Bali: Day 19

Tuesday, January 27

Now that we have begun the countdown until we depart from Bali, it is hard not to consider the unreal beauty we have seen since we arrived here. Ever since I first saw the musical South Pacific, I have been entranced by the beauty and culture that belongs to Indonesia’s isles. I’ve traveled to China several times, but I’ve always wondered how the art and culture of southern Asia and Indonesia compared and contrasted. I suppose I was somewhat surprised to see how unchanged almost all of the traditional art was over the many centuries until foreigners began arriving in Bali. However, it was not surprising at all to find out that most of the changes in Balinese art and culture happened after the 1930’s when Europeans began arriving and scholars, artists, and tourists began to flow into Bali after what I’ve learned in anthropology. I found it quite interesting learning how the performing arts of Bali, such as the traditional dances, changed over time in order to adapt to the “opening” of Bali and the influx of tourism. I feel that I have learned a lot about how “modern Bali” has adapted even since then in terms of transforming religious and traditional dances into ones more oriented towards tourism, as well as the steps Bali has taken in order to preserve the traditional rituals that we consider the Balinese art form of dance.

It has also been fascinating to see how integral spirituality and religion is to Balinese culture, and I’ve been especially interested in learning how Balinese Hinduism differs from Indian Hinduism. For me, seeing and engaging in Bali’s spiritually driven culture has opened my eyes in terms of how so many other countries are reliant on (mainly) one religion and how it affects the everyday life of everyone. As I mentioned before, I constantly notice the offerings that are placed almost everywhere, even in the city, from on the sidewalk where they are easily trampled, to their lifted altars on the thresholds of storefronts. Coming from an American perspective where people have the freedom of religion, I find it extremely interesting to see such a vast number of people conforming to such traditions. It’s even more astounding to think that many other countries have an even greater population of people where one or two major religious rule the people. I have also been amazed at how often and regular they place offerings. Just yesterday as we were walking back from dinner I saw a woman with a box of offerings replacing expired ones upon the approach of dusk. To me, these religious practices are something completely new, and I can’t help but admire the people in their dedication to their spirituality. I just makes me think harder of how I can develop my own spirituality, whether it relies on a religion or not.