Payangan changed me. I knew it would, I just didn't anticipate how much. While Ubud is the destination most likely to come up in conversations about Bali, its street ratio of expats and Caucasian entrepreneurs rivals that of the true locals. I will not mention the movie but will say I did not venture out to 'his' place. Nor did I visit the yoga centre founded by a down to earth yogi rock star. Instead, I embraced the little mountainside village where I spent a week with 6 other women. The tiny miracles, mind shifts and spiritual awakenings based on precious small earthly things were priceless. More on that later.
When you see an entire village come to the dirty, narrow roadside to greet you and point at the white girls to say their "hullo, how yooou?", it does things to you. When a tiny naked toddler giggles and extends his hand, only to be protected by his naturally caring and loving pre-school sibling and his bare-breasted grandma comes running to chime in, you kind of swallow hard. Hopefully you reflect and reach into your heart before you can't resist taking a picture.
There are so many things that happen to you there. If you're open, you begin to count your social and economical riches while you realize that you're deficient in one on one interactions and simple, raw exchanges of kind words and acts. When I got back to Canada, I stayed home for a week. Pretty much in my pyjamas, changing to take my son to school and that's it. I journaled, reflected, wrote, wrote, wrote and cried. I missed Bali. Not for its intoxicating beauty. It was the simple, natural, honest life. When I finally went to the supermarket for some milk and the poor girl doing her shift didn't look me in the eye when she dryly asked "How are you?" without expecting an answer, I swallowed a tear. I felt shortchanged. I wanted to smile at her and tell her she looked pretty. I didn't. When I got home, I realized that she could have been exactly the person that should hear those words. I felt bitter about her lack of interest in me, based on connections with people that live for a gentle word and a few extra dollars for their kids. Quickly I realized that I couldn't fault the supermarket goth girl. She did what she knew. She treated me the way she'd been treated in a highly plastic society. Every time I go back, I tell her something kind now. It doesn't matter how small the exchange is. She looks at me now. And she smiled once.
Nikol Haskova Studio