17th Nov 2015

#StoryTailor #CutPraySew #FollowTheThreads

Wearing full length shirt and pants on a crazy hot day, sunglasses, helmet and face mask, I make my way up the Mount Batur. Past the endless wood carvings, shops, rice fields, fruit stands and yes… through a police checkpoint. Although I was forewarned by a local who chased me along the road not to proceed, I decided not to follow this stranger down some remote back road instead… decisions, decisions…I kindly thanked him for his advice and went on to go see for myself. Sure enough. Here we go, lame game of authority treating me as if I was dog that had behaved badly. I looked him straight in the eyes and said ‘I am a nice person, its ok you can be nice to me’ I know you want my money so lets sort it out. I probably would have paid the same amount to get that international drivers license back home anyways… Onward.

I reach the top rim overlooking mount Batur. Below a big crater lake. I have a poorly drawn out map to my tailors house. I am on a treasure hunt to find their secondary home in the small and remote village where Wirata was raised. The village he left in quest for work as a young man. I have been to this place a few times before, yet this was the first time by motorbike and all by myself. I keep buckin’ along that rim… dirty streets, temples, children at play, people slurping noodle soup on the sidewalks, a disintegrated dog rotting away, big stinky trucks… I weave my way. Pine trees, ferns and plastic. Bits of plastic everywhere. I try to look the other way… only to see more of the same. The temperature drops and I wrap a pair of spare pants around my neck. Feeling incognito behind all my layers. Only my blonde hair trailing behind me giving away that I am from another place. Curvy roads, cold air. It was farther than I remembered. I only stopped once to ask for directions and with great surprise and pleasure my memory kicked in where the map dropped off. I found it.

Making my way down the driveway I wondered who would be there. Nyoman and Wirata had left Ubud hours later and his amazing mother who had lived here all along had just passed away less than a month ago. So I did not know whom to expect. To my surprise I was greeted by a pack of boys. Maybe twelve of them. They were as surprised as I was, as not many aliens of my kind make it up these roads. They followed me around. Giggling, curious, yet polite. More boys arrived on motorbikes. Helmet-less 8 to 12 year olds. They practiced their english words. ‘Beautifu'l they called me. Wow, I feel like some kind of Britney Spears… getting the celebrity treatment. They ask me if they can have their picture taken with me. More boys arrive. There’s about 20 by now. Wiratas house is overrun by kids on the loose. They start playing Gamelan. Metal on metal and big drums. It sounds like hells bells. My head is ringing. I text Nyoman telling her I have arrived. ‘Good' she says 'just enjoy and relax and take rest'. Haha, I’ll try. They had forgotten to mention that on weekends Wirata teaches Gamelan to the kids of the village and it appears they like to come at least 2 hours early…. because… fun. They are being cheeky, joking and laughing. The only other two adults present seemed completely indifferent, un-phased by the sound scape of chaos. What sound? Do you hear anything? OMG. Monkeys on the loose. Later I bust out my jaw-harps (watch out Britney Spears…) All of them gather around me... hooting and hollering, giving me the thumbs up. I play my flute… they pretend cry… so romantic… haha. A total riot. So much fun.

Wirata and Nyoman arrive. See, the very unusual thing here is that Wirata just picked up playing Gamelan a year ago. The village brought all the instruments to his place, where they gathered twice a week for free classes. It gives them something good to do, he says…. besides hanging on the streets and smoking cigs and getting in trouble. The women bring out glasses of tea and steamed yams for all the boys. I can see why its a great place to hang.

The family also grows organic coffee and cloves up here among many other edible plants. He enjoys taking care of the plants and playing music. He is not an ordinary man. He gathers the kids for music, but he also gathers them to pick up plastic. Even tho they may think he’s crazy. He believes they will be thankful in the future.

We spend the evening in the kitchen. It is covered in soot from the open fire that never tires. My eyes burn. So many people have been fed from this fire. The hearth of the house. This fire burns in honor of family. In honor of friends and tradition. In honor of Wiratas mother and all those who have lived and passed here. Their blessings will always be in the food that is being shared. Sound of bamboo gamelan fills the space. And yes, I show Wirata how to set his iPhone to fingerprint recognition. It is almost 2016 after all.

Its is time to sleep now. Not for the dogs tho… their party has just begun.

I wake up with the sun at 5am. I spend the day unwinding, napping and making art. I am so grateful for this time with my tailors. We talk about many things. About life. I am so blessed to work with people who care. We continue to plot our path to more sanity. Cuz they’ve been in quite a mad swirl for a while now. They have taken on a lot… while the traditional balinese life continues with all its festivities, ceremonies and obligations. How can we take care of ourselves in the midst of great responsibility? My quest also. She wants to start doing yoga. I said… good idea… If my customers complain about a particular style of yoga pants being temporarily out of stock I will tell them… Sorry, but Nyoman is busy doing yoga. It is the happiest excuse I could ever offer. Our hearts burst in mutual gratitude. We raise our hands in prayer to the goodness in this world.