Friday, July 30, 2010

And some pictures

With pictures now - we were a bit too tired last night.

Here's Darta showing us young rice seedlings on the walk through the rice paddies. They take about 10 days to grow this fast. Despite it being the "dry" season it is raining alot and there is water everywhere and the rice seems to be growing very fast.

We stopped at the obligatory bookshop for Fiona to investigate. Unlike Australian bookshops, I noticed she didn't go in an introduce her self :)

And then we had lunch in a biodynamic, organic place (with no wi-fi because they want people to talk to each other. I transferred all my phone numbers from one sim card to the other. I don't know what Fiona did.)

Here's a picture of Jean - that's here waving her arms around - and the masses of textiles we looked at in this afternoon's lecture. So much of the talk was about the textiles but in the context of women, community and the history of trade and exchange. Textiles are an important part of marriage exchange and really good textiles are worth alot in exchange economies.

Today we are dyeing the simple ikat looms we tied yesterday. I've got a bit carried away with mine and stayed up too late tieing it. My fingers are sore. Pictures of that tomorrow!

And finally - a very blurry photo of the firedance before it started. It wasn't an event that I could easily photograph.

Day Two of our excellent adventure has ended with a powerful performance of Kecak Ramayana (Monkey Dance) and a Fire Dance. A backdrop of temple gates, frangipani strewn steps, set the stage for an open air courtyard which was soon filled with the singing of 100+ men. They chant a complex and multilayered sound of ‘cak cak cak’ in an extraordinary rhythmic pattern. The performance includes a white monkey spirit, the mighty bird Garuda, beautiful princesses, a giant and the death of lots of monkeys. We all got a little confused with the storyline but the bad guy does die.

The night concludes with a trance dance. A man on a ‘hobby horse’ dances wildly and then kicks and walks through hot coals made from burning coconut husks.

Our morning began with a rice paddy walk at 6.30am led by Darta, a man of great story telling ability. Intriguing how rice paddy irrigation can be interesting. We were also in the company of Pung a young Balinese man who has a great understanding of plants particularly those used with dyeing. He performed in tonight’s Monkey Dance. Pung also works with our hosts Jean and William helping the weaving communities to further their knowledge of the plants used for either dyes or mordents.

Jean and William are gifted speakers and have bought to life the stories of the textiles, the history, politics and culture of the people they work with on the islands such as Flores, Sumba, Kalimantan and Timor where we go next week.

Our fellow travellers are a mixed and interesting bunch as you would imagine of 14 people who decide to do a textile tour. We have a couple of textile artists, 2 conservators, a physiotherapist, an obstetrician, a textile dealer from Charleston, a plant nursery owner and a rail road consultant.

We eat well. Breakfast this morning was glutinous rice porridge flavoured with coconut milk and coloured green with pandanus. I eat as much champagne watermelon, mango, pawpaw and jumba (water cherries) as I can.

Now it’s late, all we hear are frogs, crickets, and the very distant sound of a motorbike and a barking dog.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In Bali now - weaving has begun

On the plane, Fiona was worried. I had 2 newspapers and magazine to read and I hadn't even started on the reading list. Here's Fiona getting some advance reading in at the airport before we even left. I think that is cheating really. Meanwhile I was mucking around with computers.

In the immigration queue at Denpasar we met two ugly Australians both of whom were upset with waiting in line. We were determined to out-Zen them and treat waiting in line as a beautiful experience. This meant sitting on the floor and reading our books ... for two hours.
But that was a moment. We arrived to meet our travelling companions for the next two weeks just in time to sit down to dinner, which was excellent as all we had eaten was a sandwich on the plane. And my favourite food item, tempeh was on the menu! So I was very happy. Where we are staying for the next week is truly lovely and in Balinese style, has excellent gardens and a beautiful aesthetic. And then we had sticky rice and Balinese pancakes for breakfast. Double happiness!

Here is the balcony to our room.

This morning we went to Threads of Life to hear about their work supporting traditional weaving. What was best for me was that so much of it is about community development and social enterprise and very familiar to things I think about at work. Threads of Life started working with weavers and then realised that they had to find a way to support them obtain natural dyes because this was the thing holding weavers back. And dyes are hard to come by because many of the plants that are used in the dying process are becoming rare through logging, development and over-use.

A few large funerals unexpectedly occurred today and we went to one in a village outside Ubud. 27 people were being cremated, some of them had been dead for around 5 years and it’s common practice to do them all together. It’s a highly elaborate business, with much ritual and lots of waiting but well worth seeing. In the end, we didn’t manage to make it to the actual cremation but learned alot along the way. It was great being with local guides who made sure we were in the right spot to see and that we didn’t overstep any cultural boundaries.

Tomorrow we are off for an early rice paddy walk and to do some weaving ourselves.

Neither of us are going to complain about hard work again after seeing what some women have to do on the job.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm in Brisbane now. There was lots of space in my bag when I left Sydney and I only had carry on luggage so I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Turns out I didn't pack at least 2 things I meant to. Fortunately neither of those things were connections for camera / computer / phone etc. Now I'm at Fiona's house and it is apparent that every spare space in my bag will be filled with a book. Kev's helping - he's reviewed Fiona's library and decided to get a "how-to" book for me - it's how to recognise evil people! So that's another book. We won't get bored then. Fiona's even packed a reading light. Probaby in case the pressure is on and we aren't meeting the quota some time in the second week.

What I haven't bought is any of my books on textiles. They are all too heavy.

We've sorted out the shoe dilemma. We were advised to bring "good walking shoes" - now to me that means something you could conceivably walk 10 or 20 kms in and might otherwise be called hiking boots. Turns out that it has to be something you could wear to walk 2 miles around rice paddies. That would be just normal shoes then.

We leave in the morning and get to Denpasar at the very civilised time of 2.30 in the afternoon.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I know I should be checking travel details like: Do we need Malaria tablets? What do I do for money? Can I find my walking shoes? And what about the fact my backpack needs replacing?

But I am most concerned about what and how many books I & Eleri need for two weeks travelling. As a bookseller this is always my first concern and one I share with booksellers the world over. The fear of running out of books or having the 'wrong' books is palpable and needs it's own medical term.

I have to consider size, genre, pleasure, and the fact that Eleri usually reads 'how to manuals'. She did make the offer that she likes books about bikes & cyclists. She also hates books with adjectives.

Choosing to disregard any of Eleri's suggestions these are the books on the shorlist:

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It's a hefty tome that has had my fellow booksellers raving. It's a contemporary family & political saga and promises to be as compelling as The Corrections. I just hope those 562 pages don't include too many adjectives.

The Old School by P.M Newton. About to make a big splash on the crime writing scene this thriller is set in Bankstown and features the Australian-Vietnamese female detective Nhu 'Ned' Kelly. Buried bodies, dark family mysteries, ICAC and the infamous Roger Rogerson should appeal to Eleri. I think I'll also choose it for my "It's a Bloody Crime! Bookclub" which meets once a month and supports my secret crime addiction.

Started Early, Took My Dog is the strangely titled new book by Kate Atkinson and continues the story of sometime detective Jackson Brodie. Atkinson is one of those authors who straddles the fence of genre writing and literary fiction. While obviously uncomfortable for her the last three Jackson Brodie novels are seductively compelling such that this will be my plane book.

Booksellers across Australia have been badgering me to read Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. A coming of age story set in a country town I've managed to avoid this award winning novel but my time has come. Hopefully it's not too 'emotional' for Eleri.

I also really want to take In the Company of Angels by Thomas E. Kennedy. A novel about poetry, torture under Pinochet's regime, passion and pain. I've read this first four short chapters and I'm hooked.

But I better go look for my sandshoes, find my passport and maybe just check this shortlist one more time.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Just 5 more sleeps

We leave in 5 days for our excellent adventure to Indonesia to investigate traditional weaving and find out stuff we don't know. That basket weaving course we did 15 years ago ... well, that was a long time ago and there's only so far that pine needles and banana trash can take you.

Fiona is in charge of care factor stuff - health, mozzie control and of course putting together a small library to take with us. I'm trusting a whole 2 weeks of reading and entertainment to her. I'm guessing she isn't packing any "how-to" books though so that will be a change from my usual reading fare.

I'm in charge of pretty much anything that needs to plug in to a power point and all comms. We might even be able to video skype home but we'll see how we go with finding a fast enough connection when we get there. I'm thinking West Timor is a bit remote but we should be OK in Bali.

Here's the website of the NGO who will be our hosts on the tour, Threads of Life.