Saturday, June 17, 2006

Returning to Bali

Every time I go back I slaughter a black pig.

To not do so seems rude.

First of all, Luh always seems to have one fattened on cassava and crusts of day-old nasi goreng that she is looking to sell by the time I get there. There is a school bill to pay for Yudi, or Sutra got his girlfriend pregnant and they need to marry right away. Second, inviting the village to a suckling pig ceremony is an excuse to greet those you haven't seen in years, feed the hungry, and appease the gods. The women lay orange and pink and white and red flower offerings in folded banana leaves on the roasted pig, and pray. When that is done, the men slice open its belly and pull out meters of intestine that they stuff with delicious bits of fat, and then they mix the warm pig's blood with fresh grated coconut to make lawar.

The pig screams at four AM as its head is severed in a misty world, where you just can see the steaming backs of the neighbors squatting in the stream that runs down the hill past the bamboo and cement block houses. Their shit runs down the quiet slope, through the rice paddies, and past the photo developing shops that have sprung up right near the beach, into the Java Sea.

I insist on swimming in the sea every day, though the locals warn me of its dangers.

"Don't swim too far," says Putu, who massages tourists on the beach.

The sea is full of black magic and sea lice.

Two of our neighbors squatting next to one another in the stream so early this morning are co-wives, one old and one young. I see them walking down the path in Kayuputih, carrying papayas on their heads, as they follow their husband.

I know what is in this sea and I choose to swim in it anyway. When I first came, the water was transparent. I swim and swim, further out to where I can still see straight down to the deep orange coral.

Every time I turn my head for air, I see the green hills of Kayuputih. In front of me, the volcanoes of East Java pierce the sky. My body is water; my head is sky.

I hear the pig scream.

I know later my hands will burn and burn from the sea lice, because it happens every time. The itching is unbearable and never-ending. Komang's wife Kadek will know how it itches and rub my hands as I lay spent in the heat on the rattan bed. My hands burn and burn, and I long for water.


Blogger verniciousknids said...

Wow, what an opening line. You sucked me right in!

1:47 AM  
Blogger joyfish said...

hi verniciousknids, wow that was fast. i had barely written that post when you commented. glad i sucked you in, and look forward to checking out your blog.

2:52 AM  
Blogger Ali la Loca said...

Funny how we find each other - just last week I followed a link from sixtenpine and read some of your posts. I meant to comment, but with the craziness of preparing for a trip I didn't follow through.

I love your world stories!!! Makes me want to discover new places. I will be back to read about more adventures.

1:15 AM  
Blogger joyfish said...

hi ali la loca,

welcome to exit 105! thanks for your kind words -- you inspire me to write more. look forward to checking out more of yours too.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Work in Progress said...

Sea lice? I don't remember sea lice in Lovina. I'm probably spending more time on the beach drinkging bintangs than I thought!

10:27 AM  
Blogger joyfish said...

The sea lice bit me every day, and still I kept on swimming.

4:41 PM  

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