Reincarnation

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Bali is a beautiful magical place, but it is also part of a third world country. Communication barriers, differences in public hygiene, the absence of all perceivable traffic laws, food quality/hygiene and  careless business practices has created a sense of disconnection and anxiety. I had to look at why I was so uncomfortable. Back home in the US anxiety has always surrounded my basic needs for survival. I worry about not getting what I think I need or losing something I think I need. Could it be that all anxiety is caused by the fear of mortality? Are people mostly motivated by their fear of death? Perhaps adrenaline junkies, alcoholics, over achievers, attention seekers, control freaks, hypochondriacs, religious people etc. are all looking for ways to mitigate or ignore the anxiety created by the inevitability of their own demise.


On our drive from the airport, I quickly realized that there were no perceivable driving rules, no street signs or traffic lights. Vehicles were traveling in both directions on both sides of the street. Constant honking was the only thing stopping people from running into one another. There are very few sidewalks, so cars share the road with motorbikes, pedestrians, stray dogs, chickens and women balancing large heavy items on their heads. Tara and I closed our eyes to try to feign sleeping, but it was impossible not to look. We were unwitting participants in a massive game of chicken. So far we have seen two accidents. One guy got bumped off his motorbike in front of us. His helmet hit the ground about 3 inches from the tire of an oncoming truck. The second involved a women and her baby whose motorbike fell over from being overloaded with bags of rice. Luckily no one was hurt in either accident. It’s not uncommon to see an adult carrying a baby with one arm and steering a motorbike with the other. Since there are no street lights you risk your life every time you cross the street. Commitment is the key, if a driver sees you hesitate, they wont stop or slow down.


The Governor of Bali just spent a month in a hospital in Singapore. That’s like a mother cooking dinner for her family but refuses to eat because she’s afraid of food poisoning. It’s pathetic. Politicians should be required to endure healthcare standards created by their own policy. Medicine men, reincarnation and viewing disease and imperfections as a curse, has made western medicine a very low priority. I have medical air evac on speed dial. There are absolutely no accommodations for the handicapped or elderly. I haven't seen one wheelchair ramp or access elevator. If your not in perfect health, your screwed. Luckily it's the dry season. Dengue fever and malaria are a problem in Indonesia during the rainy season where stagnant water creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

We experienced our first earthquake in our hotel room. Tara noticed it first. She thought she drank too much coffee, then started yelling “the floor’s moving.” It was a magnitude 5.2. The epicenter was on the next island, about 70 miles form where we were. We freaked out! The images of the Indonesian earthquake/tsunami of 04’ that killed 227,000 people became live in our minds. Only the western guests in our hotel were in the hallways commiserating. The locals and the hotel staff didn't even feel it. There are about 7 earthquakes a week in Indonesia, so it has to be something powerful for the locals to notice. It's the exception, rather than the rule to use structural engineers in building construction in Indonesia; previous earthquakes provide the evidence. Our new favorite bookmark: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/


There is no enforcement of food standards as there is in western countries.We are very careful about what we eat and how we eat it. We only eat in restaurants that appear to make an extra effort towards cleanliness and are frequented by expats. We only eat food that is baked, boiled or peeled. We only drink canned beverages, bottles with plastic wrap on the cap or boiled drinks. We use bottled water for brushing our teeth and shaving.


The Balinese believe demons live in the ocean. They don't go swimming in the sea and they don't care what gets dumped into it. You can see streams of sewage flowing down the beach into the ocean from the islands ancient aqueduct system. I guess demons are another word for doody. This would be fine under normal circumstances. Add 7 million annual visitors and you have a major problem. The infustructure is not keeping up with development. Not even Vegemite can kill that much bacteria.


The income of an average Indonesian is $3,500 a year. It would take fifteen years for an Indonesian to make what the average westerner makes in one. Poverty is everywhere. Kidnapping does run through my mind, especially when we're trekking through an isolated area. However crime is very low in Indonesia and we have received the most genuinely hospitable treatment from everyone we've encountered. Without seeing it for myself, I would never have believed people this sweet, humble and balanced existed.

After being here for 6 weeks I have become more comfortable with these perceived threats, but I'm still rather anxious. I guess it's time to join a religion that offers an afterlife with a return ticket.

Bali

We visited a village where the people had been living the same way for 1500 years. Most villagers haven't ventured more then two miles from their homes. Electricity was implemented only six months ago. They do not participate in western medicine. 12% of the village died of malnutrition during a drought in 2002; when there was a supermarket 20 minutes down the road. They accept all medical problems and death as Gods will. They believe they will be reincarnated into the same family, so life is not as precious when death is temporary. If ignorance is bliss, then I want to be ignorant because they seamed to be the most content people I've ever met.

Village Chief  in white and School Teacher
They perform animal sacrifices to the Gods from the temple steps. They tie weights to cows, ducks and other farm animals and drop them in the lake to be drowned. As a result, the fish have grown teeth and have become carnivorouse; like piranha.  However they don't attack humans unless there is bleeding. I was a little nervous because we were paddling around the lake in an inflatable canoe.

Ulun Danu Batur Temple and Batur Volcano
In Bali teenagers are considered to be possessed by demons. The demons are always male. After the onset of puberty the teenagers are locked in the family temple. Every traditional Balinese family has a temple on their compound. Then brave men from the village get drunk and join the teenager in the temple. They try to entice the demons out with drunkenness and by calling the demons name. Next a women from the village tries to seduce the demons out by giving the teenager a sexy lap dance. After the 12 hour ritual, the adults lead the demons outside the gates of the temple and lock the gates behind them. At that moment the demons have been expelled and the teenager is considered to be an adult. To ensure the teenager will be able to control their emotions, their canine teeth are filed down. The undesirable characteristics are desire, greed, anger, drunkenness or under influence of strong emotion, confusion and jealousy. Pointed teeth are associated with ferocious witches, demons, wild animals and savages.


There are offering like these placed in front of most homes and businesses in Bali. If they are on the ground it is an offering to the demons to keep them away. They are also placed on many statues as an offerings to Gods. New ones are set out every day. It's not uncommon for a family to spend 50% of their income on offerings. In Bali it is almost impossible to turn your head and not see some reference to religion and spirituality.



Our Rafting Guide Horace