Hati Hati – Watch Out You Could Fall in Love

Hati HatiAll over Bali are signs warning you to look out for THIS and THAT. Hati Hati: Watch your heart, be careful of holes in the roads, dangerous animals, intersections, or road works. Hati, Hati! There are no signs though to warn you not to fall in love with this amazing country. And … not falling in love with Bali is, according to my experience, an impossible feat.

I’ve thought long about what it is that makes Bali so loveable to me, the Francophile, who could live exclusively on baguette, camembert, and a light bordeaux. If you are looking for those things, forget Bali. The bread?…Na!, The Cheeses?…forget about it! The wine?…Not really! Other countries have beaches, warm weather, and lush vegetation too. Other countries have rubbish piles everywhere. Maybe not as many as Bali, but I blame the tourist industry for that sorry state of affair. There should be a sign warning of tourists (me included, a blessing and a curse all in one): Hati Hati>turis!

It’s the people. People shaped by the land and shaping the land in return. People whose life centres around their spirituality. Where else do you find a temple in almost every household? Little shrines and places of worship and offering in practically every shop, every house, every drive way? People, whose daily actions are deeply entwined with thanking their Gods for the gifts they received and with protecting them from evil spirits to take hold in their lives and the lives of loved one.

Take for example the Tooth-Filing-Ceremony mesangih or mepandes. It is a more than 2000 year old tradition that predates the arrival of hindu-ism and involves the filing down of the upper front teeth. These teeth symbolise greed, anger, jealousy, in general the more savage aspects of human nature. By filing down the carnivorous canines and incisors, the person is thought to be freed and protected from these unwanted traits of human nature. The ceremony is a rite of passage into adulthood and represents a path of social and spiritual well-being.

You may say “So what?” I think it’s an amazing tradition. It is actually one of the main celebrations a Balinese person is going to have. The whole family comes together, maybe even others from the village. It involves not just the filing, but an intricate ritual, temple service, blessings, and a feast.  What I find so amazing about it is that in the consciousness of Balinese people the base nature of human beings has been recognised very early and declared as unwanted. There is a conscious effort to rid oneself of these ‘evil’ aspects and strive for honour and integrity.

I believe that this striving can be felt and experienced when we come in contact with the people from Bali! Suksma, Eka, for teaching me about this!

Taumaruni on the Main Trunk Line

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(Taumarunui, Hakiaha Street, June 2014)
I don’t know whether to believe in rebirth and several life-times. Maybe I should because there is no other explanation for my relationship with Taumarunui.

I heard about the place 20 years ago and we bought a little cottage there  as a ski hut – Mt. Ruapehu ski fields are 30 minutes away – and sold it again 13 years ago. Ever since I am ‘home sick’ for it.

Last weekend we went to the ‘Mountain’ for a break. The moment we left Te Kuiti and got onto the hills on that 70 kilometre stretch to Taumarunui, my heart did all sorts of jumps, from delight to joy to love to sadness and a deep-seated pull with a strong sense of ‘coming home’.
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Travelling In Style

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(Lounge at Singapore Airport)
If you want to travel in style – trust me – you better have enough money to fly at least business class. Anything less is torture. You better stay at home.

I, of course, did not heed my own advise. I booked my flights in the most crazy way, all with the intention to save a few bucks. When my husband heard of my travel arrangements, he rolled his eyes … you know the kind of rolling that earned Anastasia Steele a severe spanking. But I digress.

Even though I am usually not endorsing big companies, this post will end up to be a praise of Lufthansa – a partial praise would be more correct. Why, because their inland planes suck. There is no softer or kinder way to convey it. They have all the trimmings of a normal air plane, BUT the layout of the seating is designed for the transport of people not taller than 135 centimetre or 4 foot something. So you can’t sit and you can’t stand because that is forbidden during flight. Unless you want to use the ‘facilities’ which of course are – again – for little people. I still don’t know how the 300 pound heavy passenger fitted in there, he barely made it through the aisle. And I won’t even talk about the food. I won’t!

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Wedded Bliss

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If you walk the streets of any village or city in the morning and you don’t see people scurrying home with a long stick of bread under the arm, followed by the distinct whiff of freshly baked wholesomeness, a smell that quickly captures unsuspecting passers-by, you are not in France.

Unlike us culinary savages, no decent French Femme will be caught serving for breakfast ordinary toast, baked by the thousands in sterile food plants, cut into even slices by machines, to be imprisoned in plastic bags with the label “Big Fresh” or something to that tune.
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The Artist Way

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The artist should be sitting under the Platane and create ! And let the wordly people go about their business.

How else are we mere mortals able to sample his beautiful observations once we stop from being busy doing life?

Marseille the enchanted city

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Have you ever been in Marseille? No? Oh, that is sad, because you missed something very – – – what is the right word? – – – enchanting! Ever since I fell in love with The Count of Monte Christo 50 years ago I wanted to go there … and yesterday I finally did. Accompanied by two wonderful friends who were willing to show me around, I went to follow in the footsteps of Edmond and Mercedes.

Don’t tell me they are fictional characters! I am sure many Edmonds and Mercedesses have lived here over the centuries. Maybe they went by other names, but they will have laughed and cried, loved and suffered, while the Chateau d’If four kilometres out at sea will have reminded them of one of the most read love stories ever written.
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Hedi and the Spanish Guy

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(Market Day in Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue)

Isn’t it wonderful how life presents us with the most delicious stories – when we least expect it? Maybe it has to do with not looking for anything in particular but fully soaking up the newness of a new location, a new village, or a new person. Maybe it’s about listening rather than talking, being interested in ‘the other’ rather than getting others interested in us, being open to see something anew rather than being seen.

It was a sunny Sunday morning in the Provence and we went to the market in Isle Sur La Sorgue! Meandering through all the stalls, constantly getting whiffs of cheese, fish, bread, meats, and delicious prepared snacks, is unfailingly calling for a coffee break. So here we were, sitting patiently in front of a restaurant along the Sorgue, waiting for our coffee. Hedi, a friend, and I, soaked up the sun to warm them bones that got a bit chilled because in spite of sunny clear skies a chilly cold wind blew what felt like straight from the Arctic.

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