Subject: Sunday Afternoon In Bali (Long Report)
December 2005 Hello Everyone,

It's Sunday afternoon and we are confined to Oka Wati's upper veranda by a tremendous tropical downpour. It is the rainy season after all. So far we have been lucky with the rain occurring only during the night leaving the days sunny hot and humid.

We are playing music on the laptop and passing the afternoon very happily.

Since we got to Ubud we only seem to be up for one activity per day with the rest of our time when not eating, spent in the pool cooling off or in bed taking a nap if I have allowed myself a glass of Auntie's homemade rice wine!

On our first evening we went to a performance of the Kekac dance, possibly my favourite of all the traditional Balinese dances. A hundred half naked men (can't be bad) or more sit in a circle making strange clicking noises with their mouths, accompanied by frantic hand movements and occasionally burst into song which makes you wonder if a Welsh male voice choir snuck in when you weren't looking. Weaving throughout the performance and seated choir is a colourful romantic tale from the Ramayana. The performers are all amateur, with proceeds going to the temple for upkeep and maintenance. Almost every adult in the community contributes to the performance in one-way or another

The next afternoon there was a big purification ceremony at a local temple prior to a major anniversary of the consecration of the temple which unfortunately is scheduled for this afternoon. We fronted up at the temple gates and in exchange for a donation were all togged up in the obligatory sarong, temple scarf and headdress. Tony's sarong and headdress being far more elaborate than mine. Fortunately he was wearing long pants and sandals so we were spared the unattractive foreign tourist look of hairy legs, dark socks and shoes peeking out from beneath a sarong. Not that there were many foreign visitors today. He felt uncomfortable but didn't look too bad at all.

The ceremony was as colourful as it was noisy with 3 gamelan orchestras in attendance. Everyone was in their community ceremonial uniform which for women consisted of matching sarongs and lace tops in a rainbow of colours over strapless bras or merry widows, very elegant. The men wore elaborate layered sarongs in silks and braided satin as well as cotton. They topped this off with white or off white short sleeved fitted jackets or shirts and headdresses. Temple officials were kitted out in their black and white check sarong over a longer black one with a fitted black short- sleeved jacket. Most sported a walkie talkie and a ceremonial (I hope) dagger.

Troupes of beautiful female dancers in gorgeous costumes danced around the temple and in and out on to the street. Not to be outdone the male Baris dancers were even more magnificently costumed and at times quite ferocious.

Characters from the Ramayana wandered the street performing for whomever wanted to watch, occasionally the most evil character would lunge into a group of young boys sending them running off laughing. It reminded me of going to the circus when a small child and being terrified when the clowns climbed into the audience.

Hundreds of people from the local villages paraded offerings around the temple and street on their heads. Everything from a cooked pigs head to a very new piglet with an incredibly loud voice held in the palm of a hand. Anything and everything was blessed and prayed over until it was time to sit across the road and take part in the final prayers.

Following the prayers came the feast and we gave back our clothing and walked home. Very impressed with the spectacle and the organization. What they can do today to top this we can't imagine.

Wow the rain is really coming down now, we have never seen anything like it. For the first time since we left home it is actually almost cool. Got to get a picture of this! We didn't make it back to the temple his afternoon but apparently the ceremonies continued despite the deluge.

The following two mornings we went for long walks north of Ubud. The first day we walked through a school and over a spectacular ridge with deep gorges either side. The second we climbed out of Ubud through the rice terraces, marveling at the complex irrigation system which ensures each and every paddy field receives its share of the available water.

Dotted along the paddies in the middle of nowhere are small art galleries. As we seem to be the only people walking the paths at this time of year we wonder how they make a living, they might not see anyone else all day. Hopefully they are rice farmers who paint for 'pin money'.

With a bit of luck the rain will ease and return to coming only during the night.

Regards, Sue and Tony Waterloo On, currently in Castlemaine Victoria Australia