Bali came and went like the hundreds of mosquitoes that bit me for a few seconds and peaced out. Just kidding.
Kat and I are currently at an airport Starbucks waiting for our flight in 8 hours. From there we transfer to Singapore, and after another 8 hour wait, we fly to Phuket, Thailand for the next leg of our adventure. The time seems to have flown by since we landed in Bali, but an eternity since we were last in America at the same time.
Bali is as beautiful as any other place in the world. I am having difficulty painting some of the pictures I saw, so hopefully when I get better internet I can upload some. There are miles of green rice terraces right along beaches, sprinkled in with small villages and frequent ceremonies. It’s a clash of cultures and commercialization, button-up collared shirts with sarongs and sandals, GarageBand and didgeridoos, iPhones in straw huts, cargo trucks and women balancing baskets on their heads, bamboo scaffolding and concrete, and other interesting anachronisms and eastern/western contrasts. This contrast is probably more pronounced in other countries, but the impact of western culture and technology is very clear, yet somehow compatible with old tradition.
The people are very spiritually devoted to their practice. EVERYWHERE I went, there were small 4x4inch squares of banana leaves offering rice, candies, money, and other goodies to gods that I don’t know too much about. They were literally everywhere: outside on the ground and on the walls of almost every restaurant, store, hotel, perched on motorcycle handles, car dashboards, boat dashboards.
The roads are really thin and crackled. They have way more motorbikes than cars. We actually drove a motorbike for the first time to get around town. Fucking frightening when you’re a part of it, but there’s a systematic chaos to their traffic. I feel like America would probably be fine if we didn’t regulate our traffic as much – humans are very intelligent.
There seem to be way more face-to-face interactions with one another and a greater sense of community. For me, spending entire days without physically talking to anyone is normal. Here, everyone is out on the streets, chatting in front of their stores and waiting for business to walk by, occasionally asking if any tourists want services or goods. Maybe this is the byproduct of living in a metropolitan area, as I hear Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia) is more impersonal.
I feel slightly conflicted about being a tourist. Sometimes I look at ritzy tourists and question their intentions for traveling, and then I wonder why I’m being so judgmental and remind myself that I am also a tourist. With the exception of one temperamental, crazy ass driver we had, everyone pretty much welcomed us with open arms and smiles, yet I can’t help but feel like I am intruding and somehow damaging the balance of an economy or corrupting a culture. There have been many conversations with locals where I held my tongue in asking how they felt about tourism. Maybe part of my motivation to volunteer abroad is both selfish and altruistic – I do genuinely want to help other people, but maybe I want to absolve my guilt in traveling. Part of it may be that I’m just spending money on one-off thrills and basic necessities and supporting people in the moment, but I haven’t been able to impart any skills that could one day relieve them of their reliance on tourism. That certainly isn’t my responsibility, and I don’t want to walk around with the White Savior Complex as there are many expats and locals that seem to be doing great work here, but part of my guilt comes from consumption without much true contribution.
I have never been exposed to as many “you might never get that chance again” moments in my life. Even for things as simple as photos or heartfelt goodbyes with people I might never see again, I feel more pressure/courage to overcome hesitation to do things I will literally never have a chance to do again.
Scuba diving is the SHITTT. I surprised Kat for her birthday and it was awe-inspiring. It’s metaphorically and literally one of the most immersive and indescribable experiences I’ve ever had. It was my first time, and certainly not the last.
Even though we are thousands of miles from home on a beautiful island, we spent a lot of our days indoors at coffee shops. This journey is possibly more for discovering myself than it is foreign lands. Of course I am curious about all that cultures have to offer, but I really want to plan out my next moves in life and remember why I want to pursue them.
I had my first structured meditations on an ashram that we stayed at, and as active as my mind is, I only spend a fraction of my brainpower observing myself. I am naturally very doubtful of myself, and it’s deeper than my conflicts with being humble and confident at the same time, than my body language and verbal inflections, and starts with how I think. I am constantly questioning myself and if I am doing/feeling/saying things ‘correctly’. I was told that when I meditate I should just not judge myself and let myself go, and it was scary at times. I think my mind naturally darts and rides on tangents to avoid certain challenges and emotions, and meditating has so far been the start of just focusing and embracing and not evading myself.