Friday, October 24, 2008

Bali Wedding

It is my second to last day in Bali and it is pouring rain. All he days so far have been sunny, but now it is threatening rain. An older man at the Legian in Seminyak said two days ago that when the sparrows are flying low, it means rain is coming. And the air has been pregnant with water for the last 2 days. We've practically been swimming in it like still to be born babies in amniotic fluid.
I am sitting alone in the terrace restaurant at Amanusa, one of the Aman hotels in Nusa Dua, and I am alone. Two women from the wedding party who sat at another table for breakfast earlier, left as the clouds lowered ominously. I stayed. To see the sky change from indigo blue to gray and then to black as the shadow of the clouds became the dark rain clouds themselves and then all of a sudden everything was white with the all enveloping rain, was worth it. At first you could see the white caps of the moving waves against the black of the lowering sky, but then through the gray-white rain that blankets the tops of the trees and the houses below, they were barely visible.
As I sat and sipped the delicious Balinese coffee (my first and I'm glad I waited as this place does everything right) I thought of the day before and visiting Ketut Liyer (pronounced Liar but means Bright Lamp), and of how happy I have been since that visit. Ketut is an artist and medicine man, palm reader and wood carver, among other things. He lives just outside of Ubud in Desa Pengosekan. I was so glad to meet him, and to see that he is alive and well. He was made famous to Americans like myself by Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love", a book I had heard about and which I was reminded to read just before my departure from NYC.
Yesterday, with my Balinese driver Agus, we went to Ubud. We stopped and the first hotel near the car was Barong Resort and Spa, a charming little place with a sweet staff of young people. The young girl at the desk (I forget her name) didn't know who I was looking for when I asked for the medicine man Ketut Liyer and showed her the book where Liz wrote about him, but she got on the phone right away and two telephone calls later, she told me to go get the Indonesian driver as she had the address but it would be too complicated for me to explain.
Agus is a Brahman, a tall caste of Hindu Balinese, 38, quite handsome, married with 2 children. He's driven me around since my first day in Bali, and though he is not cheap, he gets me everywhere I need to go. The first day I was here he found Ashley Bickerton's studio for me, and I had a great 2 hours seeing what Ashley was working on for a show at White Cube, as well as seeing what he had done in the past. He has two beautiful boys, with his Balinese wife, and both she and the children figure prominently in his most recent body of work. After being in Bali for a few days I could see the influence of the place on his work, and began to understand the meaning of certain imagery he uses. Even though he's been living in Bali for 15 years, Ashley has still managed to make his work relevant to the art market, thanks in part to his wonderful dealers, Rachel Lehman and David Maupin.
But back to Ketut. When I got to his compound there were two American women ahead of me, both of whom had read Liz's book as well. They asked about boyfriends and marriage and children (I guess the typical concernes of American women in their mid to late 30s who come to see a palm reader in Bali about their future). I met Ketut's son Nyoman while the women had their session. Nyoman showed me Ketut's paintings and his work too, as he was a teacher and an artist. I bought the painting of Rama and Sinta that Ketut had painted and the wood carving of a Janger (Balinese dancer) which Nyoman had carved.
When it was my turn to see Ketut I didn't ask about men or babies as that path to me already seems quite clear, but he did say I have good karma and that my business with art would have "big success". This is what I wanted to hear. But more than that, just having made the small success of finding him and being in his presence made me happy. To sit next to him I felt so calm, perhaps soaking up his wonderful energy and enjoying his wisdom and years of experience. He showed me more art he made and I promised I'd return on my next trip to Bali as I not only wanted to see him, but hopefully I could afford more of his art as well.
I read Liz's book backwards because I'm in Bali now so read that part first. My experience of Bali too is reversed from hers. Since I've been here I've been immersed in beach culture, except for that one brief day trip to Ubud to visit Ketut. Like her, I will come here again, and imbibe, hopefully, in the life that lies in Bali's interior. Just driving north yesterday from Seminyak, I could feel the change in energy as we entered the more forested hills.
My trip to Indonesia came at the end of the last Mercury retrograde (don't laugh - it exists) so my trip was fraught with delays and frustrations. I misread the departure date 00:50 10/17 and arrived at JFK around 10:30 pm 10/17. The woman at the check in couldn't find my name and informed me quite soberly, that my flight had left the night before! Consolingly, she said that this confusion with the time happens regularly.
The next day I was put on standby for a 2 pm flight to Seoul but this would get me there too late to make the connection to Jakarta that day so I had to stay 1 night in Seoul. This was no real hassle as I got to visit my dear friend Rose Jang, who is an American Korean pop star. She had a concert the next day so couldn't drink, talk or hang out too late and this was fine with me as I was exhausted from my 14 hour flight.
(As I write this the sky is clearing. The sun is coming through again. Perhaps 45 minutes have passed since the storm started.)
The following night, from Jakarta to Denpasar, I finally landed in Bali at 2 am.

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