Friday, 20 December 2013

9th Dec - Cepaka, Bali

When we did finally venture out of the villa, it was first to have a look around the village of Cepaka. It's a fairly typical Balian village with a strong Hindu influence (unlike the Gilis and Lombok that are predominantly Muslim). Every village, and almost every house has a temple, the most desirable of which are carved from igneous black lava stone, there a stone mason's in the village to do just that. 

Balian houses tend to follow a similar plan, they are generally walled compounds with symbolic correspondence to the human body, aligned with the most important buildings at the head, towards the mountains, and the least important at the sea end; sunrise to the right, and sunset to the left. Since it's always warm, whether wet or dry, a lot of time is spent outside. Raised, covered pavilions, open on all four sides known as balés, are where the family may spend time together.
Little Made took us to his house up the road from the villa, and showed us the temples in his family compound. One was dedicated to his patrilineal ancestors, the other to his maternal side. Balian Hinduism worships the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, but also introduces animistic elements. For instance, volcanoes and rice fields are up there in the pantheon.
As well as supervising the team at Sungai, Made provides free supplementary after school English lessons to local school kids at his home. Here's the outdoor classroom. Some guests send donations for purchase of school books.
This is one of the larger village temples in Cepaka.
The main road in Cepaka, a store on the right, a balé style bus shelter on the left.
Waking up at Sungai was hastened by a dawn chorus of birds, squealing pigs, barking dogs, frogs, cicadas and the manic crowing of competing cockerels. Village life lived loud.

Of all shared human endeavours, have we spent more time and energy doing anything than moving water around?  Since we first eschewed the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and started settling in to a cultivated agrarian system of living some five thousand years ago on the plains of Sumeria we have spent huge resources engineering our land to make water flow through it. We changed the course of the Euphrates, tapped the Tigris, and dammed the Nile. Rice, almost certainly the most important crop in the world, is utterly dependent on a regulated supply of water.  In the busy south of Bali, villages are packed tightly together, but between all of them are the paddy fields. For the most part, they're very small scale and farmed by individual families. Depending on the strain (and the genetic modifier) they would expect two or three crops per year. So with thousands of small allotments sharing a large aquifer from island-wide catchments the year round, management of water is critical.

The size and capacity of each of these diverting irrigation channels is strictly regulated by a nominated member of the community who ensures that each field gets a fair share of water.
However, it's not just rice that is cultivated, there's also crops of long beans, casava, chilli and here, water spinach, all of which we enjoyed eating back at the villa.
All credit to Made for taking us out of the luxurious cocoon of the villa and showing us around the village within which it belongs and upon which it depends. It is so easy for high-end hotel guests to lock themselves away from the outside world, paying the expensive bill to a multinational offshore company and excluding the minimum-waged or indentured staff. 
Perhaps the worst we've seen is in Mauritius where honeymooners are served cocktails in gated beach resorts by workers who live just over the barbed wire wall in broken shacks and severe poverty. Fortunately it seems Bali has escaped the worst of that kind of problem, though some may argue that corrupt government officials, removed from accountability in far away Jakarta, are causing worse ones.

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