This morning, just past dawn, when my coffee and I walked out of my villa here in Bali, a huge grey egret was standing by the pool. Perhaps he was examining the Koi in the fishpond, waiting for one to poke his head out so that he could enjoy a swift breakfast. When he heard me, he turned and with a great flap of his wide wings leapt onto the thatched roof of the open bale, then in a single hop took off over the palm trees.
It made me realize that so much of Bali remains unseen to most of our tourist eyes. The reason I was up at dawn was that a mosquito was biting me under the covers, a feat I am still not sure how it was possible to accomplish. A few minutes later just as I was drifting back onto the other side of the dawn, I heard an unfamiliar sound. It was the low roar of the fog machines which spray a chemical smoke to kill off most of the mosquito population. I’ve slept through it every other time they’ve come through, so I don’t know how often that happens, but it is imperative to keep the insects under control. I, who prefer to keep all chemicals out of my body, was dismayed that the hotel staff could not tell me what chemicals are used in the noxious concoction, but we take so many of these things for granted. In fact, last night I watch them smoke the lobby during dinner hour, and most people didn’t even bother to move away.
Yesterday, we had a speaker come to our group meeting, the founder of Fair Future Foundation, which supplies health care for free to the indigenous Balinese. In the middle of his speech, he mentioned that the free education to Balinese children receive is not free, the free doctors visits that supposedly are offered by the government are not actually free. That the Balinese pay for everything themselves, all on a salary that would make an American McDonald’s worker blush.
I don’t mean to have white man’s guilt, or rich man’s burden. I am not attempting to lecture those of us who can afford to visit Bali on avoiding its beauty in favor of a seedy underbelly. What I am interested in is how much goes unseen before our eyes. Whether it is the Egret walking around my pool while I sleep cozy in my bed or the family of white street dogs who steal water from the decorate mall fountain, so much goes unnoticed unless we are willing to pay attention. In becoming more aware, in choosing to take more notice of my surroundings and my experiences beyond the first impression, I can bring more balance and choice into my life. I can donate money to help Balinese schoolchildren, I can leave bread out for the birds, or I can do nothing. But at least I know.
Join Spirit Quest Tours on our upcoming Eat, Pray, Love tour to Bali in October