Bali: Ahead of its Time in the 2020 COVID19 Era?


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March 15th 2020
Published: March 15th 2020
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Bali’s New Year’s Eve day, as determined by the Balinese Saka calendar, is a Hindu holiday mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. This year the celebration takes place on March 25th. It is also known as Nyepe Day, or the Day of Silence. On this day, the entire island of Bali turns off all power, stops all traffic, abandons all global activities, including the internet, and remains in silence. Streets are literally empty of all traffic, as only emergency vehicles are allowed, and people are expected to remain in their homes or their yards, but cannot venture on any public streets. All businesses are closed, including the international airport in Denpasar.

The intention is multifaceted: to spend quiet time connecting alone or with family; to rest and meditate upon the year, resolving to practice forgiveness for any past transgressions; and to enter the new year with an open heart. It is also a day of gratitude, accompanied by the significant offering of a day of rest for the earth.

There is no other place on the planet that practices an official day of silence of this magnitude, devoted, in effect, to a meditation upon peace and caring for each other,
Ogo Ogo in All Its Terrifying GloryOgo Ogo in All Its Terrifying GloryOgo Ogo in All Its Terrifying Glory

Ogo Ogos are created and proudly paraded on the eve of Nyepe Day to respectfully acknowledge the dark forces within us and about us.
and for the earth. There is also no other place on earth - at least, not that we have experienced - where people seem to be genuinely at peace with what goes on around them; where hard times are carried not alone, but with the support of community; and where the belief that one lives longer if one greets each day with a smile is actually practiced. We believe there is a connection.

The Balinese culture is one based in a strong sense of community, along with a belief that there are both good and bad forces in life, and respecting each and cultivating a balance between the two is of prime importance. The Balinese also practice a deep reverence to nature. Over the past eight years that we have lived seasonally in Bali, we have observed many rituals and ceremonies in honour of the trees, the water, and the earth, to name but a few. And for weeks before Nyepe Day, every village, every community, works together, making elaborate assorted food offerings for the many ceremonies which take place in the days preceding Nyepe; practicing drama productions and gamelon drumming routines; and building giant sculptures, called Ogo-Ogos, as
Ogo Ogo Proud Village Community Creators Ogo Ogo Proud Village Community Creators Ogo Ogo Proud Village Community Creators

These young men would have not only built, but also carried their creation, literally on their shoulders, for blocks, during the parades the night before Nyepe Day. Although less common, young women, and very young children, also create and parade their creations through the streets, on their shoulders. A true team effort. This, of course, is the entire point. Everything in life is a team effort.
a tribute to the evil demons, all of which are presented in the parades that take place in every community around the island the day before Nyepe. Given this context, it is not so hard to understand how this island could shut itself down for a day, once a year, to express gratitude, and to pay allegiance to its home, the earth. They are very connected to it.

We have also been present in Bali at times when threats from Mount Agung were very real, with its frequent eruptions recorded and broadcast worldwide. As we live only forty km from Mount Agung, there were mornings when we had to wipe off volcanic ash from the seats of our motorbikes. While family and friends from across the world were worrying about us and wondering why on earth we would choose to travel to such dangerous places, the Balinese remained calm, saying we can only do what we can do; hope Agung will not be too angry and take out vengeance on us; share more prayers and offerings; and carry on. We have also been in Bali during a 6.5 earthquake, and again noted how calm and accepting they remained throughout
Ominous Mount Agung from our Bedroom WindowOminous Mount Agung from our Bedroom WindowOminous Mount Agung from our Bedroom Window

Typically only visible very early on clear mornings, I was able to capture this photo, which I hope conveys just how near to us, in fact, this volcano with the foreboding presence really is. 40 km is not so far away.
it all. And we are in Bali now, as the media coverage of COVID19 spreads like the virus itself, reducing tourism to an all time low, causing many Balinese to experience subsequent hardships. And we are witnessing once again a people who, rather than being overcome by fear, continue to smile from the heart, remaining calm, balanced, and connected to the earth and everything in it.

Given the ailing state of the planet, and the growing patterns of imposed quarantines in various countries, it almost seems that Bali is a bit ahead of its time. Perhaps there is a silver lining in this current cloud that is presenting itself under the name of COVID19. Perhaps it is the universe reacting to the human behaviours which have caused so much destruction to the planet; behaviours which are seemingly so difficult to acknowledge and change. Perhaps the events around the unfolding of this virus will provide the much needed insight and perspectives on our relationship to the environment, and a viable commitment to required change.

Just recently, pictures were taken of China from outer space, showing the country with cleaner air than has been recorded in decades, as a result of decreased massive industrial production. Every day, reports have been coming out showing how much the planet is benefiting from the forced reduction of air traffic, and the diverse range of human activities that have slowed down in response to COVID19. It is our understanding, for example, that Google has announced that several thousand of its workers are being asked to work from home, the implications of which are quite significant on the corresponding reduced transport emissions. It is possible that these warranted changes will inspire new perspectives in the way the world functions; maybe, just maybe, causing a shift in the existing“business as usual” perspective that environmentalists have been saying for decades needs to be revisited.

As a human species, we have never been here before, so no one really knows how to deal with the current unfolding events and ever increasing crises. Solutions are available, as scientists have repeatedly claimed, but only if there is a profound shift in attitude by humankind, on a global level: one which evokes a deeper sense of spirituality; a deeper sense of connection to all living things; and to the planet itself. Perhaps this global crisis will inspire us to realize that we must all work together for the common good, if we are to survive as a species. Perhaps this is the beginning of that shift.

On the Day of Silence, everyone in Bali is asked to seclude themselves indoors, to reflect upon gratitude, compassion, and respect towards all others, to their connections to themselves, and to their community. The global response to COVID19 seems to be asking the same. And so, perhaps, Bali is indeed ahead of its time, as it offers a profound example of how respect for balance in one’s life, a positive, caring attitude, a smile, and a strong connection to community, and to our home, the earth, are fundamental to both the survival of the human community, and of the planet.

Thank you for your interest in our travels.


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Close Up of a Ceremonial Basket in the MakingClose Up of a Ceremonial Basket in the Making
Close Up of a Ceremonial Basket in the Making

This was not complete, but being prepared when the photo was captured. The end result would have another story increasing its height by a few inches, and would be even more beautiful when carried gracefully, seemingly effortlessly, on the heads of equally well dressed, beautiful women for long distances in ceremonial parades.
Ceremonial Parade: One of ManyCeremonial Parade: One of Many
Ceremonial Parade: One of Many

When a ceremony is passing from one location to another via a main traffic artery, all traffic stops and waits, patiently and respectfully. Without question. Always.
Another Ceremonial  Parade, Another Traffic Pause Another Ceremonial  Parade, Another Traffic Pause
Another Ceremonial Parade, Another Traffic Pause

Nothing is more revered in Balinese culture than ceremonies, as they are the foundation on which Balinese culture is built. And they provide the strong sense of community which holds its people together through all times.
Ubudian Welcoming You. Enjoy Your Time in Ubud.Ubudian Welcoming You. Enjoy Your Time in Ubud.
Ubudian Welcoming You. Enjoy Your Time in Ubud.

The photo says it all. Ubud is a beautifully welcoming place, on so many levels.


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