Bali -de(e)part(y)ing!

Notes from a departure

Sunday 3rd Jan 2016

“But Jorji, you don’t understand!, THEY HAVE EXTATIC DANCE!” – Rv in a desperately fascinated plea to G to leave Ldn for Bali. Now I know Ecstatic Dance is in London as well.

(funny how Rv came up in G&mine convs. with all her gimmicks times again).

I – slumped on a bean bag in Yoga Barn. Stop. Breathe. Write again:

Packed in a rush and dashed to Ubud this morning. Again. Third time I come here in the last 5 days.

Ran down the alley to Yoga Barn. But found that 15′ ahead of the Extatic Dance event the main floor was sold out. Tkts start selling 1h before.

But I’d dance on the large outdoors common podium downstairs of it. Lots of ppl did that in the end. Too many requests.

200 ppl inside, 50 more outside. A two hours session. Last 10′ we were all invited to join the main floor upstairs.

A midday fluorescent flow of dancepirits. Some rolling, some unfurling, others simply balancing a cloud of hands and voices… the Yoga Barn version of crowd coalescence where you don’t lose personality, it just evaporates at the edges of self and threads of you fly around catching another outskirted dancer and another and another.

Shouting, gasping with joy, glances and shimmers of sweltering skin, energies you like and others you generously open to, lots of smiles. You’re not supposed to talk to people or take pictures. Fow as you feel, but no obstructions. That made me clench my teeth first,  concentrating to  rhythm and moves, but then, this is a sharing experience as well, so the best way to unlock your face and give an extra edge of openness is if you open your mouth slightly as if breathing to someone or about someone. Or about to say something, but instead you just let invisible words fly out of your mouth without any articulation. The others feel it, and you do too.

The 100 sqm space usually used for yoga classes and similarly spiritual/energy/self awareness conferences, with a large sign of “silence please” at the end of the stairs, turns into a swell of dynamic joy, twists and twirls to an eclectic mix of club, chill and techno-dance music. Original remixes, and oldies re-covered. But the proximity of all these bodies in their brown-tanned-gleaming complexion is what creates the waves of it all. You are within half a meter of those around you and often find yourself dancing to the shape and disposition of so many of your human mirrors shivering around. A reflection of all their personalities. So much that you need to close your eyes if you want to gain back your very own pattern of moves and wavering blends.

Dance blends in EXTATIC DANCE Ubud

Downstairs I zoomed in and out of moods, from frenetic taps and shoulder shakes, guitar riffs on George Michael’s “Faith” to claps of “Cause I’m happy!” to suave violins-only from “Nothing Else Matters”. I wished for the freedom of expression of some contemp dance friends back home. And partly I got it.

The session meltpotted into enthused hand raising and vocal riding high on Nina Simone’s Feeeeeeling. Then a song of thanks for this dance, for friends and recognition of living. We all set down clapping to an acoustic guitar hippie solo in the end. A bearded surfer-like chanting-guy in the middle, folking his way through laughs and free-lease giggling smiles.

The DJ waved us to the square sides in the end, all joined hands and breathed out deeply three times. For what is. For what was and we wanted to release. And for what we wanted to be in our lives this new year.

Well, a sincere no ties experience. Enjoyed dancing. Haven’t exploded into that high ecstasy the girls warned me about but into an honest joy to be here. To realise there are people who can relate to you this way.

Early into the dance while still on the platform outside I brushed by a tall blonde, a bit airy, but genuine. Was one of the persons I opened up to easier. Just wide smiles and etheric dance-nnections. Saw her catchy eyes through the leaves in the garden when she went and danced away, or sliding through the faces upstairs towards the end. Felt a visual, similar echo. Half an hour later, laying on the beanbag writing she suddenly showed up sticking her feet under the side of the cushion I was on. She was retrieving her flip-flops. Talked a bit about it all. She liked it better in the more opened space downstairs, avoiding sweaty bodies and accidental skin touches upstairs. I tried to explain what was there to gain from that closer gathering of moves up in the crowd. So I thought I lost her in this dance-out-of-touches as she moved away. But after a few steps away she stopped, turned midway and said “I liked dancing with you!”.

14:00 Up now and away. Kitesurfing my way into evening. So need to scooter out to Sanur-Mertasari beach for a couple of hours and then back to Canggu for departure to airport.

(Description bla bla: )
Sub 1h scooby to Sanur-Mertasari.
Beach full of balinese, Sunday afternoon. The place looks like Mamaia 20 years ago, but with the local traits of mostly junk food, be it traditional or not, beach family boutiques with a plethora of “plastics” – cans and bottles of juices of all sorts, jellys and crackers. All sorts of fried stuff from skewers of fatty meat to corn on the cob. People in (nearly) full-dressed “swim suits”. Warm/hot water. This one’s definitely not the azul laguna type of beach. But the real life “social media” one. Dotted with public showers and toilets (the classic ones where paper is replaced by a bucket of water with a scoop, and a Rexona soap… aaa, Lux soap rather. ;-). Not as dirty as you think, but I wouldn’t go extatic about them either. A hoard of scooters/motors as you’d imagine, parked God knows where. Last time I came here I was blocked out. Quadruple parking all around mine, and I was lucky a couple just happened to move out and kinda push a way through just as I turned up. This time I was more careful.

Beach dress code reminds me of Cuba where it was customary to swim in street clothes. To protect from the sun. Here I feel a tint of religious motives mixed in with the relatively low standard of living on top of the sun-off reasons. But I enjoy the social proceedings and interactions.

Strange to see all these today when the first time I arrived here three days before I felt it was a lot more modern. During late evening time here were just tourists, in the few restaurants on the beach, or those foreigners coming out of the neighbouring spa-hotels for a sunset stroll while others were paddling back in from the sea on the various cruise dinghies or stand-surfing boards.

By contrast, west coast – Seminyak beach, Batu Bolong beach – have more amenities, lots of posh clubs, a lot hippier, full of surfers. Quite expected given that in Sanur-Mertasari (east coast) in the golf there’re virtually no waves unless you go beyond the reef out in the open waters. Whereas Batu has crazy waves, crest and currents. The moment you can’t touch the sand anymore and you don’t have a surfboard, you’re a gonner. The same waves that so romantically sprayed all over you in the fancy terraces built on the water will cary you to a velur of underwaves into foreverness.

Still writing. Watching the tall middle aged stewardess preocuppied with landing procedures (on our leg fron Bali to Sing). KLM. Friendly, initiated a talk with each of us three sitting in front of her. A Singaporean young lady, a middle aged bold Scott from Aberdeen, and me. Her – a gentle commercial permanence… a different approach to mastering these waters from what her predecessors used to… the Dutch Indies…

(…back to live action🙂
Not enough wind this time in Sanur-Mertasari. Well, lucky me in a way, as I was the only kiter around. Wayan met up with the same young, honest smile, recognised me. And Kadek (the elder between the kite instructors) immediately started selling me the idea of kiting hooked onto the boat instead. Practice the feel and management of the board in the water, the standing ups, the canting upwind, etc. He didn’t need to, I’d have done it anyway. So snapped on it and he rode me to the lagoon with lots of fishermen on the sides but plenty of relatively still water. AAND IT WORKED! After a few verbal explanations and q&a with him on the boat. I stood up easily on it, no fall riding and canting out, improved right hand side massively, left even managed to cant backwards – on the toes. Straightened back. More secure and proper body lean on board

Moved onto wake boarding hold as Kadek felt I have enough control and my transition should be easy, and it was!

Awesome cuts in the water, and the slide felt amazing! Was tempting the continuous wave-water track splurging from behind the boat to get a lot more side speed. Fell only when riding the waves and when back into more choppy waters, but learned how to flex that as well in the end. I hope I can now transfer all this fab feel onto kite pull. Can’t wait for my next try! A rush similar to a powder fly on a sunny peak. A total soul-faced infusion of joy! “I see you!” -Kadek shines over to me through his glasses.

Flight time again:
Less than 3h away from Amst now. 4:45 AM Ldn time, just after midday in Bali. A thick layer of clouds beneath. I know the sunrise is following us not far behind. Can’t see it yet, but the wide patches of cotton lights underneath towards the horizon makes me feel the Earth is putting on his own “earthrise” show. As if I’d be riding over a dormant Sun instead, and now that it awakes it starts blushing up in patches from underneath its sleep coat.

We just passed Novomoskovsk to our right, but I’m on the rhs of the plane. So some of it out in the distance could have been Moskow.    Back in Europe!

I can see Cassiopeia again (only in Northern hemisphere)!, couldn’t figure out the other one, thought it was Perseus but I checked, the helmet angle is wider. It’s Auriga.

Let’s track back.
Just watched The Martian. Fulfilling, a proper space film with the usual blockbuster satisfaction drill. Not a Stanley Kubrik mind blowing extravaganza, but an adventurous enough reality check type of story that ticks all emotional and daring boxes without being too far fetched. Humans teetering on the limits of control and life and making it. Hence why my flight and hatch-scapes over the past 2.5 hours had that extra dimension of space travel. You engage in it.

Had around 8h of sleep before that. Tried to watch the film as I boarded, but couldn’t keep my eyes open. Flight sleep. A couple of more serious turbulence fazes crept through my dreams. Ok. My feet were blasting due to altitude depressurisation after 4-5 hours. It briefly woke me up. Turned screen off and covered myself properly.

(psycho again…)
At the Changi. Had landed there around midnight. Then took off at 1:30 AM Sing time.

Night time facing the demons. It’s strange how light or lack of it can have such a drastic effect. Hooked into wifi, but my mind kept tempting me to go explore the terminal a bit. See if I remember anything, if it’s the same one from 14y ago. Wide breaks between gates, but as expected Heathrow looks much better now. Even the older London terminals do. So it wasn’t the visual cue, save for the fanned out palm trees glanced through. Reminded me of the sadness with which I wrapped their allure in the night those years back while lost on the streets of Sing selfperdido.  But it wasn’t that either. The night and realisation of place rather. Had briefly been prompted by Tinder to “log in LOG IN!” as “there’s a surge in Tinder activity in your area and there are 3x better chances of matching!”. My phone was still pulling out profiles from Bali. So swiped through’em fast. Then onto Singaporean ones… a few NUS ones as well. But I kept browsing, as if checking for someone else’s. At least this!: she had to struggle all the way through a very long trip with probably more than one stopover to get to Romania or back; or for anyone to reach her! All those hours, that solitude, fartherness of bodies. At least I got her physically far from her dear ones. She must have suffered! Good! … I paced through these thoughts and other silent darkness while walking the corridors and moving conveyors. I guess this was not the terminal. But there was a remote chance they were on new year holiday same as I. Returning. Or taking this flight out to Europe, ahead of her b’day… I might check the plane.  Did that after the film. This brought more humane feelings, but not enough it seemed as I still checked each row. One by one. What if she really is here, she must look older, tired. What will she think?, that I occasionally take flights to this region going up and down the alleys checking for signs of existence? her/mine..? or obssessively..! Haha GOOD!

But the reality is this image of her has so deeply connected to my neuronic mapping of feelings or sensation of love, that despite all rational reasons, or true attachments to others or crazy total love stories I’d go through, she somehow peeps out of the pits and shows up again in my dreams. Her face, her demure, voice even is the mask of intense love. And it’s so hard to shake it. Took me years of very passionate affair to have the same blast of irrational oneiric appearances about Y. To even begin to replace that mask.

Told G this morning I dreamt her shadow again. She wasn’t as wow-ed as before. It was in a positive context. But now I’m detached. I learned to live with this identity of concepts via dream masks. And see them for what they truly map. The verite of right now, regardless of shapes.

(Hasta la revederci Bali:)
Had left Canggu on a positive note. Driving with G out to her date, glad for the time shared, for the experiences. The discovery of this place. We’ve talked a lot, a good exchange of “dance shoes” between us. Hers and mine sailing us rather close traces in this life. More than once mind-reading each other. This morning we were both musing at the frog asleep inside the door handle at the hype villa.

Kissed good-bye uttering the same phrase that had connected us all the trip to Ubud and back, and will stay like a leitmotif of this trip: knocking our heads against each other with a “Happy New Year!” and broad smiles. We were bumping helmets on the scooter the previous day saying the same thing, a reminder of how Rv smashed G in the head with love saying this very phrase a few times over the New Year’s Eve party. The embrace of grace! 🙂

Felt much better than after the trip in Cuba, relationship and communication wise, though the other one was way much richer socially, culturally and experience wise. But here I found familiarity and the satisfaction of things rising to (and sometimes beyond – like that mansion… conac!, :-))) I gotta Google translate that when I get a chance) expectations.


Had ridden out “into the sunset” from my so far best kite-related experience. Zooming through traffic like a connoisseur this time, first at the green lights. Racing all others out with arms reaching for the sun, for the tan, for the happiness of skin. I didn’t make love this trip, but I feel it loved me back. Painted some intense magenta over my clouds of upset crepusculi I had left back in Ro. Breathed some hope in!

On the airport bought that book on Balinese religion G and I began reading. Plus another one on traditional masks and another on dance, drama and music.


First thing I did when landing in Amsterdam was to roam the streets to Rijks Museum where funny enough there was an extensive temp exhibition about how Netherlands and pretty much the whole western world benefited from the dutch occupation of the East Indies. The cultural transgressions and riches it generated. A sense of pride and ownership in doing all that. But this shameless brag felt a bit sour to me in spite of the obvious effusions of aesthetics and connections it generated in the end. Much because of the abusive substrata to the whole story. Less acknowledged in the whole display which was shockingly contrasting to how people really live(d) there. On the other hand this very exhibition and me stumbling on it was no coincidence, too many layers that still keep a strong efficient link between these two worlds. Think KLM, think stopover in Amsterdam just to begin with.

To alter this reality of trip and contingency of cultures via this European hub, I hovered over to the Rembrandt wing where there was an interesting parallel to a themed collection of Anish Kapoor. Not my favourite ones, but insidious nevertheless.

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