I woke up at 5:30 and came out to the endless couch to watch the sky grow light over the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow morning there will be sixteen jetlagged travelers getting up at all kinds of strange early hours, getting their first glimpse of these magnificent surroundings. Most of them will be arriving long after dark so they won’t see anything on their drive from the airport to the hotel.
As I sat there listening to the small waves touch down on the beach, one upon another, I found myself missing my son, Eli, who’s twenty, and thinking about the close family bonds the Balinese people have. Here, you stay integrally connected to your family; you live with your extended family. Children honor, support and care for their parents; it’s the way family is woven.
People here are shocked I’m not with my “husband,” and can’t understand why, if I have children, they’re not with me.
In our country, and in my family in particular, individuality is modeled, honored and prized. Eli attends college 3000 miles away. He is always happy to see me and greets me with love the few times a year we are together. The rest of the time he contacts me when he feels like it, which is never enough for me. I’m always jonesing for some contact with him, yet I do not feel it is my place to “lay a guilt trip on him,” to stay in better touch with us. This kind of separation between parents and children is considered normal for Americans. We worry when children don’t leave the nest. It is expected that Eli, at age 20, should be “establishing his autonomy,” “separating from his parents,” and “absorbed in his peer culture.” All of which he is happily and successfully doing.
I wonder, at what cost, this autonomy, this independence?
Being in Bali certainly makes me think about it.
Later…I’ve just returned from my two best dives of the trip. It was a site they don’t take beginning divers to since there can be a lot of current. But I got my advanced certification last year with Lizzy and so I went to Tepenkong. I was nervous, but this dive shop is extremely safety conscious, and since I was the only guest diving, I knew I’d have a private guide.
I couldn’t believe how many people were scurrying to get us ready to get on the boat:
Here’s the final check of my equipment:
I went down with Ketut. The current was pleasant and kept us moving, but not scary, the way it might have been. Since I’d been diving last week (as opposed to a year ago), I felt comfortable and competent in the water, able to conserve air, keep my buoyancy and move where I wanted easily expending the least energy possible. If you move fast, you use up your air. There was incredible coral at this site, and lots of schools of fish. Under a shelf, there were four baby white tipped reef sharks (no, they don’t attack humans) and we hung out there and watched them for a while.
Later we saw two turtles (or the same turtle twice) and a big full grown white tipped reef shark, just laying on the bottom and then swimming lazily away. We also saw cuttlefish, an eel, and a whole bunch of other great fish and creatures that I don’t know how to name. It was a fantastic dive. Here I am afterwards:
Between your first and second dive, you need a certain amount of surface time to keep from getting decompression illness and nitrogen in your blood. So we just hung out on the boat for an hour, eating papaya and watermelon. The crew and Jan (the owner of the shop) were shooting the breeze in Indonesian. Later he explained they were talking about cockfighting and gambling and he told me what a big problem it is here in Bali—people being taken in by pyramid schemes and other scams. Everyone wanting to strike it rich.
I went out on the bow of the boat to relax, and this was the view:
The first dive was so good, we did our second dive in the same spot, but came in from a different angle. And after the second dive, I had a dive shower—they fill a big plastic bag with water and put it up on the roof of the boat, and by the time you complete the second dive, it’s heated up in the sun and you get to spray hot water on your hair and face and down your suit. It’s lovely. And today, I was the only paying diver on the boat, so I got a long shower! As you can see, I really enjoyed myself!
After lunch (sweet and sour tempe served to me on the endless couch by the sea), a bit of Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, a nap and another massage—I’m still tired and floating, but getting ready to greet the first carload from the airport.
Later….five of my writers have arrived, along with Judy. The others will be here within the hour with Surya, Judy’s husband, and our other tour guide. Everyone has been greeted by a huge full moon over the ocean. Two women got massages immediately—they emailed from their stopover airport and asked me to book them. Smart women!
Each new guest is being met with a welcome drink and a plate of fruit. Jan took their shoe sizes so he can have snorkeling gear ready for them at 9:00 tomorrow morning—we’ve found that getting people in the water first thing is an excellent way to arrive.
Once we got the first wave of new arrivals settled, Judy and I discussed the schedule for the next few days over dinner. And she told me that we had been invited to a very rare, special ceremony several days from now—a coming of age ritual for young men that involves bloodletting. Then she described the ritual in great detail—but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until I actually witness it, two days from now, for the details.
Just after Judy told this story, I excused myself to get my room ready to receive Karyn, and who should come knock on my door? Dr. Wayan. She came with a big smile, took off her shoes at the door and came in. She asked how I was doing and I said very well. I asked if she’d been writing and she said she needed to start carrying a note (notebook) in her pocket, but that she didn’t always have pockets in her clothes, but now she needed them.
She told me that she’d gotten an email from my insurance and that they couldn’t guarantee coverage of my medical bills. She said she’d never had trouble this from Europe. Only in America. She showed me the email on her phone; Anthem Blue Cross said they wanted me to pay and then apply for reimbursement (we all know what a nightmare that’s likely to be).
Dr. Wayan handed me an envelope with my lab report, a record of my diagnosis and treatment, a list of all the medications I’d been given, and the bill for services. She’d calculated it in dollars. The total for my laboratory tests, medication, IV intervention, bedroom, nursing care, physician cost, and meals, everything needed for my 24 hour-overnight stay in the Yasga Dasa Clinic? $627.00/US.
I said I didn’t have the cash, should I come by the clinic tomorrow with a credit card? And Dr. Wayan said no worry, I can swipe your card here. And then I realized that her assistant had brought a little portable credit card swiping device. But it needed a better wifi signal than the one I had in my room—so we went out by the pool under the full moon, she swiped my card, handed me a receipt to go with my paperwork, and then we hugged goodbye. “Let’s email,” she said in parting, giving me another one of her golden smiles.