Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, April 2005)


Australia is a playground for many Balinese. Children are spawned there, many Balinese are schooled there and, indeed, Australian-Balinese relations have never been better, despite the Kuta bomb.
After the horrific Tsunami, it was through Bali that many Australians directed their aid: Jeans West, Rip Curl, Cue, the Little River Band, General Pants and the Australian Women’s Weekly were among the big names that, together, donated millions of dollars.
The Australian government, working with Australian expatriates living in Bali, is involved in two multi-million dollar health-care projects, as well as helping to promote Australian sports (the Bali International Lawn Bowls Club is the latest entrant!) and late night dancing; two Australian specialities.
On another tack, Bali’s only husband and wife gender-wayang orchestra is half-Australian. A good percentage of children in the fashion industry are also half-Australian; as are many youth-leaders in Australia half-Balinese.
Those Balinese families without Australian bloodlines are at least linked to Australia through the travel business, the booming ‘Bali Style’ export industry (half of Noosa, in Queensland, now looks like half of Nusa Dua) and street-fashion trends (‘Mambo’, Australia’s national dress, is made in Bali).
It is in the surfing world, however, that the oldest Bali-Australia link exists.
In 1971, the world’s first surfing film, ‘Morning of the Earth’, was made in Bali (see ‘Divine and Semi Divine Surfing’, Stranger in Paradise, July 2003).
In 1975, Australian publisher Kevin Weldon, A.O., founded the Kuta Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, with local sports figure Gede Berata. The club has since grown into a world class outfit and last month won a bronze medal in the World Surfing Life Saving Carnival, in Italy, in the category of flag-waving. (Wouldn’t you know it!!! - Ed.).
Now read on:

10 th February 2005 : to the Australian Consulate for a farewell party for nine Kuta lifesavers bound for Cottesloe, Western Australia, for three weeks intensive training in the fine art of lifesaving
Expecting to find a colony of day-feeding marsupials in low slung Speedoes gathered around a ‘barbie’ (B.B.Q. - Ed.) I am shocked to find the grey-shoe brigade (my Australian peers in the construction industry) in party-dress, politely sipping beers, as their womenfolk press the life-savers for their mobile phone numbers. “Bagus baju”, is the mating call of the female Pithocarpus Australius Legianensis accompanied by a swinging of Paul Ropp-clad hips towards the perpendicular (Keep it romantic. - Ed.).
The highlight of the evening was the presentation by Brent Hall, the Consul-General, of a print of an Australian life-saver, by renowned Australian artist Bruce Goold, to the departing life-savers.
God Speed!
And Good Luck, the Yummie Mummies of Cottesloe!

13 th February 2005 : to Ubud for the pemelaspasan ceremony, or temple-warming, for Ubud’s latest café, the Warung Enak
Pemelaspasan in Balinese culture can be fairly routine affairs: the ground spirits are appeased, the new café/car/house is given a coat of holy water and then everyone eats. Allow 1-2 hours. Bake slowly in noon sun.
Lately I’ve been to some fabulous pemelaspasan ceremonies including one mega-gorgeous morning last month at the newly desecrated Pura Desa Sidakarya. I say ‘desecrated’ because this formerly unique temple, one of the late great Pedanda Gede Sidemen’s red brick marvels of the early 20 th century, has recently been given an andesite face lift; like nearly every major temple in the land. Temple priests are, tragically, slaves to middle class fashion; the progressives definitely have the upper hand over the romantics these days!
However, not today: The Warung Enak is a show-case of high camp-warung culture decorative excess!
And today’s pemelaspasan is a divinely moving affair with the best gamelan in the land – the Semar Pegulingan from Peliatan – and an animated mask dance, a high-noon shadow puppet play (Wayang Sudamala) and a zoo-load of colourful animal carcasses as a welcome mat. My Indian guests-in-tow – Muslims from Madras – are most impressed by the whole joyous Hindu-Bali affair and want their photos taken with the mask-dancer and the old offering lady. The owners, the saintly Yunita and Malik (the only Chinese clients in recorded history to pay up without first taking hostages), are beaming with pride at their heavenly handiwork and the staff, all painted and pert in their temple gear, are quietly pairing off under the guise of piousness.
Suddenly the lead mask-dancer breaks out of character and runs pell-mell towards the ceremonial arena, where Yunita and Malik are burying rubies under the main shrine (an old Chinese trick to preserve the ignition on a B.M.W. - Ed.).
“Lord protect this warung”, the dancer bellows, holding a tray of offerings aloft; mildly in trance and totally entrancing. It is such a beautiful gesture. My heart flutters.
My Indian squeezes the bottoms of the old offering lady.
“Fried cocks exploding”, she screams (Tourette’s Syndrome is endemic in the senior community).
“Sorry”, he says, “I thought it was your elbow.”
Peace is restored.
The mask-dancer returns to his stage.
Everyone is beaming with satisfaction at a job well-done!

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