Experience Music, Express Yourself

My favourite little clip of an Arja preformance

Sightseeing an Gunang Kawi, with my lovely friend Ami

Sightseeing an Gunang Kawi, with my lovely friend Ami

This is the view from my porch during a rainburst

This is the view from my porch during a rainburst

Sorry for the long delay in posting!

I know it’s been quite a while since I last updated, but my last couple weeks in Bali were crazy busy and it became harder and harder to come into the city to find an internet cafe!  I’m now back in the U.S. (melting in the AZ heat) readjusting my sleep schedule (its 15 hours different so I kept getting up when I should be going to bed!).  Its funny because I feel I adjusted rather quickly to life in Bali, but now it seems harder to readjust to US life-I feel offended when no one I pass on the street smiles or chats, I have ridiculous cravings for super spicy food, especially for breakfast, I feel the need to spend all my time outside (ill-advised in AZ summer), and every so often Indonesian pops out of my mouth instead of English.  However I’ve been going through my pictures as well, and guess what?  Today you get to see some (just a couple, but I’ll post a few more later)!  I think its going to take me quite awhile to process all that I learned in Bali, but I do know it was the most wonderful, beautiful summer, and I am truly so thankful to Mr. Plastino for giving me the chance to go there, and to my lovely advisor Patricia Sloane-White who very patiently dealt with all my emails worrying over how my research was progressing and such!  Bali now holds a very special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to go back!!!

I thought today I’d give you a little post about my daily life in Ubud. I’ve been sick for the past couple days (my third time being sick thus far) and so haven’t done much worth posting about besides sleep and attempt (not always successfully) to eat red rice porridge called burbur and drink copious amounts of tea. Here’s a scary thought for those of you who know me well…I haven’t had coffee in days! But instead of complaining about my lack of caffeination I’ll walk you through my typical Bali day.

I wake up around 8am (compliments of the neighborhood animals) and take my shower in The Pit-which is more of a challenge than one might expect. After this little bit of aerobics I have breakfast with Chelsea on her porch (she has chair cushions). Breakfast for me usually consists of a banana “pancake” (which is more like a crepe) with honey drizzled over it, a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit, and kopi (Balinese coffee which is not at all like Western coffee-as a side note to this side note I have become a master at sucking out the last possible drop of coffee without ending up with a mouthful of grounds and this is quite a talent I can assure you). Then I usually head with Chelsea down to Singapadu to watch her music lessons and if I’m lucky get to chat with some of the musical geniuses who have a habit of popping in and out there.

Returning to Ubud around lunchtime we often hit up our lovely neighborhood warung for juice (or a coconut for Chelsea), then head to our neighborhood coffee shop, Mingle, where we usually find Leslie (in case I haven’t mentioned her before she’s studying gamelan (drumming specifically) to complete her Ph.D and like Chelsea is a lovely wonderful person who quickly became a friend as well). Between the three of us we’ve spent a ton of hours at Mingle (it seems that at least one or more of us is always sick and so doing nothing but hanging out at Mingle for hours on end), but they make a excellent cup of coffee and the staff is incredibly lovely (even if their music choices are questionable at times). At Mingle I usually go over my notes from that morning (or from the past couple of days if I’ve been lazy-which happens often).

Deciding where to go for dinner is a frequent dilemma as there are so many tasty places to eat (although I have a favourite, Warung Saya, where I shall probably do tonight in search of noodles), but eventually a decision is made and an inevitably tasty meal is consumed.

After dinner is porch time generally (or sometimes more Mingle!) which can be sitting and chatting with a group, private reading time, or little jam sessions which are always good fun. After that its time for bed, and starting the whole process over!

In case you forgot I didn’t come to Bali to study food…

Well all I thought for a change of pace I’d tell you about some of research instead of just what I’ve been eating. =)  Most of my fieldwork time is spent at the musical family compound of Bu Candri (pronounced Chandry).  She’s a lovely old lady who speaks almost no English, but is an incredible singer.  She’s also extremely sweet and adorable, and tinier than I am!  The first few times I tagged along to watch her give lessons I think she was very bemused by my presence but decided when in doubt feed the mysterious girl with the notebook- I liked her at once.  My Indonesian is completely atrocious, although I do understand a lot more than I can say (which is exceedingly annoying actually) and so for the longest time I was unable to explain to her why I wanted to watch her teach.  Eventually her son in law, who himself is involved in cultural studies was able to tell her who and what I was.  So essentially what I do is sit around for a few hours watching her teach, with a cup of coffee that she always sweetly brings me.  Her entire family is musical, and everyone is extraordinarily talented-I was very awestruck the first time I came by-especially when I realized Bu Candri’s brother wrote one of the books about Balinese music and art that I read before I came!  I’ve been going to Singapadu nearly everyday although not the past two days because of Galungan (a very important holy day for Bali) or today (because I overslept).  On the night of Galungan I did go down to Denpasar with Bu Candri and her family.  They were producing an arja preformance there which I was lucky enough to see and I was completely amazing.  I couldn’t understand a word of the 3 and half hour long preformance but I still enjoyed it immensely.  I had been able to see this production in rehearsal as well, so it was wonderful to see how different the rehearsal and actual preformance was!  I’ve been learning so much about arja (and learning even more how much I don’t know about arja) but since I’ve already been sitting in an unairconditioned internert cafe for an hour and a half writting emails, checking on my visa extension and other such things I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for this short post.  But at least now you all know I do do work…on occasion ;) but its time for lunch so ta for now!


Hello all!  I know it’s been a little while since I’ve posted and I’ve been up to lots of awesome, and a few not so awesome things.  Right as my lovely friend Chelsea was getting over her fight with typhoid and finally feeling and eating better, I got sick!  But only for a couple of days, with some stomach troubles and little fever-nothing epic, just highly unpleasant to be ill somewhere so pretty with so much good spicy food that so does not agree with tender tummies!  But yesterday I sat in on the most amazing arja rehearsal (arja is a type of gamelan, but is a dance/singing/drama that’s for entertainment not so much for religious purposes like temple gamelan is) and feel totally in love with this type of music.  So what am I doing today?  Why going to watch an arja lesson of course!  But while yesterday was beautiful and wonderful, it’s a little too beautiful and wonderful to write about at the moment because I have a gangsa lesson soon, soooo instead you’re going to get my take on the romanticism of Bali.  Anthropologists and ethnomusicologists and pretty much most everyone who wrote about Bali in the past maybe it sound like a mystical extoic paradise on earth-in other words they romanticised Bali-over simplified it really, under the title of paradise.  I think it’s high time to bust some Bali myths from anthropologists long ago, so without further ado…here’s my list of un-romantic things about Bali.

Garbage fires.  They’re everywhere, and if you came to Bali expecting to be breathing pure tropical air you’d be sadly mistaken, because all the garabge is burned here.  Have you smelled burning plastic in the morning?  Unromantic.

Having Bali Belly when your toilet seat is duct tapped together and too disgusting to sit on.  Unromantic.

Having a bathroom that “The Pit” is probably the nicest nickname that’s ever been attributed to it-I can think of several more appropriately discriptive ones, but they’re all somewhat less than suitable for a school blog ;) -Unromantic.

Roosters, pigs, dogs, ducks, and all manner of animal folk making an unbelievable ruckus everymorning and all day long.  (My first morning was spent deciding how to cook those pesky chicken…coq au vin, won)  Unromantic.

Bali dogs at night.  Unromantic.

Monkey Forest monkies. Unromantic.  (They’re the opposite of cute ladies and gents)

When ants in your pants isn’t a risk, its a fact of life. There are ants everywhere, all the time, and they will get on you.  Unromantic.

Having rats living in your roof.  Unromantic.

Having cockroaches.  Unromantic.

Coming home after a long day to find ants consumming a cockroach, on your sink, next to your toothbrush.  Extremely unromantic.

Typhoid fever.  Unromantic.

Having sidewalks that are more hole (to rat infested sewers) than sidewalk, so you can’t ever walk side by side with someone, or look up when walking for fear of falling into said rat infested sewers.  Unromantic.

Bali driving habits.  Unromantic.

Mosquitoes.  Unromantic.

Giant monster hornet flying death machines.  Extremely unromantic.

So I don’t sound like an overly cynical old woman, here are a couple things I do find romantic about Bali.

Walking out onto your porch every morning and no longer caring you live in an ant infested, moldy, Pit for a bathroom, rats in the roofs-room, because you’re in such a beautiful welcoming place, that none of the grossness matters (until you go to brush your teeth-but really its not that bad).  Romantic.

When it takes you twenty minutes to walk a five minute distance because everybody knows you and wants to chat and show you their beautiful smiles.  Romantic.

Balinese smiles (number one smile in Bali [and maybe anywhere?] goes to Made, the sweetest construction worker at my home who gets a double row of teeth in every big happy smile).  Romantic.

Banana pancakes, fruit bowls, and coffee on the porch with a dear friend every morning.  Romantic.

The Groovy Taste Root Beer.  Romantic.

Warung Saya.  (This is my number one favourite warung in Ubud, it’s tiny with only four tables, but super stylish decor, and a super stylish owner, with really fresh, really delicious food and really good music. I wish I owned it, because it’s much more romantic than academia) Romantic.

Watermelon juice.  Romantic.

Mingle.  The best staffed coffee shop in Bali (with the best coffee too) and the best view of the city.  Romantic.

Food in Bali in general.  Romantic.

Nyoman and Putu’s juice warung just two doors down from us.  They’re the cutest people but Chelsea and I might be their only customers!  Romantic.  Oh and here I also tried avacoado juice, beause I’ll try anything once and I completely expected it to be gross since I don’t like avacado all that much, and it came with chocolate drizzled in the glass which seemed like a horrible combination, but do you know what?  It was super delicious!

There’s more that can be added to both lists but time never seems to be on my side when I finally get down to the internet cafe so I’ll leave it at that for now.  I hope everyone is doing well, and that Allison and Stephanie are getting lots of rest after their adventures!

Be well and bon appetit!

Music, rice, coffee, lava, and a little more music!

Hello again all my darlings!  This post might be a pretty long one, but I hope you find it as interesting to read as it was to live, becuse my last two days here have been amazing!

Before I dig into this post, if you would like to read another, and probably much better than mine, blog about music and Bali, my beautiful new friend Chelsea keeps one and here’s her link! —> http://avoiceabroad.wordpress.com/

Two days ago I remember I posted saying that I would be going to restaurant to have lunch and watch a gamelan rehearsal, and then to a ceremony, but that’s not quite what happened.  My lovely friend Chelsea and I did head down to that restaurant sure enough, but when we walked into the rehearsal and tried to ask if it would be alright to watch, they said oh you play?  Come on, come on, and soon enough we found ourselves herded to a pair of gangsa!  I was completely and utterly horrified.  I had had exactly three lessons so far, and could only play 1.5 songs, but no sooner had we seated ourselves, then a lovely smiling gentleman (a drummer as it were) seated himself before us and began playing a couple little diddies with us.  A lady circulated the rehearsal (this gamelan was about 15 players/watchers) passing out some very delicious tea and a little snacks of rice and maybe sweet potato? wrapped up in banana leaves, yum!  Then the rehearsal got back under way and our smiling drummer was replaced with new teacher, who played along with us.  That sounds simple enough but this gentleman was playing one gangsa with one hand…another gangsa with the other…backwards…while looking over his shoulder at the drummers…and totally casually, it wasn’t any trouble for him at all (I can hardly play one the right way around!)  But the whole experience was beyond words amazing.  I was worried at first that my ultra-beginner skill level would drag down the rehearsal, but as I’ve noticed elsewhere, the Balinese readily forgive any error if you accompany it with a smile and a honest effort.  I have to admit I never once recognized the cues from the drummers, and with the whole ensemble playing I couldn’t even hear my own part half the time (and my ears were ringing for some time afterwards), but it was such fun!  The community feeling really is incredible. My lessons are one on one with my master so this was my first time playing in a group, and it truly was like playing an entirely different instrument/entity.  And I hope we get to go back!

As if I had’nt had enough fun, Chelsea and I decided to go exploring yesterday and see some of the sites around Bali besdies my lovely Ubud.  We got a friend to drive is around for the day and first headed out to the rice pattie terraces, and I cannot even try to describe them to you, because this is a beauty beyond words, and I really really wish I could post my pictures for you, but alas.  (I shall make a captioned album when I get home for you all to see)  And the day was just perfect for a scenic day.  Although I must say the sales people at the terraces were even pushier than those at the market…not beautiful.

Next stop was a coffee plantation (very appropriate for me seeing as I live off the stuff).  It was lovely little spot with cocoa trees, coffee trees, fruit trees, and more beautiful views.  Our driver friend cheerful pointed out the varieties of trees and fruit (like durian…gag me..with a buldozer!) and then we came across a lovely little picnic table pavillion with an incredible view (I shall have to start reading a thesaurus because Bali is blowing through my list of beautiful synonyms!) were we got to sample the plantations products.  We had Bali coffee (super yummy, but heaps of grounds in the bottom, getting the last good sip is always a challenge and since I’m a coffee fiend I inevitably get greedy and end up with a mouthful of grounds, boo), ginseng coffee (which I didn’t so much enjoy), hot cocoa (super yummy), ginger cocoa (yummy), lemon tea (super, ultra-yummy) and ginger tea (super yummy).  [I definitely need to read a thesaurus, not self-respecting university student should use “super” and “ultra” to the extent I do, and definitely not in a combo form!]  The rest of the plantation was a display of thier spices: nutmeg, cloves, lemongrass, star anise, cardamon, cumin, chili, cinnamon, and coriander.  We saw them dry roasting the coffee beans and pounding them by hand.  As a random feature they had a tiny zoo as well, two large fruit bats were hanging out and they were super cute(scratch that), unparalleled in their delightful appearance (see I’m in college afterall, and not a kindergartener who somehow wrangled a free trip to Bali =P ).  I thought of Allison when we saw a falcon (or eagle?) of some type who looked very unhappy and ansy on his much too short chain, same to the various random exotic (or probably local actually) birds they had in non-stimulating or spacious enclosures.  But aside from the sad aviary, it was a lovely place and I walked away with some over-priced (but I haggled her down to half the orginal price) but extraordinarily delicious lemon tea.  Although had you told me I would go to a coffee plantation and walk out with a box of tea but no coffee, I would probably have laughed myself silly!

Stop number three: Mount Basur.  This was a beautiful lakeside volcano, with an amazing array of colours.  The multi shaded lake was so beautiful, and we had a tasty lunch overlooking the scenery- hands down the most beautiful meal view I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten in some spectacular places!

Stop number four: more rice terraces.  These were just regular people’s rice fields, not a huge tourist attraction like the previous ones.  We hopped out of the car next some girls doing laundry to snap some photos with the late afternoon soon turning the terraces to mirrors.  I found the sight even more beautiful than the huge vista of terraces, and you could hardly tell where the sky ended and rice began.

Stop number five:home, sweet home.  Our friend, his name was Agoos, though that’s probably not how he spelled it, it sounds like ah-goose, came over to teach us some adorable Balinese children songs.  This quickly turned into an evening long jam session on the porch with two guitars, me, Chelsea, Agoos, and Chelsea’s lovely friend fellow ehtnomusicology student, Leslie - singing everything from The Cat and The Mouse-Balinese style, to Bon Jovi.

Two perfect Bali days.

Ubud Market

Yesterday I went to the Ubud Market, which is an enormous market filled with everything you could ever hope to by and just down the street from where I’m living.  It’s almost imtimidatingly large and once inside I quickly was lost and had no idea where I was in relation to where I had come in.  But it was amazing seeing all the different stalls, and even though the vendors are extremely pushy, and will grab you arm to get you come look at their wares, which I don’t enjoy-it was still wonderful and fun to go.  My mission there was to finally buy some sarongs.  You can’t go into a temple without the proper attire, whichj consists of a sarong and sash for ladies.  I bought three truly beautiful sarongs, one violet and gold, a sky blue, black, and gold one, and a breathtaking bronze and burgandy one.  I finished out my new ensemble with a cream and pink lace kabaya (a three quarter sleeve shirt that’s quite formfitting and is what is traditionally paired with a sarong) and a olive green sash.  Two nights ago I heard the distinctive sounds of gamlen balanjur, a type of marching gamelan going right past my home, so I grabbed my bag and joined the huge procession of followers, feeling quite conspicuous in my lack of a sarong and white kabaya which all the ladies were wearing, and the gentlemen were in white too.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to enter the temple but followed along anyway, and met some lovely people outside the temple.  I was chatting with a young man about gamelan and tourisim, and he and another gentlemen got into a debate about the benefits of tourists, eventually they both agreed that “without tourist there’s no money, and without money we can’t do anything.  what we do? go back to agriculture?”  I found this debate a little sad to listen too, but very thought provoking.  I wonder what Bali will be like in twenty years time as tourism increases.  I have a gamelan lesson in just a couple of minutes and then I’m going for lunch at a restaurant where a gamelan rehearsal is going to be(music and food all in one!  what could be better for me!), and then there’s a ceremony in a nearby village tonight that I’m hoping to bum a ride too!  So I’ll try and write again in a day or so and let you all know how today goes (and I’m working on uploading pictures, really I am) Oh and the instrument I’m learning to play is called the gangsa! 

Be well, and bon appetit!

Music and Warungs

I’m going to start this post with a little warning not to expect daily updates, I just happened to be passing by when a little rain shower came by, but I didn’t budget for daily internet! =P

Anywayssss, today I had a lesson in playing gamelan!  I think I did decently well, but it’s certainly quite tricky!  You play with a funny looking mallet that looks like a hammer one side and a curving spike on the other.  You hit the keys with the hammer side, the spike is purely decorative (or for defense against competing gamelans??).  After striking a key you reach with your free hand to dampen the sound at the exact moment you hit the other key, which sounds simple enough but i heard it quite accurately phrased once as trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time.  About of solid quarter of the time I ended up dampening the key I was striking instead of the last one!  But eventually I got the hang of it and can now play the simple melody of a simple song.  My teacher Pasek, who owns my homestay, promises to next teach me interlocking melodies, which he demonstrated and seems extremely tricky, so wish me luck!  He also demonstrated a piece played with two hammers and the player has to dampen the keys with the back of his wrist, which left me quite literally gaping open mouthed with awe.

Today’s a quiet rainy day in Ubud, and after my lesson all I have planned is holing up the cafe across the street and reading my book; Ubud rolls up its streets pretty early.  It’s dark by seven, and everyone is in bed by 9, me included! 

Yesterday I strolled through the side streets of Ubud (the main drag has a lot of shops and such but they’re all pricey and touristy) and was totally charmed.  Everyone is smiling and kind, and greets you and asks how you are as you walk by, a couple of cars even pulled over just to say hello!  Street signs are sometimes invisible (although better then Delaware’s, not that that takes much!) so I got a touch lost and decided it was high time for lunch.  A little ways back I’d chatted briefly with the owner of a warung (a little food shop) and headed back towards him.  I ordered a super delicious plate of fried rice noodles with egg and vegetables.  It was simple food, ultra fresh, and super ultra delicious, and amusingly it was cooked in the scoop of a sawed off shovel!  I polished off the entire (very large bowl) made friends with the other diners and headed off to see if I could find my way back.  As luck would have it I was about a minute away from the main street of Ubud so no problems!  I ambled back to my room to cool off for a while, before venturing back out at dusk for dinner.  I decided to hit up a little warung on the main street I’d seen earlier in the way which looked very charming inside (and who I suspected used pots to cook, not that I minded the shovel, it probably adds a little extra something something anyway).  It was very quiet inside, already late for dinner in Ubud, but I was full from my late lunch.  I ordered a plate of fried tempe in a spicy paste with fresh basil and a coffee, and oh my goodness it was so delicious that I literally polished it off in a minute and a half (seriously) and pride be damned I ordered seconds!  (And ate that more leisurely, you know maybe 5 minutes?)  Sooo yummy, if I keep eating like this I’ll be a blimp by the time I get back! (I saw that but what am I doing after I finish this?  That’s right, eating!)  Well the rain has passed so I’m going to scamper.

Be well, keep in touch and bon appetit!