What Indonesian Students Love About Their Country

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 In May, I was invited by the Indonesian social organization, Gafatar, to teach an online English class to more than 150 junior and senior high school students in more than 35 provinces throughout the country. These students are homeschooled through Gafatar. I conducted the lesson via video conferencing which sort of boggles my mind since when we first visited Bali only the big cities had electricity, and you had to travel to Jakarta to make an overseas phone call. A lot has changed.

These students were very bright and engaged, and it was a wonderful experience teaching them. I assigned a homework project to write a story why they love Indonesia, and extra credit for adding an illustration and a second story about their home town. I hope you enjoy them.

Saya Cinta Indonesia

Pak Dave

 LogoGafatar

 “What I love most about Indonesia is the people. (Most of) the people here are humble, friendly, kind. I love that people, especially Javanese, say “sorry” even though they’ve done nothing wrong. I love the way people smile at each other on the streets, even if they didn’t know each other.  I love the scenery and the tradition, as well.”

Alifa Salma, Yogakarta

Note from Alifa:

Dear, Mr. Dave

My name’s Alifa Salma, but you can call me Ifa. I’m 14 years old and I’m from Jogja.  Here’s my 4-sentence story about what I love most about Indonesia. Well, I wrote 5 sentences. I’ve re-read my story countless times to make sure that there are no grammatical errors or typos, so I hope there aren’t. I hope you like it.

Sincerely, Ifa.

…She definitely received extra credit.

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The story about what I like best Indonesia.

“Indonesia is a country rich in traditional culture, one of which has a traditional children’s game. In a traditional children’s game contains the values of Indonesian public life. One example of a traditional children’s games from West Java is Gatrik.Gatrik is a game for children aged 8-12 years was carried out by two or up to five people. The necessary tools are bamboo slats measuring about 40 cm long, 2 cm wide and small blades, brick, and places a rather board. The game calculates the distance to train skill, sense of responsibility and solidarity. We as Indonesian children proud of the culture that we have.”

Describe my city.

“I live in Subang. It is located in the province of West Java. Subang is having a temperature hot enough but South of the city of Subang is having cold temperatures like Tangkuban Perahu and Ciater. Tangkuban Perahu is a tourist spot that has beautiful natural scenery, as well known stories Sangkuriang. South of the city of Subang has natural cool with winding roads, where as far as the eye could see only the stretch of the tea tree which lies on the side of the road. Ciater is also the tourist spot that has hot water containing sulfur. That have beautiful scenery and cool weather.

Unfortunately, I live exactly in the center of town Subang with temperature hot enough, but nevertheless we live in a society that likes work together, have love for one another and love of helping with neighbours.”

Author Unknown

Due to technical difficulties by Pak Dave

 Achsanul Hafizhi

Illustration by Achsanul Hafizhi

“Talk about Indonesia, the one that I love from Indonesia is its beautiful beaches even several beaches in Indonesia has been worldwide, for example coast of Raja Ampat’s beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Indonesia. Located in West Papua, this beach is the largest marine park in Indonesia and has a wealth of marine life in the world. Almost 75% of the world’s coral reefs are in Raja Ampat.

“Not only beaches, but Indonesia has everything, if Indonesia embargo itself then any other country it is difficult to get all kinds of clothing, food, and the Board because it’s called the lungs of the world.”

 Sheila Zivana

Sent from my BlackBerry®

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“I love Indonesia for its natural resources, especially from sea. Indonesia is well-known for its underwater paradise, such as Raja ampat in Papua, Wakatobi national park in Southeastern of Sulawesi, Nusa dua beach in Bali and many more. We are able to find mostly of world sea resources in Indonesian sea, like seaweed and seahorse for medical needs; pearl from mother of pearl to make jewelry; lobster, tuna, macarel and other consumable sea creatures; beautiful fish and coral; etc. I hope we will be able to take advantage wisely without destroying and bothering the peaceful nature.

Second story: My Village

“I live in a village named Grogol Tempel, which is located on Sleman Regency (Kabupaten); DIY province, since I was four years old. My village was calm and silence. I barely saw motorcycle or car, even people, passed through in front of my house. Beside my house, there was a sugarcane field, where I asked for some sugarcane to be eaten together with my friends when the harvest time.

“But now, my village is full of people. Maybe because there are some housings that was built in my village. The sugarcane field also change into a fishing ground and restaurant. A bridge was built not so long near my house, that makes the mobility much easier than in the past. I love both the past and the present of my village because it makes a valuable memories of my childhood and now.”

Maulana Alif, DIY Province, near Yogakarta

 

“I like to Indonesia because many of its crops, and I am proud to be Indonesian because Indonesia will be the world lighthouse because it was said by Ir Soekarno, I love Indonesia because of diverse ethnicities and cultures and a wide variety of his character and his nature and this one I really like her that much surrounded Indonesian island – the island almost kesuluruhan of Indonesia consists of ocean waters ie 70% and 30% land.

 Iqbal Tawakal

 “I love Indonesia because of its many cultures and their various likes. I also like its temples which are beautiful and I like to dance Indonesian dances. And the last one I love the Indonesian art and culture .”

Ridwan Morenov, Central Jakarta

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  1. I love Indonesia because of its natural beauty with its natural resources are abundant, and many tribes and races and rich language. richon in animals and plants are unique and beautiful makes me so amazed by the grace that God gave to my beloved country is Indonesia .
  2. “The city of Bandung is often called the city of flowers. With the pre-history of the building (the museum) and the coolness of the city of Bandung is often a choice made ​​local and foreign tourists. Places frequented by tourists one of the Asian-African museum and building an independent, geological museum, a white crater and valley areas.

Author Unknown (due to Pak Dave’s tech issues)

 

 

An Interesting Bali Weekend

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Warning: At some points in this story I will reveal an aggressive and impatient side to my personality that I’m sure none of you knew existed.

The weekend began with anger and frustration. For the past two weeks our neighbor, a dirt-poor man, has been driving us crazy with loud techno music blasting from his new speakers. He’s started a new pop-up bar selling tuak (palm wine) to his friends. It sounds like the music the CIA plays to make their prisoners crazy so they will reveal all of their secrets. If we had any secrets worth telling, we would have gladly spilled our guts.

What it sounds like from the pop-up bar next door.

What it sounds like from the pop-up bar next door.

We tried the nice approach at first. At our urging, Indra (our ashram founder) met with them during Galungan weekend to ask them to turn down the music. They told him it was just a holiday celebration and it would be quiet afterward. But two days after the holiday ended, the music was still blaring. Indra again walked across the road to attempt friendly persuasion. He was told that the speakers were borrowed, would be returned soon, and not to worry the loud music would cease….and it did until the next weekend. But after the Saturday workday had ended, the neighbor pounded the kulkul (wooden drum that signals time for prayer, meals, etc) to send a message that his pop-up bar and techno club was open for business. Sure enough, the drunks from the village arrived, and a big party with pounding techno music ensued…far into the night.

Kulkul, used to summon villagers to important events.

Kulkul, used to summon villagers to important events.

A series of Facebook messages from me to Indra with ever-growing urgency, and anger also was sent by Internet instead of by kulkul. The next day Indra met with Klungkung’s chief of police who said he would look into it, but that his resources were scattered because of the presidential election…blah, blah, blah.

By this time, our frustration with the Balinese limp noodle style of dodging a problem created as much anger as the throbbing techno.

On Saturday, we set out to solve the problem by meeting with the Kepala Desa (village chief). But this meeting too was done circuitously. The inability to solve a problem head-on is sometimes infuriating. But what the hell, at least we were moving. So instead of going directly to the Kepala Desa’s house, we went to SMA1 to meet with the principal about setting up a plastic recycling program. It was report card day, and the school was a madhouse. We were ushered inside and sat next to a group of three men who turned out to be the parent’s council. We had a nice chat with them about recycling and agreed the school would join our plastic recycling network, and then Indra remembered that one of them was the brother of Bali’s police chief. He then told our sad tale of techno-music battles and received some helpful advice which would have taken another two months of networking to achieve our goal of stopping the music…which did I mention: IS DRIVING US CRAZY!!

We then drove to the Kepala Desa’s house only to find he was attending an end of the year ceremony at the local elementary school.   It turns out Komang attends the same school, and is graduating, so we decided to drop by the event and accidentally meet him.

By the time we arrived, he had left but we observed a very moving ritual. All of the younger students were saying goodbye to the graduates moving onto to middle school. Our graduate, Komang, was crying her eyes out  She gave her principal a long and loving hug.

Komang hugging her principal

Komang hugging her principal

Komang and friends on last day of school.

Komang and friends on last day of school.

Afterwards, Indra and I met with the principal to discuss the possibility of setting up a plastic recycling program at the school. She was thrilled to work with us, and it turns out had been wanting to start such a program from the time she arrived at the school just four months ago.

We also got into a discussion about the challenges she faces as a new principal at a village school. It turns out that illiteracy is a major problem at the school and in the village. Kids are just not turning up to school often because their parents consider it a waste of time and would prefer their children to stay at home and help them make the beautiful temple umbrellas that the village is known for. The other problem is that she inherited an unmotivated faculty who tend to push problems under the rug. We experienced this with Komang who although naturally smart was way behind at her new school because her prior education had many gaps. She was bringing homework home that was several levels above her. The principal stepped in and worked with Komang’s teachers and Komang herself that started at the level she was, and built on it. We also started a Homework Club at the Ashram which helped her quickly build some basic math and study skills.

It worked wonders. By the end of the term, Komang won a prize for being one of the best English speakers at her school.

Back to illiteracy. The school principal has created a summer illiteracy program for these kids using some of her more motivated teachers.   Ahimsa In Action will be helping to fund the program.

Now back to our techno music problem. We returned to the Kepala Desa’s house, but he had been summoned to the police office to negotiate a fight between neighbors. The poor guy has a tough job. But during the ride Indra says, “Maybe we are approaching this problem all wrong. Instead of trying to solve it with a stick approach, (siccing the law on the guy) maybe we should figure out a way to embrace the family.”

We headed over to the neighbor’s with that thought in mind. It gave us a whole different way of looking at things. On closer inspection the pop-up bar was simply a way for this very poor family to generate some income. Not a very healthy way nor a good environment for the man’s three girls, not to mention his neighbors…but a desperate solution that worked for him. The house and his compound were about as destitute as I’ve ever seen with cracked walls and tiles, dirt floors, broken furniture. Their desperate circumstances really touched our hearts. Indra asked how he could help. Mertha, our neighbor, mentioned that they didn’t have access to water, and a connection to the new village water system would cost him $400, a sum he could never hope to save. Indra said he would pay for the connection. In addition, we are giving him one of our water tanks….and most importantly we are giving the guy a job…making plastic recycling stations. Remember, during the course of the day we had recruited two new recycling partners which means we needed to build an additional ten recycling stations. Our ashram carpenter wasn’t going to be able to do the new work…so this created a great solution for everyone.

An example of the recycling stations our new friends will make under Kadek's managment

An example of the recycling stations our new friends will make under Kadek’s managment

We left with our hearts feeling very good, and shedding a few tears of gratitude for this turn of events. It was a moving experience for all of us. Indra reflected on how Ibu Gedong was looking over us today. I thought about the healing power of love and kindness, and how it turned out to be a far more effective strategy than the use of force (law enforcement and political power) that we had first tried.

It’s been two weeks…and while the tuak parties are still raucous, there’s no techno music accompaniment. Our relationship with Mertha and his family began that day. We are embracing them as part of the ashram family and providing food, clothing, and books. A Gandhian group is coming from India next month, and they will be donating their labor to repair Mertha’s house.

Felicity and Indra delivering goody bags to our neighbors.

Felicity and Indra delivering goody bags to our neighbors.

Saturday evening was calm except for the emergency trip to the hospital with Ratna for what we thought was a heart attack, but fortunately turned out to be far less serious.

And finally, Sunday was Father’s Day a holiday that is usually not celebrated in Bali. We placed photos of our father’s in the temple, and did a ceremony honoring fathers. At the end, everyone said something about their father. It too turned out to be emotional with kids having mixed emotions about their father’s who generally were considered tough and distant. Every single one of the father’s of our ashram kids is illiterate… which circled back to our discussion the day before with the elementary school principal.  Our kids, thanks to the ashram, will be graduating high school with any who want to going on to university and graduate schools. Also pretty awesome!

Father's Day Ceremony

Father’s Day Ceremony

So a very interesting weekend ended with the roosters crowing and the dogs barking, and not a peep of music from the neighbors.

 

 

Bali Eco Club’s Field Trip…Keeping Bali Beautiful

 

Eco Club Members from SMA1 Dawan (High School) at Temesi Recycling

Eco Club Members from SMA1 Dawan (High School) at Temesi Recycling

On a field trip last week to recycling centers and one of the island’s most eco-conscious businesses, 30 high-school kids from Dawan, their principal and teachers learned how their school’s recycling efforts fit into the larger picture of cleaning up plastic pollution to Keep Bali Beautiful.

And we had a lot of fun.

Eco Clubbers on the Bus

Eco Clubbers on the Bus

SMA1’s Eco Club just recently launched the school’s recycling program in partnership with Ashram Gandhi Puri.  The Club members are responsible for doing the recycling itself, and educating the school community why we need to beat plastic pollution and Keep Bali Beautiful.  

Our first stop was Temesi Recycling which takes our plastic, glass and paper garbage.  They then sell the high value materials to recyclers in Bali and ship the lower value waste to Surabaya where it is recycled into new products.

At Temesi Recycling

At Temesi Recycling

 

 

 

Separating plastic from household garbage at Temesi

Separating plastic from household garbage at Temesi

At our next stop, the team at Bali Recycling showed us their very efficient operations, and then took us to visit an illegal dump in Gianyar Regency which has filled up a river with garbage.  The kids were outraged at this illegal and institutionalized practice which is polluting the river and the land.

Illegal dump in Gianyar Regency

Illegal dump in a riverbed, Gianyar Regency

Our final stop was in Ubud where Yoga Barn co-founder Kadek Gunarta told us the story of how his business uses environmentally-conscious practices.  He also described the success story of how his village and its families and businesses have launched a comprehensive system to reduce waste, conserve energy and water and recycle.  It ended the day on a very positive note.

Eco Club Partners with Kadek Gunarta at Yoga Barn, Ubud.

Eco Club Partners with Kadek Gunarta at Yoga Barn, Ubud.

We all still have a lot to learn about how to be Eco Clubbers. But we’re convinced this will be a great learning experience for all concerned.  In fact, today SMA1 conducted a village wide clean-up day where Eco Clubbers led the way in picking up and recycling plastic and other waste.

The SMA1 Negara Dawan recycling program is a partnership between the school and Ashram Gandhi Puri.  Our other key partners are Ahimsa In Action which funds the project, Temesi Recycling who takes our separated waste and Yoga Barn which contributed our program’s recycling stations and storage shed at cost.

If you would like to help grow our Keep Bali Beautiful program, please consider a donation to Ahimsa In Action.  Your donation is tax-deductible in the USA.  Go to http://www.AhimsaInAction.com  and click support at the top right of the home page.

Our Principal, Kawenuh and Pak Dave

Our Principal, Kawenuh and Pak Dave

Lunch at Yoga Barn

Lunch at Yoga Barn

Sorting the garbage at Temesi

Sorting the garbage at Temesi

 

Good Whips Evil in Bali Holiday Bash

Panjor at Ashram Gandhi Puri

Panjor at Ashram Gandhi Puri

Twice a year the Balinese celebrate the ten-day Galungan holiday which symbolizes the fight between good and evil….And every six months evil gets its butt kicked.

One of the forces that helps defeat evil during Galungan is the strength of Balinese families. Not only can all the living family members be called upon to help, but conveniently, Galungan is a time when all the ancestors happen to be visiting so they too can summoned as spiritual reinforcements.

Ancestors Temple

Ancestors Temple

And finally, Galungan is a family holiday where mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and kids gather to swap the latest family gossip, catch up on family news and pray together.

Kadek and Wenni

Kadek and Wenni

Ashram men

Ashram men

Ririn and Ogek

Ririn and Ogek

Of course, the drama of evil versus good, ancestor worship and family reunion that make up Galungan are celebrated with ritual and ceremony. We were part of all this on the last day of Galungan when Indra invited us to his family temple for their Galungan ceremony.

Our Pandita is Indra's 82 year-old uncle, a former boxer.

Our Pandita is Indra’s 82 year-old uncle, a former boxer.

Neutralizing the evil spirits with arak and a feast

Neutralizing the evil spirits with arak and a feast

The family temple is located on a mountain top which requiring a steep 30-minute hike through groves of coconut, clove and nutmeg trees. It features a large temple for the ancestors and numerous other smaller temples for the other Gods watching over the family members. The family is part of the Arya Kaloping clan which over the past several hundred years has spread out across Bali and the world. But wherever a family members is located, he or she will always have this place to call home. It’s a very powerful way to keep grounded especially in today’s mobile society.

Offerings

Offerings

Bayu helping to get ready

Bayu helping to get ready

Temple at snset

Temple at sunset

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The family welcomed us as their own to the ceremony. It began by neutralizing the evil gods by giving them some arak (palm whiskey) and stuffing them with food such as eggs and coconut. How else would you deal with evil?

After temporarily subduing evil, the ceremony could move on to the traditional Balinese prayers, water purification ceremony and honoring the ancestors.

After the ceremony we ate a communal dinner of rice, chicken and a country sambal (spicy sauce) that made me sweat even in the cool evening air…

Nengah loses at dominoes and wears a banana on his ear

Nengah loses at dominoes and wears a banana on his ear

And finally we spent the night visiting and then fell asleep under the stars.

Crescent moon above the temple

Crescent moon above the temple

Final Score: Good: 10   Evil: 0….but a rematch has been scheduled in six months.

Canti,

Pak Dave

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Keeping Bali Beautiful

Clean-Up with our Partners at SMA2 High School

Clean-Up Day with our Partners at SMA2 High School

 Plastic pollution is a huge problem in Bali.  It seems that every river, every beach, every village, every temple, and every household is becoming blighted by discarded bottles, bags and other plastic rubbish.

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Our first step was to clean up our own act.

You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  -Gandhi

At the ashram we decided that enough was enough.  We researched whether there are credible plastic recyclers on the island, and there are, and we put together a deal with them to pick up our plastic garbage.

It took some time for our ashram members to grasp the concept of recycling after a lifetime of simply throwing rubbish on the ground.  But after a couple of months they caught on and embraced it.

We knew there was a breakthrough when Kadek and Komang returned from a weekend trip to their village to tell us how much they hated the “plastic sampah,” littering their home, and what a shame it was that the villagers didn’t recycle.

We really knew we had made progress when Kawenuh talked his high school principal into starting a recycling program.  Kawenuh also took the lead in organizing an Eco Club at the school to operate the program and educate all of the students at the school.

SMA1 Eco Club

SMA1 Eco Club

We’ve now begun to expand our little recycling operation into more schools and hopefully our village of Pakse Bali. We’re hopeful of making progress, but our eyes are open to the many obstacles we will face….of which we will keep you posted.

If you’d like to help with our Bali Recycling Program, go to: Ahimsa In Action

Rock ‘n’ Roll Bali

 

Triple XXX Bali Rock Band

Triple XXX Bali Rock Band

As usual, I was confused about our destination.  I thought we were going to a farmer’s market where we would see our friend Darmawan.  Instead I attended my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert in Bali which turned out to be a very entertaining, but culturally dissonant evening with the ashram teenagers.

We actually did see Darmawan.  His organic farm was selling papaya, honey, eggs and rice at a booth at the Klungkung Expo.  Downtown Klungkung was closed down for the three-day event which celebrated the 106th anniversary of the Klungkung Puputan (ritual march to the death) against the Dutch colonial army.

Klungkung Puputan

Klungkung Puputan

The puputan was triggered by a Balinese revolt against a Dutch attempt to impose an opium monopoly.  Klungkung was the last kingdom holding out against the Dutch invaders. Hopelessly outnumbered and weaponed only with bamboo spears, the King of Klungkung led 200 members of his family and court in a puputan into the face of the Dutch guns. All of the group were either killed or committed ritual suicide.

Apparently, not all of the Balinese kings chose the honorable ritual of puputan, but instead made nice with the Dutch for which they were rewarded with wealth and position.  There’s still some hostility because of it, and the people of Klungkung continue to be proud of their heritage of refusing to knuckle under to the invaders.

Klungkung King who Led the Puputan

Klungkung King who Led the Puputan

Why celebrate a defeat and a very bloody one at that?  I can’t claim to fully understand it, but the puputan is celebrated because it represents the intense pride and honor the Balinese people feel about their culture even in the face of continuing external challenges from modern values and an economic system.

It’s been interesting to see a similar struggle that Balinese young people have of working a job in a hotel in the city, but being required to take off during the week to ride home to your village for ceremonies. It’s tiring and not so great for your career, but so far it seems (and there’s an intense debate about this here) culture and Balinese family values are winning.

Which brings me to the rock concert, the very definition of a western invasion. The featured band was Triple X, a group of local young men from Klungkung that had made it big in the Balinese rock scene.  Who knew there was a Balinese rock scene?

Dinner at the Klungkung Night Market

Dinner at the Klungkung Night Market

Being an old fart, I was all for going home after dinner.  But the ashram teenagers forced me to attend the concert.  Triple X brilliantly danced between the two worlds of western values and traditional Balinese culture that our ashram members…all of Bali…traverses in their daily lives.

Triple X combined loud electric guitar riffs, raucous acoustics, and rock star stage theater with lyrics and video that celebrated puputan in a way that really spoke to this Balinese crowd which two weeks before was dressed in sarongs and celebrating Ogoh-Ogoh (See the Blog Shh…It’s Nyepi)  I particularly liked the way Triple X satirized the line every tourist hears, “Hello Mister, Welcome to Bali” with humor and hipness.

But the strangest thing of all was what happened after Triple X would end a loud, raucous rock song…Nearly complete silence.  Very little applause, no screams of pleasure.  It was cultural dissonance at its very best.

Canti and Rock On!

 

Easter In Bali…Selamat Paskah

You might think it would have been awkward celebrating Easter at a Gandhian Ashram on the Hindu island of Bali in the most populous Muslim country in the world.  But it turned out to be one of the most meaningful Easter’s we’ve ever experienced.

Our leader, Indra Udayana, welcomed our teaching the kids some of the fun

Coloring Easter Eggs

Coloring Easter Eggs

and serious traditions of Easter.  The day before we colored Easter eggs which the kids took to a whole new level with their awesome drawing ability.

 

Easter morning began with our regular prayers at 5am, and then an enthusiastic Easter Egg hunt.

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Drawing Talent Is Just in the  Balinese Blood

Drawing Talent Is Just in the Balinese Blood

Afterwards, we attended Easter Service at Saint Sisillya Catholic Church.  We

At St. Sisillya Catholic Church with Indra, ashram members Kadek and Komang and choir members.

At St. Sisillya Catholic Church with Indra, ashram members Kadek and Komang and choir members.

were warmly welcomed by the Pastor and its 200 members.  Their new church just recently opened, and is beautifully decorated with familiar Christian art work some of which is rendered in traditional Balinese painting methods.

Christ on the Cross rendered in Kamasan village art style

Christ on the Cross rendered in Kamasan village art style

Last Supper

Last Supper

After evening prayers, we gathered in the garden around a statue of Mother Mary.  Felicity and our friend Amma from Brisbane, Australia shared some thoughts about the meaning of Easter with our Ashram members.  We recited the Our Father prayer, and finished by demolishing a bowl full of chocolate Easter eggs.  There were a few unsettled stomachs this morning.

Felicity and Amma talking about Easter at ashram's Mother Mary statue

Felicity and Amma talking about Easter at ashram’s Mother Mary statue

One of the things I love most about following the Gandhian path is how it treats all religions. One of the eleven principles we live by at Ashram Gandhi Puri is Sarva Dharma Samanatva which means respect for all religions.  In fact, Gandhi carried a copy of the Sermon of the Mount with him along with the Hindu text Bhagavad Gite and the Koran.  Even though Hindu mantras are the core of our daily prayers, we also say the Our Father prayer and some of the important Muslim prayers.  I’ve also attended Ramadan celebrations where the ashram members have sung these Muslim hymns. I also love living in Indonesia because of its strong respect for the diversity of religious worship.  With some exceptions, there is a lot of tolerance for the country’s recognized religions.  The Catholic priest at St. Sisillya told me that his church has never faced a challenge from the larger Hindu or Muslim religions, and in fact received support from the government to build the new church.

at Ramadan last year

at Ramadan last year

Chatting up the girls last year at Ramadan

Chatting up the girls last year at Ramadan

We hope your Easter and Passover Celebrations were great. Selamat Paskah (Happy Easter), Salaam, Shalom, Canti

Birthday Party for Our Village Temple

Every day there are dozens of religious ceremonies in villages across Bali.  Last week, our village of Pakse Bali celebrated the birthday of its main village temple.

Offerings provided by every family.

Offerings provided by every family.

One of the temple shrines

One of the temple shrines

What’s fun about a village ceremony like this is that it’s not only a religious occasion, it’s also a chance to see the village kids showing off their Balinese dance skills, listen to the village musicians get their gamelan on, test your gambling skills and watch the Balinese shadow puppets (Wayang Kulit) perform.

Gamblers awaiting their customers to finish prayers.

Gamblers awaiting their customers to finish prayers.

We first said our greetings to our neighbors and to the village chief, and entered the grounds for prayers and blessings from the priests.  All families brought offerings of flowers, and blessings of fruit and snacks for the Gods.

Fortunately, Balinese Hindu Gods only eat the spiritual essence of these gifts which left the goodies for us to eat while we watched the dances, observed the gamblers and stayed awake long enough to see the Wayang Kulit.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!!

Ashram members all dressed up for the event

Ashram members all dressed up for the event

Shhh…It’s Nyepi

Nyepi is a day of silence in Bali by people…although the chickens, dogs and crickets have not received the memo. The airport shuts down. No driving. No Internet. No working. No phone calls. No lights on outside. No visiting neighbors. Whispering. The idea is to stay so silent that the evil spirits who were lurking just before the Hindu New Year, get so bored with island that they pass it by for more fun elsewhere.   It’s also very peaceful. No honking, traffic or truck brakes. The sound of the chickens, dogs, cows, birds and crickets dominated the stage. Felicity held a tea party for the Ashram girls. Dave did yoga without the rock music he usually plays. (We must all make our sacrifices.) Here is a video of what Nyepi sounded like. But the night before Nyepi, NOISY!

Ogoh Ogoh Monster

Ogoh Ogoh Monster

It’s a big party to rile up and confuse the evil spirits. It’s called Ogoh Ogoh.  The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). There are parades of fun (supposedly scary) monster statues that are taken to the cemetery and burned. It finishes up with a fire dance in which young men whip each other with burning sticks all in the name of purification, balancing out the negative energy. Anyways, after Oga Oga, comes peace…Nyepi and the Hindu New Year!! Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi!!

Organic Farming…Bali Style

IMG_1428Meet Darmawan

This field of flowers is helping him reverse the trend of the best and brightest in his Balinese village of Tangkas moving to the big city for better paying jobs.

These flowers…grown organically…and other organic crops such as rice, papaya, mushrooms and vegetables can be sold for a higher profit…thanks to the tourists who are willing to pay a premium for them.  The extra profit helps drive the economics that give young people more incentive to continue living in the village.

Darmawan is university-trained and in a sense is an agro-entrepeneur.  He comes from a long line of farmers who have lived in Tangkas for many generations.  He’s pioneered many of these organic techniques himself, but unlike many farmers, he brings a sophisticated knowledge of marketing and distribution to the farm.  In addition, he’s teaching the young people in his village how to do the same through a training program called Integrated Farming System. Max and his buddies Joe and Alex will be working with Darmawan this summer. Will keep you posted.