One of the extraordinary parts of my trip to Bali was getting to act a participant-observer in several rites of passage. During the 3-4 weeks that I stayed with the family who owned the Anoman Weaving Factory, I participated in funeral preparations and a cremation, as well as the coming-of-age ceremony for a five year old girl. It felt to me like life was filled with religious preparations and significance … one of the many things that marked life in Bali as different in the US.
As part of my Masters’ degree program in Whole Systems Design at Antioch University Seattle, I traveled to Bali Indonesia in 1993. My stated purpose was to visit a culture where religion and art were both integral to daily life. I was also very interested in experiencing a Hindu culture, as my undergraduate degree in Religion and Biblical Literature was focused on the Hindu religious literature of India.
My trip to mainland China in 1991 wonderful but it was a rushed experience in a large group, and it was also highly controlled by our many guides, as we were some of the earliest Western visitors to the country after the uprising in Tiananmen Square in 1989. When I had the opportunity to travel to Indonesia, I was clear that I wanted to travel alone or in a small group, and to limit my travel so that I could fully immerse myself in an area and a way of life.
Life in Bali lent itself well to the slower pace. In my first few days as I got adjusted to the time difference and the climate, I wandered through rice fields, visited the town of Ubud, and ate lots of tourist-friendly food (banana pancakes and smoothies for breakfast! yummy chicken curry dishes!). I had a chance to interact with some young women who created beaded belts, bracelets, and hairpieces as a means to make a living. It was a beautiful, peaceful experience!
A brief note as I post these images nearly twenty years later in 2012. Two of the women who appear in my pictures have since died of breast cancer. Jan (depicted here smiling with a monkey on her head) traveled to Bali during the same period as I did. She helped me get acquainted with the Ubud area, and accompanied me to the monkey forest. Her appreciation for life and our experiences there was infectious! My thesis advisor Elaine Jessen (depicted here chatting with one of our guides) helped me organize my trip to Bali – it would not have been possible without her guidance and support. I took several classes with her at Antioch, but the experiences she helped me craft in Bali did more to shape my thesis and my life than perhaps any other travel experience before or since. Curating and posting these pictures so many years later brings back those emotions, adventures, and experiences … and reminds me how early in my life I was exposed to the ugly realities of breast cancer. This series of image-infused posts about Bali is dedicated to them.