This fourteen-part series is based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of how we fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.

Streets in Ubud, September 2017

When we travel, our interactions with locals and with other tourists could not be more different. Today was a good example.

Before leaving to explore Ubud we had the opportunity to sit and speak with Gusde, the villa's owner. I'm curious about how people in other cultures decide, aside from the money, to host tourists who dilute and often abuse the local areas, so I usually have a similar conversation where ever we land. The story was familiar, his family are part of a religious caste that allowed him to lead a privileged life, so about thirty years ago he studied abroad in Europe where his father traded with the import company he ran in Bali. By attending boarding school in Germany, it tuns out, at an early age Gusde endured the same discomfort of unfamiliar surroundings and customs as his guests do now, and that eventually lead to his interest in hosting foreigners when he was able to buy his family’s land.

I'm always interested in leaving the US to live abroad, so when we travel, this kind of scouting is part of our goal. My probing lasted for about an hour, as we talked about his family history, Balinese religion, integration of westerners, and the prospects of Bali's potential immigrants -- because the island is obviously a magnet, and I can foresee issues for westerners who have the means to move here, but do not fully understand the religious integration of the Hindu culture. This is the same sort of conversation we had in Japan with Kayo, who told us how difficult it is for westerners to integrate with the Japanese. It seems like the story is similar everywhere: no matter our thoughtless desires, we cannot gain entry with money alone. Acceptance requires true intent and honest respect for other traditions.

And then there was the group of Americans at the villa’s restaurant after we returned from Tegenungan waterfall. They were loud, boisterous, and rude, and I wanted to shout them down several times from across the patio because of their boorish sarcasm to the staff. More than any of the other Americans we've encountered here in Asia, these epitomized the worst of our ignorant culture, and we were embarrassed, even though our friends at the villa didn't understand enough English to be insulted.

Wooden penises, September 2017

Ubud, Bali Indonesia

Not entirely sure what this was all about, but I took a picture for obvious reasons. Maybe the store where this basket was on the sidewalk was an Indonesian sex shop, but probably not, since Indonesia is a fairly muslum country and not very tolerant. Not that the Balinese care for Indonesia. Besides, what do you do with a wooden sex toy?

Construction workers, September 2017

Ubud, Bali Indonesia

To this westerner, our Batur guide Guday's use of the term technology was shocking in its application. When he told us he wanted to live alone on a small farm and grow his own food, he talked about tractors like they were an impediment. I didn't understand at the time that, even though he seemed impressed with western abilities to farm huge areas, he just doesn't care, and wants to use his hands. Somehow I never considered how growing up on a small island completely alters one's value system.

Hindu monuments, September 2017

Ubud, Bali Indonesia

Maybe we mentioned before how unprepared we were for this trip since none of us had been to Indonesia. For me, it was sort of intentional because I didn't want to go into a place with preconceptions, and I just wanted it to happen -- whatever It is. Call me naive, if you wish.

One of my favorite things about Bali is the integration of Hinduism into daily life. Aside from the narrow dirt roads and thousands of mopeds, everywhere on this island there are statues of all sizes depicting Hindu deities, and we are fascinated with them. It seems like religion, and particularly spirituality, is more an integral part of daily life here than it is in America. No surprise there.

And speaking of mopeds, they are neaarly the singular mode of transportation. I think Vassar enjoyed riding on them more than anyting else since being here.

Ary's tourist service, September 2017

Ubud, Bali Indonesia

In case you can't read the sign at the end of the hallway, it's an advertisement for the tourist business in the office beyond. Not exactly a user-friendly location -- good thing the Balinese seem less threatening than the tourists.


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