Arrival in Bali
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 8:05 pm
The air blew thick and steamy through the mini-van window. As we climbed steep mountain roads veiled in tropical fog, the exhaustion of the long journey from California to Bali weighed heavily upon me, the rice paddies passing before my eyes as distant as San Francisco cable cars. Flying into Denpassar Airport the night before, I had been quickly reminded that I was back in South Asia, in the so called “developing world”, as I waited for two hours to have my passport stamped, part of a chaotic herd moving imperceptively forward, the Indonesian officials as indifferent to the suffering, overheated tourists as those tourists were anxious to begin their beach holidays. So when I finally arrived at my hotel, tired but relieved to have a bed to fall into, I barely noticed the gentle waves brushing the shore just beyond my hotel window.
Several hours later my girlfriend arrived, having traveled a different route from New York City. Glad to see one another, yet feeling beaten by our travels, we fell into a deep sleep, only to be awakened shortly by the early equatorial light and rude alarm of jet lag. A quick walk and pleasant breakfast later, we were picked up by the van that would take us to our destination, the Zen Resort Bali, for a workshop being run by my Educational Travel Company, Integral Expeditions. The subject of the program: Mindful Communication.
As the van wound through the busy streets of Seminyak, then Kuta, and finally Denpassar, stopping to pick up group members along the way, I enjoyed the bustling local scene. But my pleasure turned to annoyance as I noticed that after our final pickup at the airport we were driving along the same quaint streets we had just been down. After two hours, the van arrived exactly where we started, only then to begin the three hour trip to the opposite side of the island. My frayed nerves were now pulsing with deep irritation and my girlfriend was outraged over the poor planning, adding her New York voice to our private symphony of frustration. And so we drove, shifting from bickering to simmering silence, the world outside a blur.
After an hour of this unsettling travel, my eye moved slowly from its inner focus to the scenery beyond our vehicle. I noticed a Hindu Temple beside the road and then one more just a mile later. I saw elaborate sculptures of a multitude of deities lining the road, rice paddies stretching into thick forests, and fields lush with fruits and flowers. I watched a procession of beautiful young girls and boys in colorful uniforms walking, riding bicycles, on motorbikes, joyfully laughing while they passed by our bus. And I suddenly sensed an arrival, a subtle shift of awareness and felt my shoulders drop. And as I eased into that moment, I began to breathe, to experience the calm of emergent beauty, and the gentle fusion of self and place.