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Sharing Stories - A Glimpse into Another's Life - Path of change.

INDONESIA | Friday, 12 April 2013 | Views [400] | Scholarship Entry

The number of deities lining the roadside seems endless.

They crowd close within the rows of stone carving shops, their numbers easily spilling beyond those early confines until every available space is occupied by the likes of serene faced Buddha’s and Ganesh. Their carved features stare outward, yet appear oblivious to the group of bicycles that drift by.

“Each village has its own speciality craft,” Nyoman, lead rider and guide explains. “Here is stone carving, but there is also painting or wood carving.

The pantheon's finally come to an end. Nyoman leads the group past a giant Banyan; the ancient branches providing momentary respite from the sun. A length of traditional checkered cloth is wrapped about its ropey trunk, protecting the spirit housed within.

“Many things have changed,” Nyoman continues. He guides his wheels gently away from a collection of bamboo offering boxes that lay in the middle of the road. “With the explosions...”

“The 2002 Bali bombings?” I ask.

Nyoman nods.

“The bombings,” he agrees. “Many people stopped coming. People lost their cars, their homes, their lives. I was a wood carver, you know. Some three years ago, I finished tourism school and became a guide. It was a difficult time; people did not want wood carvings, then.”

The road ends abruptly. Nyoman leads the group along a narrow dirt trail that winds into the fields. Beyond the mottled green of crops, the blue cone of Mount Gunung Agung pierces the horizon.

A farmer in rolled up pants directs a coughing, spluttering piece of machinery along a muddy paddy.

“We call these, the Japanese cow,” Nyoman grins.

Nyoman leads us past channels that separate white rice from black, sweet potato from water spinach. The sound of running water permeates the area.

Beyond the fields, the trail curves mercifully back into the jungle shade. A concreted channel plays host to a group of women shampooing the hair of their daughters. One such naked daughter spies me coming, dropping straight to her neck, smiling cheeks colouring.

“But things are better now,” Nyoman says, the sight of the girls evoking thoughts of his own family. “The tourists have returned, there are many more opportunities. My own daughter is almost eighteen, but I do not want her to rush into marriage, like I did.”

He smiles, his eyes still on the river bath. “She can go through tourism school, find herself a good job.” He abruptly turns in the saddle and catches my eye. “Thank you for supporting Bali.”

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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