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!”

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