Not chillin’ in Bali – the heat here is a little too much for that. But, despite the heat, Bali is still wonderful. But, don’t mob me yet, I’ve been here now five days and have only made it to the beach once, and that was at night. I know! I know! Terrible, right? I’ve been busy attending workshops at the UN Conference and going on last minute trips to West Bali. (and when I say last minute, I mean, I was in the middle of an email, Flint asked if I wanted to come along, and an hour later, we were in a car).
West Bali was a really great experience. We went for a meeting of various indigenous groups throughout Indonesia that were meeting about land rights issues and other concerns related to the effects of climate change (and the decisions being passed down at the UN conference). The trip there took a little over three hours. About halfway there, crammed in the back of a tiny SUV with these people I just met 5 days ago, I thought, “What in the WORLD am I doing driving through Bali? How did I get here!?” Not that I was complaining. The scenery we were passing was beautiful, as I watched the sun set between passing houses and rice paddies. Once we got to West Bali, we were ushered into the meeting – which was translated for us by a wonderful woman who introduced herself as Tri (“Like the swaying trees out there,” she said). We listened to men talk about their homes, how their lands were being threatened by drought, or floods, or corporations. How the traditions of their ancestors and their religion were being dismissed with the flick of a pen and business deal. We watched, amazed, as they picked up their bamboo instruments and congo drums and danced around the room in a beautiful and thoughtful traditional dance and song. Ava and I were offered to sleep in the only bed in the only house nearby. The guys slept in the car. The people from the meeting slept outside in what looked like forts. The next morning we woke up as the sun rose. (I say woke up like I slept. Six roosters on the grounds, and not a single one waited for dawn. I hate roosters. Hate them.) We walked over to a little shop in the front of the neighbor’s house where they were selling coffee and prawn rinds (the local response to the American potato chip). Chris and I asked for coffee, and we watched as they pulled glasses off the shelf, wiped them with the rag on the counter, scooped in instant coffee grinds and poured in the hot water. “Milk?” Chris asked. The woman smiled and motioned for her daughter. The old mother reached in the front of her shirt and pulled a few sweaty bills out from somewhere. The daughter hopped on the motor bike and took off down the road. Chris and I just looked at each other. While we waited, the old men offered us deep fried banana pastries. About 5 minutes later, we saw the pink helmet of the daughter appear over the hill and come down the dirt drive. She set a can with a peeling label between our foggy cups. Evaporated milk. Perfect. So, to be polite for all the trouble they went through, I dripped just enough evaporated milk in my instant coffee to change the color ever so slightly. Our breakfast bill for the coffee and banana pastries? 4,000 Rurpia. Or, 4o cents American. We tipped a little extra for the motorbike excursion, and the woman grinned with all 6 teeth as she slipped the bills in with the others.
After a quick meeting, we loaded back in the car to head back to Denpansar for a workshop at 2pm. We took a different route back, one that led us over the mountain, and up what used to be a volcano! In the crater there is now a lake, surrounded by houses, slips of beaches and the occasional dock with a jet ski tied to the post. As we came down the volcano turned mountain, we were told we were passing through the monkey tourism area. We all laughed at the thought of monkeys as tourists. (You have to find humor in translation when you can, because you spend a lot of time frustrated over not being able to ask where the bathroom is!) Soon though, our laughter stopped as we started shouting excitedly, “I saw one!” “Where” “Right there!” “Where?” “Pull over!” As we pulled over, about 10 grey monkeys surrounded our car, knowing the drill, begging for food. We shared our coconut biscuits and a man passing buy handed us the tiniest bananas I have ever seen to toss to the monkey crowd.
Back in Denpansar, we met with another group of locals, this group made up more of political activists. They discussed the draft of the People’s Protocol, which is the response of the people of all nations who are adversely affected by the Kyoto Protocol. (I will try to write more about all of this in a later post.) It was hot, and there was a lot going on that I didn’t understand because I didn’t have a translator, but it was really interesting to be a part of something that could potentially be really historical and life/world-changing. Of course there was dancing at the end, by these two children who had such attention to detail of movement that it was easy to forget that they were only six. That is, until they went to hold up the “Uphold People’s Sovereignty on Natural Resources” banner – and held it up, upside down. So cute.
I missed the rally today because the group was mostly working from the hotel, but I heard that I probably would have wilted in the 114 degree sun today. Tomorrow morning I am attending a press conference on the people’s protocol. By Tuesday, the group will have left back for the Philippines and Australia, and I will have two days left in Bali to soak up the sun on the beach, and possibly hike part of the nearby volcano!!