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February 12, 2008 - Ubud, Bali

Written by GingerBlossom Published in
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Ooff, back to reality this afternoon, I have to go back to Kuta to finish business - this has been Fantasy Island for me, these last 5 days in Ubud. I thought about some of the places that I've had meals, and they've included overlooking beautiful green rice paddies, a lotus bed in bloom, swimming pools, and lush green gardens, and yesterday's lunch setting was the best.

I stayed in town, as Gusti and I had worked hard the previous day, and I took a walk out to the west of town, where I hadn't been before, all of the villages that we went to were south, east, and north of town. Wow, what a change - deep, dramatic gorges falling down to a rushing stream, with the walls of the chasm lined in ferns, bouganvillea, palm trees, variegated split leave rhododendron?? (chartreuse and yellow, no less), vines, and who knows what else - breathtaking. This was also the most expensive meal that I've had in Bali ($7.50, with the tip) but worth absolutely every penny just for the view, with the table almost hanging into the gorge. As vegetarian offerings were scant, I had gado gado, but this was gado gado with a twist, instead of the usual hardboiled egg, this was a Balinese style Chinese 100 year old egg, the sort of dried up and spicy/fermented ones, but delicious, and home made sambal, or chile sauce, served in a banana leaf boat, etc. When I worked at the ski areas, I used to imagine what it would be like to be on the receiving end of service, rather than the service end of service, and I do have to say that I enjoy it.

I also said goodbye to Itty Bitty, he was the Itty Bitty Lizard who lived behind my mirror, and he was also the one who, singlehandedly, took care of the ant problem after I had left fruit out in the room. The Big Guy on the ceiling went for bigger game, but Itty Bitty was quite content with tiny ants, in large quantities.

I've gotten a few emails from people asking what kind of things that I'm finding in Bali. Lots, let's see if I can remember all. As a self-proclaimed Textile Nerd, of course what comes to mind first are the back-strapped loomed, veg. dye Ikat weavings from Sumba. Lots of primitives, statuary, carvings from Timor and Papau, New Guinea. Timor is interesting, it seems that it was isolated enough that it escaped the waves of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, that washed over most of south east Asia. At some point West Timor, at least, became largely Christian, but kept a lot of their animistic beliefs as well, so the art reflects a lot of the old culture.

I had wondered about Victor's name ( he's from Timor), if he had changed it to make it more easily remembered by westerners. As it turns out, I had met his niece here in Ubud, as well as another older niece, and a brother - I think every single Timor trader in Bali is from the same family. Anyway, Regina, the niece, said that Timor is full of Victors, its a common name.

Also bought wood shields and bark paintings from Papau, furniture, both teak and mahogony, one bed was made by an old Dutch man, he was a hanger-on from Colonial times, its mahagony, with carving, and a beautiful wax finish, it really shows off the wood, most of the other furniture is made from old recyled teak, so I don't have to worry about it cracking. What else?, Lambok baskets, mirrors, fine wood carving, masks, percussion instruments (it was hard doing business with the drummers, they had a hard time keeping their hands off of the drums and not playing them, but that's as it should be, made by real drummers), carved stone, garden things, summer costume jewelry.

Yesterday I found beaded baskets that I've never seen before, other than in Ubud. I asked the girl who had them, what the "business price" would be if I bought many, she gave me a figure that was about a third of what I thought it would be. I can't play poker, I don't have a poker face, and she must have seen that on my face, I was in shock, so she said - last price, - I guess she thought I was in shock at it being high, and was going to start to bargain. I just said OK, and started selecting baskets.

Looking at them closely, I started feeling guilty, these were really well made, and each one was more beautiful than the last, and wondered if I should offer her MORE than she had wanted. She solved that dilemna for me, by showering me with free water, and incense, so I know she was very happy with the price, as was I, that's the way trade should be, where everyone is happy at the end of the day.

I've got a different driver to take me back to Kuta, but he was recommended by Gusti,(Mr. Rogers Balinese double) so he should be ok, I've got to drop stuff off at the shippers, and look at chairs on the way back. Gusti had gotten a phone call from a buyer who he had schlepped around before, she had to get silver, and Gusti knows the suppliers, not every driver has the skill, knowledge, and dedication that Gusti does, so I was glad to have met him, and glad that his kindness and hardwork are rewarded with a full schedule. (He also is learning Spanish , so we spent some time going over key phrases to help him with his Spanish speaking wholesale buyers). I guess instead of being sad to leave Ubud, I should be grateful that I even got to see it, and on the bright side, Kuta hotel has HBO, and Memoires of a Geisha is playing this week, which I always wanted to see.