As hard as it is to let go of the lovely and alliterative name From Bali to Bala, we relocated our home from Bala Cynwyd to Mt. Airy over five years ago, and we hadn’t held the show in our Bala living room since way back in 2004. Letting go of Bala and embracing Us has long been coming. I am forever explaining what Bala is, where or why the name is so. Pushed to change is what it took.
My husband thinks I am having an affair because my phone dings all night long with incoming texts. He sleeps mostly like a baby, butI am up at all hours responding to these overseas connections, careful not to wake him. Halfway around the globe, during their daylight hours, my Indonesian contacts text me photos of the various crafts for me to buy, as if they were beautiful little treasures seeping into my dreams.
This new era has brought tremendous change, much of it unfathomable only five months back. Back then, I joyfully boarded a plane from Philly to Denpasar, completely unaware that our world would implode as a novel virus slammed its way into our lexicon and reality.
March 25, 2020 (25 Maret, 1942 Balinese Saka Calendar)
People have marveled at the bizarre Balinese holiday I have talked about for years, and am currently, fully immersed in now back home in Philadelphia. New Year’s – also known as Nyepi, the “day of silence,” marks an annual ritual that arrives once every 310 days on their calendar: it is a special holiday that each of the four million Balinese Hindu must follow religiously. For 36 hours the island is on mandatory lockdown, we retreat behind closed doors, all traffic halts, airports are literally closed, everyone is confined to their family home, sounds and lights are kept low, and all of these changes strictly enforced by local authorities. Yes, this sounds harsh, and all-too-familiar to each of us now….
Sitting on my porch, kind of like back home where I overlook the deep hibernating trees of Carpenters Woods, but here instead the fallow fields with clumps of green & brown cut rice stalks mired in the dark earthy mud, surrounded by shimmering pools of standing rain water. It is mid-afternoon, just south of 90 degrees, and a warm wind blows through the trees, offering only a slight reprieve from the heat. I love my neighbors the ducks as they gaggle, quack and waddle around, pecking bugs from the still pools, gleaning old rice grains missed at harvest time.