Here, There, and Everywhere

The day of Kuningan is a big deal. It’s the end of a 10 day celebration in Bali, and is when farewells are said to the ancestors and friendly spirits who descended here at the start. We decided to take part in the ceremonies in a village South of Ubud called Mas, known for its wood-carving. Along the main street are endless shops displaying wooden furniture of all types, shapes and sizes, including gigantic pieces of the bottom roots of large trees being turned into beautiful, artsy tables. Two things drew our attention to Mas in recent weeks. The first was the Mas mask and puppet museum, which is worth the back-roads hunt to find it. We recently visited it a second time in just a few weeks, this time with our friend Heiner. The second is because if the trafic is bad in southern Ubud, Mas can be a useful detour on our way to visit Jingga.

About 2 weeks ago, Jingga suddenly took a bad turn downward. A couple of days into it, he was worse, and just looked so sad and ready to die. This was a Friday, and we spoke for the first time about euthenasia with Villa Kitty’s Director, Elizabeth. We’re all firm supporters of the concept, and easily favor quality of life over quantity, and until now, always felt that he’d pull through and that his pain and discomfort did not outweigh the prospects for a full recovery. We decided that we’d come back late the next day, after the Kuningan ceremonies in Mas, and that if Jingga was still in such bad shape -which seemed likely- that we’d have him euthenized on Sunday, which is the day such things are done there. We were very saddened of course, and I felt especially bad for putting him through his last 2-3 months of struggle for potentially no reason.

We awoke the next morning and headed to the temple in Mas. It’s a large, terraced temple complax, with stairs that lead to varied walled courtyards and adjoining temple areas. It was buzzing. Uncertain of just how to proceed or what the routine was, we found a particularly crowded outdoor temple and entered from the back, and sat down on the last, small space of ground that remained unused. Near by, in the bale, sat 20 or so young gamelon musicians. We took out our offering baskets and followed along as best we could, and then stood and remained there as the prayer session ended and everyone filtered out the back past us. Eventually we were the only ones still there and then figured out about the hundreds of worshipers who were waiting to enter from the front for the next session -of many more to come. We moved up and found a rare small curb to sit on, in front of the priest’s bale. We got comfortable and watched magic follow. Down the stairs came the hundreds of Bali worshippers, dressed in the ceremonial best, carrying their baskets and assorted offerings to the front tables where they’d be blessed. Then they searched for a place to sit down, facing the front, and lit incense, as we did. A beautiful array of trees, flowers, and decorated parasols framed the ornate walls of this sunken temple, as the gamelon orchestra played until everyone was seated (upon their sandles) and it was time to pray. On command, everyone would select a particulat flower from their basket and hold it between their fingers with both hands raised in prayer against their forheads, while the priest chanted and rang bells. This action was repeated 3-4 times and took just a few minutes of prayer, and then the water blessing ritual began. Several men and women dressed in white, siften through the crowd, starting with the front rows, and doused each person through a particular regiment of douse and response. Each worshippers then stood up and gathered their baskets from the front tables and left, out the back, soon to be replaced with the next wave of hundreds of worshippers, and on and on, each wave leaving behind a growing carpet of burnt incense, flower pettals and stomped baskets. It was visually beautiful -as were the sounds, and the collective spiritually energy was mesmerizing, We fell in love with the whole experience, and sat still through 4 more prayer session. We were pretty wet by the time we finaly decided to move on!

We didn’t realize that our day in that temple complex was just begining, until we exited out the back and followed the masses to areas we didnt know existed: large crowded bales with beautiful music and dance performances going on all day; prayer rituals and offerings being given in smaller temples; an interesting social scene situated around the tall banyan tree and adjoining courtyard; and a large covered market with tasty food stalls, shops, and childrens games. The market had a small town fair feel to it, and we learned that it was just that: built temporarily on the small soccer field, it would be struck down in 3 days, but would return in 210 days for the next round of Galungan and Kuningan.

We stayed for hours, and really enjoyed it so much. And we wondered about the prospects for moving to Mas in September when our current lease expires. But we also both knew that the day was heading towards a visit to Villa Kitty, and a likely farewell to Jingga. Elizabeth had kindly invited us for dinner (she lives there) to help drown our collective sorrows. But as we stepped foot into Jingga’s area, an amazing thing happened. Upon hearing our voices, he stood up, began talking to us like never before, and scratching his floor in happiness. Life had returned to his eyes, and he purred with us. This was by far the happiest and best he’d looked since his injury in March. It was totally unexpected, and inexplicable -except maybe for one thing in retrospect. His sudden and deep fall fairly coincided with moving him into a new, seemingly better area of Villa Kitty, and now he was back in his old familiar setting. We had a lovely dinner with Elizabeth and drank happy toasts to Jingga and all cats and all animals. It was a happy night, and we all agreed to spare Jingga his ill fate and watch what happens. He’s been doing fine since then, but still has a lot of mending to do -which is still not gauranteed.

A few days later we needed to leave the country to get our visas restamped (we need to do so every 6 months). We chose to revisit Singapore for 2 nights and 3 days, and had a great time -albeit we wore ourselves out. It’s a fascinating country/city/island, and it felt good to revisit. We spent parts of 2 days sitting on the hop-on hop-off bus, which is a great way to go. And we took a water taxi to the bay area on our final day, which gives a closer look at some of the world’s most interesting buildings. Again we loved Little India, and Arab Street (where we had a nice anniversary dinner), and Chinatown, downtown, Orchard Street, the Cathay theater museum, their incredible malls, and the river quays. It’s clean, and safe, and the subway train system works great.

Tomorrow we head off again, this time to Borneo for 2 weeks. Jennifer can hardly contain herself because it’s always been one of her most anticipated travel destinations. Last night we rewatched the Borneo part of Ring of Fire (Blair brothers documentary for the 1970’s. Check it out). What an amazing experience they had there.


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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matt Colonell
    Jun 15, 2014 @ 16:30:34

    Hi Matt & Jen — Thanks for the great post. So glad Jingga is looking better! I loved your pictures, especially your self-portrait in the reflection of the large building in Singapore.


  2. Alexsandra Trevor
    Jun 15, 2014 @ 17:32:33

    So happy you are getting to do the Borneo trip. I will have to wait till I return in Sept. You two can give me all the pointers then. Thanks for keeping us posted!


  3. Emily Han Zimmerman
    Jun 15, 2014 @ 18:49:51

    Thanks for the description of the Kuningan festival; sounds intoxicating. I’m glad Jingga’s OK.


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