Archive for April, 2012

Bali has completely spoiled me. The simplest details are filled with beauty. Every day, my hotel room is filled with fresh flowers: on my bed, nightstand, coffee table, altar, bathroom sink and shower. And there are lovely inspirational quotes on my pillow that change daily as well, “Be happy in the morning for what you have, and in the evening for who you are,” and “Compare yourself to no one and you will realize all that you are.”

I’ve spent three weeks at a mountain and beach yoga retreat center, Gaia Oasis, with yoga classes twice a day, vegetarian meals and a salt water swimming pool. For the first week, I basically had private yoga lessons with so much personal instruction. The yoga teacher utters the most delicious phrases which I try to remember for future use when I’m a yoga instructor (maybe it’s just her British accent that makes it so appealing). She teaches Anusara yoga, a joyous heart-opening practice and I float out of each class. In Seattle, I’ve hopped around different yoga studios so this is the first time I’ve felt connected to a yoga teacher, and am quite sad when she leaves.

Remaining open to the new yoga teacher, I show up early for the first class. Up until now, we’ve had yoga classes in two beautiful yoga studios, opening up onto a frog-filled pond with lotus flowers, or an octagonal building facing the beach. There are fresh flowers, incense, candles, Buddha statues and sound systems with lovely chanting. So my psyche is totally shattered when I walk into our new space and the floor is covered with mice droppings. Upon further inspection I realize they are little black bugs! The air in the room is totally still, it’s a plain unadorned room and suddenly I’m not in paradise anymore. The bugs are quickly swept up and we begin our yoga practice. The teacher has an awkward style and I’m yearning for my last yoga teacher. Slowly, the remaining bugs on the floor begin to wake up and start crawling towards my yoga mat. And more bugs are dropping from the ceiling – the place is totally infested! I try to be zen, realizing I can’t always practice yoga in idyllic conditions and should rise above the chaos. Later, I discover the place really IS infested with millions of bugs and the room is closed for repairs. I’m even offered a free massage for my inconvenience!

The resort operates as a non-profit, funneling proceeds into several local groups including supporting a local school by purchasing uniforms and meals. I visit the school on a special day, as eight schools gather together to share song, music and dance. All the schools are quite isolated, and some children have to walk 4-hours one-way for a half-day of school! The narrow trail to the school is quite treacherous, and our mopeds skitter along the rocky unpaved road. In this rural area, I can see many homes with dirt floors and no electricity.

We are greeted by 500 cheerful children, crammed into a concrete open area, surrounded by classrooms with tin roofs. The girls swarm around me, testing out their English and showing off their Justin Bieber baseball caps. The first performance is a Gamelan group, traditional Balinese music. Then it’s a group of eight girls, dancing a coordinated dance to American pop music about falling in love. I’m a bit shocked when a group of 10-year old girls start gyrating their hips, horrified by the Western influence. Fortunately, it’s rounded off with a traditional Balinese dance.

I learn that the Indonesian government has eliminated the school fees for primary education. For many poor families, barriers remain such as purchasing three school uniforms and supplies. Most children continue their education until they reach high school, when school fees become compulsory.

The resort is also trying to help local farmers, and provides land for tenant farmers. They are helping to restore the soil, providing different crops with higher yields and higher market values, and have provided infrastructure for fresh spring water to be piped into their homes. But 80 percent of the water is used by the hotel’s 11 guests for bathing and toilets. The other 20 percent of the water supply is used by 40 families for drinking water and all household purposes. And of course the water supply runs dry 3-4 months a year, and they have to walk long distances for water. I realize my personal water use directly affects the surrounding village and immediately start reducing my water consumption.

It’s true Bali is paradise for so many tourists. But I’m realizing there is always another side to paradise.







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