Friday, July 4, 2008

Last Bali Blog


When I first arrived in Bali I met a guy named Mathias at the dive resort I was staying in. Mathias was born in Sweden, currently lives in Colorado and has spent 4 years living in Asia. We had some really fascinating conversations about the stages you go through as you spend more and more time in Asia. There were 3 stages and he said at first you go through a stage where you are completely culture shocked at the environment, people and all your surroundings that you first encounter. It’s unlike anything that we’ve seen in the “West”. I can completely relate to this feeling as I spent my first week in Bali totally awe-struck by how different this world is. Mathias then went on to describe how the next stage you go through is one of feeling comfortable, thinking that this world is not in fact that different. This is just another place and people. We have similar feelings and thoughts and wants in life. He said that in this stage, you begin to relax and feel safe, and that you begin to fit into the culture a bit. The last and third stage that Mathias told me about was the stage that you go through once you been in Asia for a while. He said in this stage, you begin to learn more about the history and people and the culture. You really begin thinking about your everyday interactions and the friends you’ve made. You soon realize that you actually are very different from these people. He said there is a line that distinctly divides the “West” from the “East”. There are certain cultures and customs and beliefs that just simply cannot make sense to us from the “West”. Mathias described this stage as feeling like a complete alien and that it’s a deep realization that this is not home and never really can be.

I’ve been in Bali for 3 weeks now. I’m not sure I reached the third stage that my friend Mathias described but I’ve kept his words in mind and thought about them a lot. Indonesia has done nothing but constantly amazing and shock me. I never have before seen a place and people like this. Maybe I’m somewhere in-between Matthias’s first and second stage but I really feel that this is the most foreign land I’ve ever been.

Bali is chocked full of tourists. In fact, I think all of Bali depends on tourism. It’s had a few terrorist bombings in this decade and that reeked havoc on their economy. Coming to Bali, I had never been more nervous to show up at a new destination. I knew it was safe and that thousands of people visit this island everyday, but for some reason I was still on edge coming here. Culture Shock? I think at kind of describes what I went though. Even though Bali is full of people from all over the world, I still was blown away by things I experienced everyday.

One thing I’ve learned about Bali is that these people are seriously “out-of-this-world” friendly. People come up to you all this time asking you to buy things. But don’t let that fool you. You can sit with anyone on this island and have a friendly conversation. Most of them even speak English which I find really remarkable. I surprisingly feel completely and totally safe here. Even my stuff, I had no trouble leaving my valuables with people at the beach to watch over or at hotels if I didn’t want to carry it on my motorbike. It was always there waiting for me. Never touched. Time and time again I head people talking about the people here in Bali. Even in the million surf movies that have been shot here, they always say “Bali is going though so many changes so fast, but the one thing that never changes, is the friendly people.” I don’t think that could closer to the truth. Their genuine attitude towards travelers and tourists have kept people coming here for almost 40 years now. Just a couple of weeks here and it didn’t take long for me to realize that whoever were responsible for the bombings in Bali, were not from Bali.

I don’t think I could stress enough how much Bali blew my mind. There inlayed an environment and people that I have never before seen. A world that had existed for 1000’s of years before people from “West” really started to explore. Where I am from and everything I’ve ever seen are worlds apart from this place. Three weeks in Bali and I feel like I have just scratch the surface to how amazing this small island in the Indian Ocean really is.

Note: The following pictures are from Kuta Beach and from a Bali “tooth-filing” ceremony that I was invited to when hanging out in a small village in the Bukit Peninsula.
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/Kuta

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