Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reflections on day one

Putting pen to paper- or font to word file- to try to wrap my head around day one of our class. I have been in Bali for one day short of a week, and left the states eight days ago. After getting in last Tuesday and staying with Leslie for a night, I headed to Sanur Beach to ‘relax’. Oh, do I suck at vacation. Seriously. By hour 2 I was bored and looking for something to ‘do’ (other than, of course, the required reading for this course. Clearly, that could wait until the wee hours of the morning prior to each class).

So, I trolled the internet, got a $6 massage (hold your comments on the happy endings. Seriously, because of the raping and pillaging of local labor, this is what a massage costs here. We will talk more about this later. And yes, I do realize I am a hypocrite for indulging in this…discussions on myriad paradoxes of living in global economy will be continuing throughout this trip, picking up from past posts) and still found myself utterly, profoundly bored lying on the beach. And bored quickly turned into lonely, missing my partner at home and thinking how much fun it would be to tell him a dumb joke for the millionth time or just look at his cute little face. This type of brainstorm is simply not productive, certainly not if I am to enjoy the next four weeks and really embrace the opportunities being presented. I know that I am here for a reason, I don’t know what that/those reason(s) are yet, but I have NO doubt that the series of coincidences that conspired for me to be here were by accident. Or, as one of my friends puts it: Is it odd, or is it G-d?

Anyway, existential musings aside, I was truly grateful for class to get rolling today. Language class at 8AM, barely remember anything, but I can at least ask people their names in Bahasa Indonesian and introduce myself. And ask where the bathroom is. 10AM the other six Mason grad students and I headed to Leslie and Degung’s (her husband) house for research methods class. This course is going to be incredible. Being able to spend so much ‘hands on’ time getting messy, making mistakes, and being able to dialogue in real time with others about fieldwork is going to be such a tremendous gift, especially right at the beginning of my PhD program. The class brought up so, so many issues that I hope to discuss in coming posts, but in the interest of getting to bed with enough time to sleep and not fall asleep in language class tomorrow, I will simply say this: the Bali that is presented/promoted/propagated in the name of tourism is not the Bali that actually exists...indeed, it is an issue worth debating if “Bali”, a unified, common place with unified ideas and ‘customs’- so central to the narrative of tourism- actually exists at all. I have been emailing back and forth with folks interested in my trip and several have commented on how beautiful and “sensual” Bali is. Certainly, watching the sun set over the mountains this evening I was struck by the beauty of this tiny island. But the idea of this entity of ‘culture’- a sensual, mysterious and well defined thing- is something that I am finding in start relief with the actual experience of the day to day here. Much as American does not equal cowboys, John Wayne, basketball, and Barack Obama, this “culture” of Bali is a narrative that has emerged for a number of reasons, many economically and politically motivated, that have nothing to actually do with the experience of life of actual Balinese people.

So, on that note, let me simply say that I am 1) grateful to be here, 2) grateful for a lovely homestay with not freezing water, 3) super happy that I took a dipper shower just now and am going to sleep sans Deet for the first time in several days.

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