in Melbourne I made a new friend in Linus. We met in the street when we were both headed to the Tan for a run. We ended up doing half a dozen runs together and a lot of talking. Running just keeps on giving and giving…

I saw some great films: “Searching for Sugar Man” with Martyn; and the hilarious British black comedy “Sightseers” with Bill T after he and Barb returned from the US and reclaimed their apartment. (I moved to a new apartment next-door for my last five days.) I also loved “Seven Psychopaths” and “Samsara”.

In Geelong I spent a few hours with my niece Chloe and her boyfriend Jarred. We found the place where Martyn and I lived for four months in 1998. Walking up the driveway I felt very aware of the huge changes that have happened in my life since I last walked away from that house.

Another quick visit to Albury to spend a couple of nights with brother Col and Tracey, who were away over Christmas. I fell in love with their dog, Jess. What a sweetheart she is! Quick catch-ups with old friends and family.

Dad was over from New Zealand for a 90th birthday celebration for a family friend on the Queensland Gold Coast, so after flying up from Albury I spent a day catching up with him and with Allan, a friend since we were five.

Two nights in Brisbane rounded off my Oz trip. Really enjoyed a 10K early-morning run along the Brisbane River with niece Cassie. Then spent a couple of hours catching up on news with nieces Jaye and Kellie, and their partners Chris and Jamie. Also checked out the Asia-Pacific Triennal exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.

I’m now back in Ubud, Bali. I’ve gone right around the world (New Zealand, Canada, the US, the Caribbean, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, Oz) and come full circle since I was here with the Kuching Wees last April.

As the Year of the Dragon winds up and the Year of the Snake approaches, I feel very conscious of all the blessings in my life and excited about every day.