27.11.2018

I don’t know if there is anywhere in the world where there is such a mixture of human consumption and traditions as there is in Bali. Images and perceptions change like a film strip. Human consumption wins after a while when I see a huge shopping mall, or an impenetrable bundle of electrical cables chaotically pointing from somewhere to nowhere. However, the view of a young woman immediately takes over man’s control as she sticks rice to her forehead and then displays a unique performance of the sacrifice. She prays and puts small palm leaf dishes filled with rice, flowers, and other undefinable objects on a small altar built on the corner of the street. Then she lights an incense stick, closes her hands, bows a few times, and heads toward the next altar a little further along. Likewise, the store owner who just tried to persuade me to buy something, no matter what, because everything costs one dollar, has changed from a trader to a humble believer. Now, he is in front of his little shop and performs the same ritual as the girl did before. He puts the sacrifice to the good and evil gods and spirits under the curb at the edge of the road. There are thousands of gods and spirits here and people want to be good to each one. They consult each of their decisions during their prayers; a European has no chance of understanding which god or spirit they should bear a sacrifice to. And so, the paths, roads, entrances to shops, exchange offices, banks, or state institutions are covered with small bowls. Finally, as with other visits, the biggest trouble I encounter is that I don’t keep my eyes on where I walk, so I have to be careful not to disrespect them. I really have to do something about this, because I tend to wander with my eyes, wondering what is behind the fences of houses which alternate with the shops. I want to see small “dove houses” in their gardens where they put carbon from the bodies of their ancestors so that each of them has its own house, therefore unable to frighten them in a proper house. The house is reserved only for people, because they are afraid of spirits, even though they are their ancestors.

These people have a completely different view of life. When they see me on the street filming their tiny garden houses built on about two-meter columns, it is natural for them to invite me into their homes and explain: “Here’s my grandmother, grandfather. Mum and dad are over there”. They show me their family altar, but I’m not able to remember the names of those to whom it’s dedicated.

I regret that we don’t do any trips this time, because where Kuta and Denpasar end, there are temples and green paddy fields. Villagers in traditional garments with baskets on their heads walk to and from the market, children in uniforms go from school, and all around are palm and banana trees. After a while, Agung – the volcano which recently threatened to erupt emerges from the trees. This eruption was supposed to connect several volcanoes, and it was predicted to be so huge that the island could disappear. (At least his half.) I’ve already experienced it before.

It all goes through my body, and I have to admit that I am looking forward to it again after my previous visits. “Bali is an amazing emotion and when it gets under your skin, you won’t get rid of it” as Kvetinka Erbenová says. I feel that the diversity of cultures enriches me, forces me to look at the world differently, even though I don’t really know how to explain it. I feel like I am tangled in a sarong, woven from the most beautiful and subtle threads of feelings.

Jaroslav Blaško