‘Welcome home!’ called out my driver as we searched for his smiling face amongst the languid sopirs (drivers) waiting outside the arrivals gate at Ngurah Rai. We embraced- I had not seen him since we left in March 2020 to see out the pandemic in Australia- and this is the first time we had been able to return. Even if just for a two-week holiday. I needed to be back in Sanur to heal my tired body and mind. My second home- oh, how I have missed you! It has taken a week of massages and walks along the beach at sunrise and sunset to be able to reflect on what I missed most- so here is my little list.
Wandering past a warung or bar and seeing a familiar face- then we hang out for a drink and a chat and there are no time pressures or impending commitments. We have all aged a little in two years- I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle when I see everyone and then I catch my own reflection and know they must feel the same way too. We chat about how we saw the pandemic out- sad stories, hidden entrepreneurial skills and dogged patience- the support of family and the banjars and community. We were all in it together.
2. Bengong dan Mager
These two words roughly translate to ‘staring emptily into space’ and ‘too lazy to move’ respectively. The sofa by the pool in my rental villa is a place for quiet and vacant reflection- I have almost forgotten how to relax. I watch the frangipani flowers drop onto the pebbled footpath and listen to the sounds of the neighbour sweeping leaves with her twig broom. Roosters crowing throughout the morning, the hum of scooters and the staccato of dogs chatting with one another. My body settles.
3. Makan pagi
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I have chosen the little packets at the stall in my gang. Dadar Gulung– coloured pancakes with shredded coconut; Urap Jagung – I call this ‘Bali cornflakes’- corn with sweet shredded coconut, hot black Bali Kopi, rice with sweet potato- it is like a buffet of little plastic bags with whatever the local Ibus have cooked up for the day. Rarely have the same combination twice!
I learned this word this morning when I asked the mum of my yoga teacher how she found her way through the pandemic. I guessed that the Christian equivalent would be ‘by the grace of God’ and a quick internet search says the word means ‘praise’. I took this thought with me as I did a yoga class for the first time in two years and felt my body surrender to the mat. I can feel the spirits here- guiding, reassuring. The warmth and the sounds and smells of everyday life heighten a sense of awareness of my surroundings and encourage the voices within to reveal themselves.
5. Bintangs and nasi campur
Every warung (family run café) does their own version of nasi campur (mixed rice)- so we try them all. My favourite is- and we made our driver stop here on the way from the airport- is Warung Krishna on Jalan Kutat Lestari. The meat is cooked over a wood fire and the steamed vegetables are crunchy and fresh. My other favourite is made by my old pembantu Nengah- her speciality is Urap (steamed vegetables mixed with grated coconut) and tempeh manis (fried tempeh with sweet soy sauce and peanuts). Then, early dinner at the Sindhu Beach markets with chicken satays and chocolate martabak manis (sweet folded pancake)for dessert. Or maybe some seafood on the beach. All washed down with an esky cold Bintang, of course.