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.

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