Rice Noodles

Moving into our new place for the month of May brought some good changes (though we miss Wayan and her breakfasts on the terrace. This new place does not feed us). For one thing, we have wifi right in our room, which gives us such freedom (to be chained). To prove to ourselves that we are living here now and not just visiting, we stay at home some days, to read, blog, swim, or  just breath deeply and thank our stars (we did this back home too).

From our second floor terrace, we look east through the trees, over the river gorge behind the property, and way out beyond to fields and tall trees even further off in the distance. Often at night we can hear events coming from that area: music; sporting events; chanting; men through loud speakers; etc. One day, it was time to investigate, time to what we call “noodle”.

The walk around the long block is an adventure on it’s own. We live on the cusp of Ubud and the villages of Kuning and Pengosekan. Turning south down our street is quite different from heading north, and we love having both worlds within reach. We stroll past warungs and food stalls rather than restaurants. The sidewalks -if any- are unkempt, and we are usually the only non-locals around. The next street dips downward slowly to cross the river, and then rises again. It’s shaded and lush, but has a steady stream of motorbikes. We pass by wood carvers, stone carvers, and painters at work, and flower shops. At the next intersection -a big and busy one- I stop and watch the traffic, and study again how chaotic yet elastic and forgiving it all is.

A few minutes later we see a wide, gravely entryway to something that might be what we’re looking for, so away from the traffic and noise we head. It turns into quite the interesting place, cool and shaded, hardly anyone else around. On the left side is a large temple grounds, complete with a baby-eating ogre carved from stone, standing outside the gate to scare off evil spirits. Nearby is a sunken arena, with a large circular cage in the middle. It is where a bi-annual cock-fight event happens, as part of a special religious ceremony. To the right is a small cemetery, divided into 2 parts; simple wooden tombstones for the Balinese Hindus, waiting for their cremations; and permanent, resting grounds made of marble, for the Chinese Buddhists. Beyond it, is a large soccer field (more dirt than grass), with a bunch of kids playing, and many school-like buildings and the edge of a village, which we later explored.

But our favorite part is in the middle, down a cement stairway. An old man bathes in the river at the bottom, near the ubiquitous shrine. Out in front of us, lie many rice fields, and a team of workers, harvesting. Out at the end of all this, somewhere beyond those lush river trees, is our terrace. We’ve seen these sorts of fields often. Those that have already been harvested appear as rows and columns of brown stumps, surrounded by water that reflects the sky, and hundreds of quacking, happy ducks, eating the leftovers, and leaving nitrogen. A long, raised cement path splits these brown, short fields from the tall, green ones, and separates the ducks from the people standing in them. They wear conical straw hats, and netted outfits over their clothes, as they each perform their tasks. Some cut and gather the tall stalks into bunches. Others take the bunches to large, tall baskets, where they whack them repeatedly into the containers. The rice grains grow on the stalks, and this process collects the grain. Other workers sift through piles of grain, or fill up large canvas bags from those piles, and put them to rest on the cement path. In typical, beautiful, Balinese fashion, a small Hindu offering lies atop the finished canvas bags.

There’s something else we notice -again. The Balinese women work HARD. Every day, we can see women -particularly older ones, doing extremely difficult acts of manual labor: carrying heavy sacks on their heads; pushing wheel-barrels of sand; lifting large rocks; etc. And not only does their ability to do this surprise us (they don’t look capable), but also, rarely do we see men working as hard. In fact, as with this group in front of us, the men are sitting down, just relaxing on the path, while the women are shin-deep in mud, busting themselves. We’ve seen this many times, and even the Balinese acknowledge it. In fact, there’s a running joke in Bali about it that stems from the groups of men you often do see, sitting in circles, socializing, petting their prized-fighting roosters for hours on end: while the women are working hard, the men are stroking their… birds.

Ahem, on that note, I think I’ll wrap this up.


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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Liz
    May 21, 2013 @ 00:52:11

    Thanks so much for your blog! We miss you and yet feel like you are right across the back yard fence, just as usual! Ozzie and Oscar seem good. Ozzie in the neighbor’s lap in the back garden one afternoon. All is good here. L & K


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