Sunday, October 18, 2009

Indonesia- so far
So diverse and overwhelming are these 17,000 plus islands that you have to really choose where you go. So diverse and overwhelming are my experiences here that I must choose what I comment on.

Everyday everything needs prayer

Everything here needs offerings- cars, trees, doorways, sculptures, computers, desks and ticket counters all have little palm trays full of rice, flower petals, incense, cake and sometimes ritz crackers. Some days, the gods get bananas, other days mints. Our cab driver tells us that he puts 70 in his home every day. The air smells indescribably smokey and sweet. Homes are so elborate and oriented around religion that in Ubud, we don't know what is a home and what is a temple. The courtyard complexes that are homes, have elaborate shrines and sculptures. Twice a day our landlady puts on her good sarong and scarf and blesses her home, sprinkling water, and praying all over the courtyard before leaving the small offering baskets and banana leaves with bits of rice for the sculptures. Then she makes us breakfast- a thermos of tea, a plate of fruit and a grilled egg sandwich, which she delivers to our balcony when we wake up.

Diving requires suspension of Rational Belief
After a year or two of not diving, the Gili islands seem like a good a place as any to plunge back in. As the dive boat approaches the site, i feel the most amazing sense of panic overtaking me. I tell the Indonesian dive leader, Ronny, that I am nervous. I am told this is a good way to stop being nervous. He says no problem. He will keep an eye on me. Okay now I feel a bit better. We dive roll off the side and meet at the front of the boat. After all the regular technical checks we are ready to begin our decent.

When I get underwater I see that the ocean floor is sixty feet below me. Below me is certain death. I feel my throat seize up. This is how it ends. Dark, wet, airless, blue death. This is it. I begin to hyperventilate. I signal to Ronny that i need to return to the surface. He follows me back to to the surface.

"Whats wrong?" He asks me when we are back in the sun and the rolling waves as if I was not about to die. "I can't do this. Its too deep and I am going to die." I tell him. "No, no, its okay. you just have to breath like you normally do. In and out, you know, in and out." Oh yes, that. I try breathing. Okay it works. "Do you want to try again?" He asks me. Yes, i say because yes is the polite answer and he is so nice and slightly charming. The real answer is no. No, I would rather pull my still-living self back onto the boat and reflect on how nice it is to be alive. But I said yes, and now holding Ronny's little Indonesian hand we are descending again. I am not normally a hand holder but diving requires a certain suspense of all rational belief. I hum and look for fish until finally we are at the bottom.

When we get to the bottom, I am fine. Fish, corral, spongy little things- All my old underwater buddies are here and the surface is way above our heads. I give Ronny the "okay" sign and we swim to catch up to the group.

"We make people fly" - Lion Air slogan
Its our first domestic flight within Indonesia and we are already noticing new things.
1. Throughout the entire check-in and boarding process, no one has wanted to see my ID. This is more eerie than not taking off your shoes in security.
2. They burn incense in the airport here. all over the place. I can imagine how well that would go over at Dallas/Fort Worth
3. On the plane, in the seat pocket in front of me, I find a laminated three fold "Invocation Card" which leads us through safety prayers for Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists. Most compelling, Mark and I agree, is the Muslim prayer which thanks Allah who "has bestowed upon us the will and ability to use this aircraft." For the day we spent trying to get to the airport today, we are grateful to have arrived. I am also grateful for Lion Air. Apart from making people fly, they encourage people to pray for our safety however we choose.
4. The airline has given us the emergency exit. The extra leg room makes 6' 3" Mark very happy as we have yet to live a day in this country where he doesn't hit his head on something. Thank god(s)


Temple in Ubud, Bali
Rice offering left on the doorway to our hotel
Man on ferry headed to Gili Meno, an island off of the Island of Lombok

for more pics, see our flickr page:

Mark and Juliah

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