And I’m not just talking about shutting down all those devices that connect us to the rest of the world 24/7. I have travelled the world, from the depths of Africa to the streets of Manhattan, every place with its own unique way of life.
Last night I had one of those ‘how did I end up here?’ moments.
Right here in the Bali village I have adopted as my own.
Summoned by the kulkul drum I headed to the Banjar (village meeting area). It was dark, there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Women arrive carrying offerings on their heads, the priests are preparing for their ceremonial duties. The men are taking up their roles for the evening which involves anything from playing the drums, stoking the kitchen fires or village security. Kids are running around, hyped with excitement.
The troupe of 5 & 6 year olds are particularly impatient for the action to start. They have waited all day for their chance to shine. Decked out in their matching barong t-shirts (the ultimate retro t-shirt in Bali right now), this year is the first time that they have their very own “Ogoh Ogoh” monster.
These monsters will be at work everywhere in Bali tonight, scaring away the bad spirits ready for the dawn of Nyepi (Balinese New Year). Each one is made by hand, a village project for nights on end. Words cannot describe them… I’ll let the photos do the talking. Depending on the size, it needs a team of 15 or so lift it onto shoulders ready to parade. (In the big towns, the Ogoh Ogoh is so huge, a crowd of 50 or so strong shoulders is needed).
We have three Ogoh Ogoh at work in our village tonight. The older boys take the biggest, the teenagers take the middle one, and our troupe of 5 & 6 year olds step up to the smallest. To me it looks the scariest and I can see they are a little nervous beneath the excitement. Can we lift it? It’s dark. There’s bad spirits out there. Can we do this?
This is a top heavy weight that is prone to teetering all over the place. So for every kid there is a Dad or helper beside him ready to do the lifting and keep them out of trouble.
There are a lot of instructions going on. “Hold it here”.
“No, don’t go under there!” “Stay beside me!”
The orchestra strikes up. With a roar all three Ogoh Ogoh are lifted into the air. The little ones are off. The first move nearly undoes them, as they have to spin the platform in a full circle (to confuse the spirits) before heading straight out of the village. The Ogoh Ogoh teeters and rocks, but the helpers get it back in control. The young girls have grouped together, walking as a chorus of support, chanting their lungs out in time with the drums. Cheering on the monster.
It’s a 500 meter walk in the dark before they stop, spin around a few times and then head back to the village. I’m not sure the little ones will be able to make it and sure enough I see them scampering freely the last 100 metres, the dads and helpers following with the slightly worse for wear Ogoh Ogoh. They head straight to the Banjar kitchen and line up for a well-deserved pile of rice and chicken sates.
The look on their faces tell me they feel like heroes.
I see many of them the next day, still wearing their Barong t-shirt, full of energy, albeit with slightly sore hands and shoulders.
The rest of the world dropped off whilst I was walking in the dark behind monsters dancing around in the air.
We always invite our guests to join us in ceremonies during their stay at Sharing Bali. It is the ideal way to dive deeper into a destination. To find the soul. You don’t need to understand the meaning of every ritual, or question every moment, just allow yourself to be transported away into another world for a short time. Its worth it.