Bali Bound (part 2)

At home in the rice paddies.

Arrived a couple days ago. Even though I missed out on some sleep, I had virtually no jet lag, or head cold ? that dadgum HumidiFlyer really works!

The Heaven and Earth Astrology conference got started today, but first a few words about the environment here, just outside Bali?s art capital of Ubud. The location of the conf is a large hall with no walls, entirely surrounded by rice paddies, almost as if it is floating. I?m staying in a beautiful little house ($30/night) with a lovely goldfish pond and balinese statues all around. It also comes with a ?pembantu? ? Balines for ?helper? (aka a ?maid? in the west). Another interesting word fact: Foreigners here are called ?tamu? which means ?guest? ? quite a contrast to ?white devil?, which folks like me are called in China or Japan. And they are so sweet here ? they do treat us like guests ? thankfully, very tolerant and forgiving.

My cottage is just across a couple rice paddies from the hall, close enough that I can actually hear voices from the hall. This neighborhood consists of nice houses literally embedded in large fields of rice. Water is quickly flowing in rivulets everywhere along the edges of the flooded rice plains. Geckos and frogs abound, making quite a loud lullaby at night. No need for alarm clocks, roosters abound too.

Instead of walking around the block to get to the hall on the narrow appointed path, I have been trying to go native, treading the narrow ridges that serve as dikes between the varying levels of the rice terraces. It is a bit like walking a slippery tightrope, treacherous even for an athletic sort like me (I?ve slipped in three times so far). The old women who daily pass by on the same ridges wearing flip-flops, and balancing heavy loads on their heads ? all without falling into the flooded fields, put my halting steps to shame.

Prices are unreal (it?s nice to know the USD stretches somewhere!): Dinner last night cost r. 153,000 Rupiah (which is about $16) for six of us. Been getting massages every day ? and why not ? at a price of $9 per hour ? very nice!

Rick and Jeff have got this 9-day conference off to a rip-roaring start with their usual combination of humor and aplomb, starting out by explaining the meaning of the planets. is so lucky to enjoy the services of these two master astrologers!