Monday, April 29, 2013

The Many Faces of Wayan

As we got ready to travel to Indonesia, we experienced a wonderful feeling of excitement tinged with uncertainty.  During our last 10 months of travel, we were able to relate to the cultures and people of the Americas and of New Zealand and Australia.  We either shared aspects of history (English colonies, world war allies), religion or language (or at least some of the language).  But Indonesia, Malaysia and Southeast Asia were big steps into the unknowns of language, religion, and other elements of culture.

Imagine our surprise, then, to learn that it would be much easier to learn names in Bali, Indonesia than in Australia or New Zealand. There are only four names:  Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Kedut.  The names are in birth order from the firstborn (Wayan) to the forth child (Kedut).  If families are larger, they begin again at Wayan.  The first two names have possible gender derivatives (Gede for a first born male and Ilu for a female; Kadek for a second born male and Nendah for a female.  One of our many Wayans shared with us that having at least four children was common in the past.  He explained as family planning and birth control became accessible in the last decade or so, most
families are choosing to have two children.  The challenge for some families with only girl children is that it is the sons who stay home, building their own home in traditional Balinese compounds, and caring for the family temple.  Girl children move into the compound of their in-laws.  In a culture that centers each day on their spirituality, ceremonies and rituals in temples, it is vital that the family have sons for the daily activity and care of the temple.

We have been awestruck at the central role that Hindu spirituality plays in the lives of  the people we meet.  We have been humbled by their willingness to share in their ceremonies and their activities.  Their religious life is open, constantly prevalent, and rich.  Most people spend up to 20% of an average annual salary of $1,000 to $1,500 on their ceremonies of names, births, deaths, full moons, calendar days, anniversaries, etc.  Everywhere we walk, food and flowers, and the gods that receive them, are omnipresent.

Just when we thought we were beginning to understand Balinese names, we met Agus and Norman today.   So much to learn, so little time till we move on to Borneo and Malaysia.

Images are of three wonderful Wayans we met.  Our most excellent driver and new friend, a young woman at the restaurant of an Ecolodge where we stayed, and the boat captain who took us out fishing near Amed.

Posted in Lovina, Bali, Indonesia

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dusk to Dawn

One wonders what pattern of living you might enjoy if completely free to choose.  We have learned to savor dusk and dawn.  We plan trips, outings, and places to stay around opportunities to enjoy twilight times.  Both dusk and dawn are magical transition times in which one world quiets down while the other awakens.   And as you will see below, all species, including our own, are influenced by these special moments of change as the earth fades from or faces the sun each day.
The best example of such transitions might just come from a tiny mining town, Pine Creek, Australia.  Pine Creek has a few hundred people but thousands of birds and bats.  At dusk, for reasons no one really understands, thousands of birds from dozens of species pour into a few trees in a small park.  The glint of the old dying light shines off the crimson bellies of rainbow lorikeets and transforms the metallic aquamarine color of rainbow honeyeaters to an ocean blue in the last rays of sunlight.  The bird chorus rises to deafening proportions as they cry out their final songs into the night and ghostly bats fill the blood orange colored horizon flying in from daytime roosts.  At dawn, the bats ease away and the birds begin their raucous calls an hour before the first glint of sun fills the morning sky.

It is in places like Pine Creek that we have found a passion that causes us to walk into the forest in the dusk, lights turned off unless necessary.  We have held still for the better part of a night listening for the crackling footsteps of one of the kiwi species to emerge on a moonlit trail in New Zealand.  At dawn on a beach in Australia, we searched for and followed tiny flipper prints of hatchling sea turtles emerging at midnight from a nest and racing toward the sea.  In Costa Rica we walked behind a guide and found three- and two-toed sloths moving slowly through the trees.  We observed vipers poised to strike, waiting for the heat signature of a smaller mammalian prey.  In Australia we snuck out onto a canopy bridge and trail walk and found, to our night adjusted eyes' delight, a glen of Gloworms.  Gloworms are fungal larvae that spin single strand webs dangling their attractive nighttime offer of light to unsuspecting moth prey.  The musky smell of decaying Eucalyptus will be imprinted in our memories along with the sight of their blue green lights glowing softly like a tiny field of stars in the forest.

And it is not only the other animal species that attract our attention from dusk to dawn.  Human patterns of vibrant life differ across the world as well.  In Argentina, we cruise the street at 5 am in a taxi heading for the airport to watch the first customers begin to emerge from clubs and tango joints.  We found out, much to our dismay, that even 9 pm was too early for dinner in many places including a restaurant we loved in Buenos Aires.  Yet in New Zealand, hostels close their doors by 6 or 7 pm and in Australia, even on a Saturday night, the miners in Pine Creek call 10 pm a late night.

We have purchased a strong light to aid us in our nighttime hunts for koalas, spiders, honey gliders and wallabies.  We have spent many early predawn mornings slipping out of hostels or campgrounds quietly and heading somewhere in the dark to watch one world lie down and another awaken, reborn again. As we prepare for Indonesia and Malaysia, we wonder what will emerge in those distant locales at dusk and dawn.

Images are of a sign near Nimbin, Australia; Sally communing with a wallaby in Katherine Gorge National Park, Australia; and of our first Costa Rica nighttime tour guide at Pasion tours, Marcus, who was training a your apprentice on the arts of insect ID.

Posted in Darwin, Australia

Monday, April 1, 2013

Who are you and what have you done with my partner?

We wanted to share a bit about the origin of our most common, almost daily saying.  "Who are you and what have you done with my partner?"

Who are you....

As I reflect on the past nine months, I realize that Jess has changed.  Actually, we have both amazed each other at times with our ability to adapt to whatever the current situation demands.  Jess, however, has slowly migrated from what her family labeled as "messy Jessie" to "neat complete."  This has led me to ask myself (sometimes with great humor) "Who ARE you and WHAT have you done with my partner?"

In our home life, Jess cooked and I cleaned.  That was due mostly to the fact that I neither liked to cook nor wanted to learn, and Jess loved working in the kitchen, creating wonderful and tasty delights.  As we have traveled together, the same has been true, but because of limited spaces and unique circumstances, we have both found it necessary to assist each other in ways that are not familiar to either of us.  Jess's abilities to put things back where they belong, put lids onto bottles tightly, and keep her gear organized have become phenomenal.  Her prompting me to consider doing laundry when a clean change of clothes still exists has been beyond my comprehension.

Our travels together have only solidified my admiration for this person who means so much to me.  Jess has always been an amazing person, with a calm, confident inner strength that most of us can only dream about.  Her ability to handle multifaceted, difficult, sometimes unpleasant, tasks is mind boggling, as is her incredible ability to work with all types of people.  My role in her life has been one of consistency and stability.....a shoulder to cry on when necessary.  Now, as we share the challenges and rewards of our travels, she has adapted to the necessary, immediate consistency of time and place.  As I watch her rinse out coffee and tea mugs before she puts them away in the car, I smile because there will not be coffee stains on the carpet of the rental car, and the cups will be easily found in the morning as we make our travel beverages.

As I smile at the above descriptions, I reflect on how lucky I am to have found such an incredible person.  Her ability to adapt to my peculiar tendencies has been one of the main stays of our relationship, especially during our travels.  As we travel the world, I sincerely hope I can continuously ask "Who ARE you and WHAT have you done with my partner?" as we both learn, grow, and adapt together.

... and what have you done with my partner?

After more than 20 years of living with another, you come to believe that you know them intimately, thoroughly, and can predict their actions and reactions.  Such are the survival skills of partnership.  So you can imagine our surprise as we began a trip together in a space smaller than our closet and our most common phrase quickly became "Who are you and what have you done with Sally (or Jess)?

We surprised each other.  To best explain how Sally surprised me, one has to understand that for most of her life, she has survived and excelled through consistency.  Such a skill can also lead one to be a bit resistant to change, be a little risk averse, and be conservative.  Somehow, after over 60 years of practicing those traits, she has set them aside.  Sally embraced the idea and action of change as we sold or gave away all that was familiar and hit the road. She is always ready each day for a new place or setting, trying a new food or drink, using wifi, playing words with friends, and showing patience with me, even when I move all of her stuff around and forget to tell her where I put any of it.  She is quick to shrug off the small stuff and thoughtful in facing the big stuff.  And she takes risks.  She takes them emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially as we venture forward.  Life is not always easy as memory fails and hard won physical strength fades with age and such can frustrate.  Yet what really stands out is not what is lost, but what my partner gains each day as she faces a night in a new hostel, a steep and uncertain road, or an urban adventure with the keen curiosity of a child again.

I know that people wondered how we might get along given the tight quarters and intense nature of international travel together. Sure, we occasionally need to talk things through and explain what we need if tensions arise, but most days, in fact every day, I am delighted and honored to travel with someone who understands that to live is to grow.

Posted from Nimbin, NSW, Australia