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A Mix of Activity

Dear Reader,

Hi! I’m back with a bunch of activity and a dense update to give you. I always think I’m going to have more time to write but… you know how it goes. The story of my life! So much has happened since I have last written so I’m going to try and give a concise summary of the excitement and then try to be more regular at writing in the future (no promises but a genuine desire is there!). A few main events have lit up my last three weeks:

Full Moon at Besakih

If I told you that I was going to the temple on Full Moon in the west, I may get a chuckle or two, or even a few whispered words that I’ve gone a little bit crazy, but here it’s a regular part of life to pay attention to the moon’s cycles here. This past full moon, Ketut and I went to the Mother Temple, Besakih, in Karangasam. It is close to the big mountain, and up quite high, so the temperature is generally a bit lower. During this particular season, the night was especially cold and goosebumps accompanied my skin the whole time. A chorus of wild Bali dogs from every direction would surely seal the experience as creepy, but this temple continues to be one of the most peaceful places I have ever been in my whole life.

Full Moon at Besakih

It’s fairly difficult to describe in words… here are a few more pictures.

A New Friend and Colleague: Bethany

Shortly after reconnecting with Bu Candri, I was visiting the Singapadu residence when a fellow Ethnomusicologist arrived to study Arja with Bu. Bethany, a professor at the University of Bucknell, has now become a good friend and we have been roaming around the streets attending performances and lessons together.

She has since invited me to meet some performers and academics out in Mengwi, where rehearsals have been going on for an upcoming Arja production performed by kids aged 14-20 (plus a few supporting adult performers). The directors also teach voice at the University here so I am glad to make a new connection for study after performances are finished. Last night, Bethany and I went to a full rehearsal with the gamelan, actors/singers/dancers and I was given a fantastic opportunity to teach! Four dancers were given a song to sing -but given that they weren’t singers, they were having a very difficult time trying to sing in unison. Bethany offered-up my choir directing, voice-coaching skills and I worked with the girls for an hour or so. Luckily, having studied their music, I was able to coach their style of singing with some translation help from Bethany.

Most interesting for me, was that at certain points, without translation and with a limited vocabulary, I was able to use gesture only to communicate vocal technique. Thankfully they responded well and their singing success was well on its way! I’ve also been giving lessons to an Australian lady during her stay here… My career seems to follow me everywhere! It’s wonderful!

Dancing

Bethany and I have also been taking dance lessons together from Bu Partini, a University professor here at ISI. She has taught and performed around the world, and already in five lessons, my basic “stance” has improved greatly. My endurance also, has definitely passed the beginning stages where one move created as much sweat as an hour aerobic class. (Do you remember my complaints last year?) Currently, she is very busy with a bus-load of Japanese students but I will start my lessons again in July to compliment my vocal studies, and am hoping to study with another dancer here in Ubud, Ayu Eka. Dance is not only important to my studies in gesture and voice-body connection, but pertinent to studying Arja and other vocal genres here. As with many cultures outside of the Anglo-Saxon world, body movement is inseparable with the voice.

Perfecting my “Agem” with Bu Partini

Gek Bulan

Another fortunate crossing occurred when I went to Moena Fresh to get an Es Teler (a delicious drink / snack comprised of fruit, young coconut meat, avocado, condensed milk and ice). A puppy was roaming around and decided to make friends with me while I was awaiting my delightful snack. Within a few minutes we had bonded. The staff, in awe of our quick relationship, explained that she had arrived a few days beforehand without an owner and was sleeping there every night, and told me me I could take her home. They laughed hysterically as they told me the ironic name they gave her, “Gek Bulan”, meaning, beautiful lady moon. Of course that is ridiculous here… have you ever met a Bali Dog?!?

How could you NOT take this sweet face home?

I called Ketut and he softheartedly said I could do what I thought was best, although he was hesitant of all my activities here not mixing well with having a new baby dog. But I at least wanted to get her off the busy streets of Denpasar, so I agreed to take her and they helped by making a doggy-bag container for me out of fruit boxes and attached her to the back of my motorbike.

A staff at my side, preparing my “bunkus” – a.k.a. doggy bag :)

Image

Group photo to remember the exciting moment of saving a life!

The next 24 hours turned into Dog Day. Gek inhabited my orange purse and we went everywhere together… on the motorbike, to dinner, to performances at the Arts Centre. Then I realized Ketut was right. I am too busy here to have another priority. I was waiting until the next day to take her to the adoption centre… but luckily, after Gek Bulan attended dinner with my other new friend Bethany, we found a new solution. Bethany called the family she was staying with and asked if they wanted a dog, and they excitedly said yes! Now I can visit Gek anytime, she’s off the streets and on a new journey to a great life!

Gek and I, home from dinner

Bu Candri, Arja and the PKB

It was so great to see Bu Candri and the musical family out in Singapadu again. Their schedule has been very crazy in preparation for the PKB (Arts Centre) Festival performances and so I’m glad I’m here for a few months because I haven’t been able to take lessons yet out there. I have been attending rehearsals and other social events, one of which was a special “Six-Month Ceremony” for Bu Candri’s newest granddaughter, Miley. I am going to write about this in more detail later, as I would like to save a special space to post all the beautiful pictures that transpired from this event!

Pulang Kampung

The last few days have been spent away from the computer in the small village of Nongan where Ketut’s parents live. When the Balinese go back to their family residence they use the phrase “pulang kampung” which literally means going home to the village. I love it there so much. They have rice fields and acreage filled with coffee and fruit trees, vanilla plants and coconut trees. There are pigs and chickens and ducks and delicious home cooked food. I helped cook, did some reading, played a lot of rindik, and spent a large portion of time in the back property landscaping and having fun making the land more useable, like making steps between divisions of land layers. (Is that English? I’m starting to blur the lines)… Some of my favourite memories growing up were in the corn fields or down by the river making forts and finding beautiful spots to spend my time. Ketut’s parents laugh because it’s not normal “girly” behaviour to want to be working and getting dirty in the untamed land. But they love my ambition and their laugh is more a reflection of the joy they see in me when I come back home.

I suppose this may have subconsciously influenced my mispronunciation of the Balinese cake they were buying for us at the market in the mornings. I woke up and went into the kitchen where they pointed out the food and said “Ada lak-lak” [translation: there is lak-lak]. I, somehow in between the kitchen and Ketut’s bedroom had made the infamous “telephone” mistake and relayed this message as “Ketut, selamat pagi cayang, sudah ada luk-luk”. Regardless of how closed his eyes were, he burst out into laughter. Later I learned that I said, “good morning honey, there’s mud!” in a very excited fashion, of course. Now everyone teases me in the morning that the “mud” has arrived!

The Present Tense

Now I’m back to Ubud, checking email, writing a blog and reconnecting with the musical community. Tonight Bethany are attending Pete Steele’s gamelan group performance (a group of students from North Eastern University in Boston, U.S.) after their summer study program, or gamelan “bootcamp”, if you will.

I’ll be back to write again soon!

Ce

Dear Reader:

Well Folks, I’m back. Back in writing action, and back in Bali. Of course! Looking forward to spending the next few months here, reading, researching, studying and writing. Thesis is simmering. Body is finally relaxing. Heart is shining. All is well in Cece-land.

I flew Korean air this time, and it was OK. Hardly comparable with Cathay Pacific, however. Don’t ask for vegetarian meals unless you really can’t eat an animal. I was peering jealously at my neighbour’s yummy-looking (I can’t remember what it was called but some famous korean food – no, not kim chi) rice mixture and carrot cake while I ate a very mediocre airplane dish of vegetables mixed with pasta and soggy-ish fruit. The service was great though, and despite the minor flaw of my luggage sitting in Korea while I arrived to Bali, (my sister commented that they probably needed a special cargo plane) all panned out well – with even a little compensation money and delivery to my home here a day later.

(Insert here a short clip of me running through the Korean airport, in good shape yet lungs suffering, trying to catch up with a fast young man running with my carry-on —surely a marathon runner as well as a sprinter— directing me as a full plane awaited my arrival ….. Now imagine another simultaneous clip of another man running with 110 lbs of luggage simultaneously, and guess who won the race. Alas, luggage was left in Korea).

The quick turnaround was lucky, however, considering I was going to a wedding a day later and needed my ceremonial clothing. I was also lucky that my sweetheart had gone shopping for some new material for me and arranged for a tailor to make a new shirt (kabaya) for this occasion. Amazingly I went to the tailor that day at noon to be measured and we picked it up – ready to go – later that evening. His family all wore the same colour so they could greet the guests and be recognized by all as “the family” of the groom. It was such a wonderful feeling to be included in this colour scheme and welcoming committee :)

Ready to go…

It was also wonderful to finally experience what a Balinese wedding was like! I shall now describe to you the turn of events:

Generally, the lawar (do you remember this term? a ceremonial food comprised of sacrificed pigs, fresh pig’s blood, grated coconut, green beans, boiled jackfruit and many spices… ooouch!) is made the morning of the wedding. Everyone gets up before dawn to prepare. The men do the sacrificing, the preparation of the meat, and all the cooking. The women support by making coffee and serving snacks. They are also making the offerings (beautiful crafts created with palm leaves and other natural textiles to use for prayers to the Gods). Thanks, I’ll take that job any day over chopping up bones.

For this particular wedding, they decided to make the lawar the day before (which was eaten fresh that day, catering was done for the wedding day). I am always shy, entering into this family again. Having come from a VERY small family, being part of a family that looks like an entire village (50+ people) can be rather intimidating – especially when still new at the language and when I stick out like an eskimo floating in a chocolate bath. Even though they are so warm and welcoming with me, it takes a lot of rounding-up of my nerves to try and be part of the community because everything I do is being watched and smiled at (or laughed at :) hahaha). But I mustered up the courage needed to help make coffee and learn how to make offerings and I even tried to carry a basket on my head (when no one was looking).

The next morning was the wedding, and we left a little later than intended (as usual) to arrive by about 10am. The ceremony actually starts at about 7am, when the couple prays together and only the family members are present. We could have gone for this but I guess I will have to wait for another occasion to see this part. For a local groom or bride, this is just a bunch of praying, because all their earlier ceremonies (such as hair cutting, teeth grinding etc.) have already been done throughout their life. The bride and groom are responsible for picture-taking and accepting congratulations. And prayer.

My account is somewhat general, I realize, but this is my understanding so far.

The ceremony always takes place at the groom’s parents house, and before the reception (around the time we arrived at 10am or so), they visit the bride’s house for prayer and a symbolic “goodbye” to her family temple as she becomes part of a new family… (of course, the next day, she’ll probably be back to her family temple for prayers). When people arrive, the groom’s family greets them, takes their gifts, and they are given (or take from a small station) some snacks and a drink. Then, everyone sits around, eats, talks, takes pictures, prays and watches other small ceremonies take place until late afternoon (4pm-ish).

After this took place, we went back to the house there in Nongan and talked some more, ate some more,  relaxed some more. I laid down for a while because I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with everything. Time change, weather change, culture change, family change, life-style change. All good, but still tiring at first. Ketut’s Dad then brought out the rindik for me, and him, Ketut and I sat on the bale (bah-ley = balcony, patio raised open tile surface for sitting) and took turns playing.

Since then, I have mostly been relaxing. Went downtown Denpasar to buy a phone and walk around a big mall or three and eat two ice-cream cones in a row. Two days in a row. Did some visiting, sleeping, talking, catching-up, and a lot of smiling. Just got my motorbike today.

I’ll leave you with some pictures. Many of these were taken with the small camera. Bigger camera will pervade later. Better shots later. Have to get used to this again. Sorry about the lack of Bride and Groom shots! It took a while before I felt brave enough to go around and take pictures!!!  Hope everyone is well. I’ll be back soon with more!

With love,
Cece

Dear Reader,

How are you on this fine (and cold!) Saturday evening? I am currently enjoying some quiet time at home, still unpacking and doing some work for school. As a bit of a break from that, I decided it might be fun to write about food (although I think it’s much more fun consuming it!). Many people have asked me, “What’s the food like in Bali?”, “What do you eat there?”, so I figure this will be a more elaborate description for those who have inquired (or others who are interested). And also, I didn’t really write much yet about the end of my trip.

I think I shall start there. Diving in…

The last part of my trip was great. I got the rest of my tasks and research done, did a bit of relaxing, saw a few new places in Bali, and as I previously mentioned, visited my favourite place, Candidasa, and went swimming. Candidasa is also my favourite place to eat, not only because of the wonderful nasi campur (literally, “mixed rice”) but because of the wonderful conversations that always take place when I eat there, and the relaxing sound of the waves landing on the shore beside me. Nasi campur is not a dish of rice mixed with things, but rather a dish of several things that you can mix with the rice. Generally, there is one or two types of chicken, a boiled egg, Balinese style vegetables (often mixed with coconut meat), often sweet and crispy tempe and/or peanuts. Always very spicy.

The first time I went to Bali this summer, I actually really disliked the food. So much of it was oily, fried and not fresh, it was too spicy, and the flavours were so foreign to me that I just couldn’t get used to it. The funny thing was after I got home I looked in my fridge and had no appeal for western food either. I realized that this was partially due to the fact that Ubud has some of the most awesome western food I have ever eaten, in some of the loveliest restaurants! This time in Bali, however, I really enjoyed the local (Balinese) food too. I was given a much more careful tour of the local warungs (small restaurants), roadside and market food and I must say, it is delicious! Plus, you get to eat with your (right) hand!! Tonight I was really trying to avoid my fork at dinner with my grandmother (a little bit challenging, however). Nothing really tasted the same when I tried to eat from a metal utensil. In fact, I have been having a really hard time with the food here on this return. The first night I got home I looked in the fridge and cupboard and saw nothing appealing. I ended up eating toast my first 24 hours back!

Regardless of my new discovery, (or viewpoint, as it may be), there are still foods in Bali I do not intend to miss… I have included a picture of a dish of nasi campur from the ceremony at Bli Komang Sudewa’s house (Ketut’s brother) during their “housewarming” ceremony (which was delicious). They had a basket of deep fried water snakes, however… (not really sure what they are, but they had little teeth and fangs!). I ate the one on my place all the way until the head and then tossed it over to Ketut :) … They also eat a lot of pork there. Not so fond of that.

And then there is a ceremonial (or, special occasion) food called LAWAR. Yes, I will capitalize it because it is huge. There should be a “how many people does it take” joke for this cooking process. I (not once, but twice) had a lesson scheduled with Bu Candri who then called me the day before to say that she had to cancel because they were making lawar. The neighbours had come over and the maids were there, her brother and other family members. Same with Ketut, when he prepares for his ceremonies, he goes to his village a day early so he can help make it. It can be seriously SPICY and most foreigners avoid it. But it is truly a Bali specialty similar to no other food I know in the world. I do enjoy it sometimes but I avoid the versions with fresh blood poured overtop. They even make dragonfly lawar! For those of you interested in the ingredients, here is an additional link: http://www.baliadvertiser.biz/articles/kulturekid/2004/16lawar.html

I have had many Balinese food adventures (including contracting Typhoid Fever), and I may not be chomping at the bit to eat Lawar or fighting anyone over deep-fried water snakes, but thankfully this last trip showed me a new, positive side to a food that I wasn’t so sure of at first. I think that’s good… although I am really missing Balinese food right now! Onto a new adventure we go!

Christmas was definitely different in Bali. There are Christmas lights in many stores and restaurants but I don’t know that I’ve ever been somewhere through December that doesn’t celebrate Christmas on the actual day. I decided I wouldn’t let that stop me, although it’s by no means my favourite holiday. I thought I would get through scot-free but when I woke up, I imagined my family and felt a bit homesick, and missed my annual stocking very much. The only Christmas I had ever spent away was in Mexico (many years ago now). I had already been there for six months and they celebrate Christmas with serious flair! so I was quite absorbed on that occasion.

Thankfully (coming back to the present) I was able to send messages to all of my family and my sister had sent me with a present to open :) (I have the best sister), and Ketut bought me the most beautiful cut flowers I have ever seen in Bali (I have the best… fill in the blank ;) ). Then I went back to Rendang to cook (for the first time in Bali, a challenge on its own given the differences in kitchen life) a big dinner for Ketut’s family on Christmas day. That was nerve-racking! They asked me what style of cooking I was going to do… I said it was “alla Chelsea” style. Not Canadian, not Mexican, not Indonesian, but Chelsea.

I must explain to you the kitchen differences, so you can fully understand the challenge. Western kitchens are seriously luxurious. In a typical Bali kitchen, you will find: two burners (without the stove), some pots and pans (although no typical western frying pans), a rice cooker (this should be first on the list), a knife or two, salt (no pepper) and a wooden block for cutting or grinding, and a couple big spoons/spatulas. Oh, also kecap manis (sweet ketchup), coffee, tea and sugar.

Given the lack of spices, I bought some whole black pepper that we ground with a rock, a garlic clove and some random Balinese spice-mixes to be even more improvisatory and insane. I bought a whole bunch of vegetables (mushrooms and zucchini to sautee with garlic, carrots, green-beans, red green and yellow peppers to julienne and flash-fry with a light peanut sauce, and tomatoes to roast with garlic, salt and pepper) and some chicken breast to cook with a random sauce to be created in the moment. (a meat they did not recognize later!)

Ketut, being his wonderful helpful self, asked how I would like the chicken cut. Being breasts, I said in half would be fine. He gave me a serious look. “REeally???” he asked. “Yeah, what’s wrong with that?” I replied, confused by his reaction. “Are you sure?” He asked, even more confused than me. It was then (or one round of “are you sure”, “yes I’m sure” later) that I remembered what utensils we would be using to eat… our hands! (or right hand, as it may be).

I suppose the cooking wasn’t that big of a challenge, but the idea of cooking in front of a Mom and Dad who had never tried this style of cooking before, and when I’d never cooked with this setup before was a little grating on the nerves. It was more difficult standing in the grocery store trying to imagine what I needed to get, or what they would like or what I could make that they would remember fondly. Luckily, everyone enjoyed it very much. Especially the mushroom-zucchini dish. Hooray! Unfortunately I forgot to include a sambal (hot sauce of some sort) and that was a bit embarrassing since they generally judge their food according to how spicy it is, but in some ways, that would have taken away from the Chelsea-ness of it all.

So there you have it.

After dinner, I had made up little stockings to give to the kids filled with Canadian paraphernalia and it was fun to see them enjoy their first “Christmas” traditions. Although I suppose it’s not very politically correct for me to call it that, is it. ??? Sigh. Oh, Canada.

The way home, was the perfect ending to a great day. I witnessed:

1. a brilliant sunset, along with a new naked boys bathing at the side of the road. Not so uncommon. But what was different was that I had yelped for stop on the motorbike so that I could take a picture of this sunset and as I got off the back, Ketut had a phone-call, so he stayed near the bike while I ventured off. With my camera in hand, I wandered past these two boys (in the ditch-river… don’t know how else to describe it), naked and looking straight at me. So I quickly turned my eyes as they tried getting my attention (did they want their picture taken???). I took a few pictures (OF THE SUNSET, come on!) pretending I couldn’t hear a thing, had a couple of cars honk (I’m sure they were wanting their picture taken also) and got back to the motorbike with a laugh.

2. Then, I attempted to eat a lot of bugs – or shall I say the wind-force on the bike attempted to feed them to me.

….and THEN, getting back into Ubud, we decided to venture out and eat again! Across the street from my Bali-home is a small vendor selling “pisang keju”. I asked the first time I saw it, “What on earth is pisang keju?” and my response was, “I’m not sure, I’ve never tried it”. Fair enough I suppose (even though I didn’t know how it could exist so close for so long and not be tried). Pisang means banana, but keju wasn’t in the dictionary, so I asked. “What is keju?” and the response was, “You don’t know keju? It’s really famous in Australia”. Thinking it’s some sort of style, I wait to see what it is. We bought some (picture attached below) and I must say it is the most delicious thing every. Keju is CHEESE! Why does my dictionary not have that entry!?!? I suppose it’s not a common thing in Bali. Ok, to explain fully, pisang keju is deep-fried, crispy bananas, drizzled with condensed milk, palm sugar and white cheese. I think we ate this every day after we discovered it.

I suppose I could make some of this stuff at home… but it’s always difficult when school comes. Everything else goes to the background. I won’t let that stop me completely though… I must make some of these things here! I am determined! I love food!!! :)

Well, thanks for coming out again to read my journal. I hoped you enjoyed these stories about eating, cooking and Christmas. I certainly enjoyed making the memories…

Hope to see you again soon!

Chelsea

Dear Reader,

Thanks for visiting me again. I’m back at home now in Vancouver, although I’m beginning to feel more disoriented with the concept of “home” as my time is spent immersed in other cultures and places around the world. It can be very confusing to be such an adaptable person!

I want to start by saying… I am SO glad to be in 2012!!!!!! As many of you know, 2011 was both a year of severe challenge and triumph for me, and I managed to land in 2012 with the most positive, clear and peaceful mind I have felt in a long time. Bali was good to me and filled in the gaps for a lot of the work I have been doing to recover from some of those challenges. It was wonderful to connect with old friends and see those amazing smiles again. I felt like my smile had a place to go, and sometimes I feel that to be a difficult task in Vancouver. Nevertheless, I have brought peace back with me along with a new Rindik (grantang) to play and practice and I’m even thinking of doing a small performance this Friday at an open mic around the corner from where I live in Kitsilano.

Yesterday was my first full day back and I just spent it with my family. My sister picked me up from the airport the night before, waiting for me with the perfect hot coffee in hand and huge hug in her arms… her wonderful man carted all my luggage around… they drove me home and then hung around for a bit before taking off around 11 to get to a relative’s house for the midnight countdown.

You see, the amazing thing for me was that I had already had my countdown in Hong Kong. I had already BEEN to 2012 and seen how great it was! And then I got to do it all again in Vancouver because of the crazy time differences around the world. [to clarify, I left Bali at 4pm on the 31st, arrived in Hong Kong at 8:30pm through midnight waiting for my flight at 1am on January 1st, to arrive back to Vancouver at 8:30pm on December 31st again!] Both times going through the strike of twelve were quiet for me, with my eyes closed and positive thoughts in mind. I imagined the new world I wanted to create for myself and I must say without a doubt, it is already in creation. I spent January first having the best talk with my Mom over lunch, the best talk with my Dad and Grandma over dinner, and then a peaceful sleep in regular Vancouver hours! Even after having the most comfortable 8 hours sleep on the second plane here! Just amazing! Last night too, I slept from 11pm-9am. I think you remember me fully confused last time having took three weeks to get onto a regular sleeping and eating regimen here.

Things only got better today when I talked to one of my amazing friends, Jean Leggett, who is also my life-coach. Have you heard about life-coaching before? It has changed the way I look at life. As soon as I found out about this service, I knew it was for me. People have coaches for weight-lifting, running, olympic activities, singing, mental issues and academics… but what about our daily goals in life? Being such an ambitious person with so many interests and feeling like there’s never enough time, I knew it was crucial for me to collaborate with someone that could help direct all my energies and desires. I met Jean two years ago at a friend’s wedding and we hit it off immediately. We became friends that weekend and I found out she was a life-coach. I decided to have a session with her, and right away it was rewarding. I already had more direction – and not because she told me what to do, but because she asked me the right questions and was intuitive enough to know how to direct my insanity! Through the last two years I have accomplished more than I ever imagined possible, thanks to myself but thanks to Jean also for her guidance and most importantly, her sincere belief in me and my capacity.

Just as a taste of what that means:

I helped produce over 200 concerts in 17 days at the successful FHFN Aboriginal Pavilion during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, worked with artists from all around the world coordinating productions at venues all over Vancouver, including producing my own event at the Vancouver Trade and Convention center. I co-founded and co-directed a successful children’s choir, the Pacific Spirit Children’s Choir, out of West Vancouver which participated in many successful performances such as Andre Rieu’s annual Christmas special at GM Place with over 12,000 audience members. I finished my Undergraduate degree in Music and gave an hour an a half concert on my own after just having recovered from surgery on my larynx and not being able to sing until 3 weeks before the performance. I wrote and produced a theme song for VCC’s new promotional material. I wrote two award winning musical scores for two short films in the Montreal World Film Festival. I worked at a well-known recording studio out of North Van and learned some audio-engineering. I flew all over Canada to help with different speaking and musical engagements, went to Mexico for three weeks to visit old friends, I attended two vocal pedagogy workshops out of L.A. with Lisa Popeil and enhanced greatly my ability to teach many other western styles of singing. I flew to Arizona to work on my photography with an experienced friend, took a spontaneous flight to Ottawa by myself to see my favourite African singer, Salif Keita, lived in Bali for the summer, landed another conducting position with the Vancouver Bach Chidlren’s choir and started 3 new groups of a new level of choristers, the “piccolinis”. I started my Masters degree in Ethnomusicology. I taught my first two lectures at a post-secondary institution (VCC) on vocal pedagogy. And now I just came back – as you know – from spending December in Bali again. I can have conversations in Indonesian now. I can’t even list the rest because it would go on and on, but it gives an idea at how much I have been able to do in a short frame of TWO years only. I am thankful to Jean for much of this, because she helped me be brave enough to go for it all.

I love her to pieces. Today we had a call to catch up and then do a bit of coaching and I must say, 2012 is going to be a year you’re going to need to follow around here. :) I would like to write more about these ideas but for now I can direct you to her website and NEW blog which she will be writing about many interesting coaching topics, for those of you intrigued… www.thecookiecoach.com AND BLOG: http://jeanleggett.blogspot.com/

One of the things we talked about was the amount of pressure there is in living in western societies. Life in third-world countries can be extremely difficult at times, but we have complicated our lives and forgotten so much of what is important. Part of my great difficulty last year was dealing with the long-time war I have had in my mind for the past several years, a war that many of us share: “What am I going to do with my life?” “What should I be doing?” “What is my destiny?” “Where do I see myself in 10 years?”… While that is important, it can also carry us away from the moment, and have us wasting away time, planning for things that could be completely null and void next week. So why not just BE. Why let anyone else tell you your destiny. Why allow yourself to get stuck in commitments and responsibilities that are not true to what you really want. And why not be open to contemplating visions we never imagined possible for us?

Sometimes I feel like my life is filled with those traps, and this year I plan to stand face-to-face with them and say: NO. It’s not the “things”, but the quality and essence of life that I want. I am not ready to share all those details on this site right now, many are possibly even too personal for me (gasp!) and also because many of them are unknown still (yet another gasp!)… but rest assured: as they unfold, so will I.

New Years is incredibly important to me, and perhaps one of my favourite holidays, not because it’s the right time to lose 10lbs, not because I’m going to play more piano, or write more songs, or accomplish more “things” but because it allows me to draw a tangible line in which I can leave old things behind that are not serving me anymore and take with me the things that are. It allows me to place new thoughts free of nets or weights in the forward side of the line. It is a formal time for me to re-evaluate and make new decisions about who I want to be. I don’t believe in waiting for things that are important, however, so this is not a “I’m going to wait until the 1st to start my goals”, but a place, a sign-post to arrive and think about myself. Winter-cleaning, perhaps.

To wrap this all up, I want to say THANK YOU. Thanks to all of you who have been following my writing, my thoughts, my experiences and my life. Thanks to all of you who believe in me and what I do. It means the world to me, and I will always appreciate your loyalty to who I am. In return, I leave you with a smile and enormous warmth in my heart.

I plan to keep updating you with more of life, more of living and more of ME.

Thanks for reading, as always,
Chelsea

PS – For those of you curious about this “Five Alive” reference, 2+0+1+2 = 5, and five is the number of positive change. It is also the number of several awesome words like, laugh, light, and alive. Hence, I decided to give my year a theme name: Five Alive :) (yes, my cheese will go over the line with me, thank you very much.)

Rain and Reconnection

Dear Reader,

It has been a successful start so far. I’ve finally seen all my friends and reconnected with Bu Candri, started my voice lessons, had many of my questions answered, learned and memorized three songs on the grantang (rindik music) with two teachers, attended more ceremonies, as well as relaxed, laughed and smiled a lot.

I was concerned for my productivity after I last wrote not only because the time had already flown by just doing my schoolwork, but also because the next day, after I was ready (rearing to go, as I’m sure you can imagine me), the rain started pouring so heavily that I couldn’t go anywhere! You will see by the pictures a bit of what it was like, but even by car it would have been difficult to see the road, so I ended up just staying at home, relaxing… I suppose not a bad way to spend a day. And now that I’ve accomplished much of what I’m here for, I can feel even better about it. But that’s the wonderful thing Bali teaches me: sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes it’s ok to accept that. Relax and enjoy life. Accomplishment can coexist.

My first lesson with Bu Candri was spontaneous. When I came to visit her the first time, I wanted it to be a surprise, so I didn’t call, I just drove the motorbike there hoping that she’d be around, but when I arrived she was out. Bapak (Dad) was there (her husband), and was so excited to see me. He invited me into the kitchen (of course) and told me to eat (yes, told). He kept going on excitedly “this is your home, we are your family, I am your Dad, if you want sugar it is here, if you want coffee, it is here, if you need more sugar, if you want rice, if you are hungry… I am your Balinese dad, we are your family… please take whatever you need”, all with an excited, breathless voice in his happiness to see me again. I ate while we talked (all in Indonesian, as I don’t have Leslie’s help this time!) and then he went off to do some chores. When Ibu arrived, I peeked out of the kitchen and when she saw me it was instant humongous  smiles for both of us. We hugged, she ate and then we sat and talked for a while, and both of us couldn’t stop smiling. She had a lesson scheduled with a girl from Japan, Chisa, who is also a friend of mine here. Bu Candri had said this summer that Chisa and I were like her daughters, and when we all reconnected, I still felt that way. Chisa has studied with Ibu for years and years, and lives part time in Japan and part time in Bali. She has a friend (also Japanese) studying with Bu Candri right now and the two of them arrived and invited me to practice with them. Both of their voices are HUGE and so is Ibu’s, and I felt malu (shy) to sing with them, but I did anyways. It was so powerful to sing this style of music with 3 other big voi es. I felt like we were shaking the clouds.

The next day (and since then) I have been learning about phrasing and when to come in with the gamelan, also, learning more about the Dalang voice (shadow puppet) and getting some more idea and practice with that technique. I would really like to post a clip next time so you hear it. It’s pretty amazing, and Bu Candri is a real master. She can make you laugh, cry, feel angry, with one note, one look and one timbre change. Leslie can vouch for me on that one! Studying with her is so much fun.

The rindik (grantang) music I am learning is also really fun. I didn’t expect to learn much of it here, but I am finding that I can’t stop practicing it when I have free time. Pasek, one of my teachers, lent me one  to keep in my home here :) It is so relaxing to play because of the sound of the bamboo, but it’s also really challenging for the mind because it is two handed with lots of syncopation. Patience and coordination are required. However, I am finding a good patience in myself with this. I get lost practicing and don’t think about the time at all, just the tone of the bamboo, the coordination and the calm poise I must play with. I am going to see if I can bring one back so that I can practice in Vancouver. I will try to post a clip of this later too.

Tomorrow I have a lesson with Bu Candri in the morning, and Pasek in the early afternoon. Then I will go enjoy the beach. Haven’t seen it yet this trip! My favourite nasi campur (mixed rice) is in Candidasa. It is a beautiful place to relax and swim. I will update you with some pictures next time I write.

For now, I’m off to home again to do some reading and then get a good night’s sleep (although I just finished drinking a wonderful cappuccino at Mingle here at 11pm). Sometimes I don’t even feel like sleeping. I’m loving Bali this time. A lot.

Hope everyone is doing well. Hugs to everyone from ME.
Chelsea

Back in Bali

Dear Reader:

I guess I didn’t really prepare anyone very well for this title. This semester was so busy with school and work that I barely had time to tell my friends what I was up to. I am excited to be back in BALI now working on projects and doing some more research. The first few days have been rather crazy since I still was finishing some schoolwork. I wasn’t really able to see anyone until tonight… although, I had come to work every day (for at least 9 hours) at one of my favourite hangouts, Mingle. Also, the day after I arrived I went to a ceremony in Denpasar with my best friend here, Ketut, and saw everyone in his REALLY big family. I had brought a bunch of keychains and things from Canada to give out, but then realized that there was about 50 of them. And that’s just somewhat immediate family…

Bali seems even better now. Perhaps this is because I knew a bit more of what to expect, or possibly because I am lacking the Typhoid fever, but there seems to be less garbage on the streets, more greenery, even better local food. I’m happy. Especially happy to be done the majority of my other work so I can get onto my Bali projects starting tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will be going to Rendang, to learn some grantang. :)

…and my friend Sudi’s parents have invited me to a ceremony in a couple days from now. I hope to connect with Bu Candri again tomorrow or the next day so I can start my lessons and interviews. I miss her so much and can’t wait to see her again! I have a feeling I am going to be very busy here in the next couple weeks as I’m only here until the 31st of December and have a lot to accomplish in that short time! But thankfully, I am happy, enjoying myself, and have wonderful friends by my side.

I’ve included a few pictures of happy things for your viewing pleasure.

Love to all… with a big warm hug,
Chelsea

Dear Reader,

Nice to see you again. I have been meaning to come back here and update, but got a little distracted in my final projects at the end of the summer, in Bali, in Los Angeles and back in Vancouver again. I contemplated creating a whole bunch of entries before writing this one to recount my experiences on a time-line but I realized that it doesn’t have to be like that, and I can come back and tell you stories anytime… so I might as well start here.

I think that’s a good theme. We often wait for the right moment to do something and fail to realize that if we just did something, it would be much more productive, and consistent.

Speaking of production and consistency… I’m back in school, chipping away at the world of music from a sea-level view in Vancouver, BC, where I live and go to school. I realize this is obvious to many of you, but you never know when someone will be reading that will feel left out! :)

When I arrived home from Bali, I was still feeling quite bogged down in the lungs from the Typhoid. It was the middle of August and I had four days to organize things in Vancouver before heading off to a workshop down in L.A. on vocal pedagogy. After spending a summer singing Balinese music, it was neat to be inside other genres, comparing and contrasting madly in my head. Actually, this workshop was really fascinating and I enjoyed it very much. Lisa Popeil runs the program called “Voiceworks” which looks at several western genres and how the physiology of the voice differs when singing different styles, including: pop, rock, country, opera, operetta, musical theatre “legit” and musical theater belting. I am now officially a “Voiceworks Associate” and it has been really helpful, proving great success in my teaching methods. I had taken a shorter course earlier this year in February from her but this one was much more intensive… and unique: a week long on a orange farm, singing morning, noon and night. It was a bit of a challenge adjusting to western life again – more importantly… schedules. Also the time zone was difficult. I have NEVER had a time zone change affect me the way Bali did! It took me about 3 weeks to start sleeping normally.

It was also difficult culturally. At first I was glad to be back home. I was tired of the moldy, smoky, garbage-burned air, the noise, the insane traffic regulations, the toilets and the cold showers. But after about a month, and still, I felt a longing for the warmth I knew there. And not just the climate. It’s the people I miss. People are so damn angry here in Vancouver. I can understand it a little, but it’s sometimes like dealing with people that have been transformed into monsters. A few weeks ago I got incredibly sick (A Typhoid recall, perhaps) and was completely out for a few days (now a few weeks, lungs still recovering from the summer!!!). However, I had one engagement for conducting that I couldn’t find a sub for, and I dragged myself out of bed hoping that I could manage the half an hour of very excited, monstrous children. Unfortunately, when I left my house I realized it wasn’t a good idea, but by then it was too late. I made it through (with little memory of how it went) and made my way back to the main road I’d be taking the bus on. I came up to a street I needed to cross and because of the red light, there were several people crossing. When I reached the crosswalk, it had just changed to a blinking red hand from the white-outlined person (the go-ahead, start your journey across the street signal), and given there were people in front of me walking, I followed. I’m not sporting a cane or anything, so I figured it should be lots of time. Well… apparently I chose the wrong time and place to be a sheep. Or a human being, actually. A woman waiting to turn right decided that she didn’t want to wait for me to cross, and was quite pissed off that I was costing her 4 extra seconds of her life, and so she decided to try and run me over. I can’t even tell you how much my head was already spinning, or how insane she was, screaming with her arms up, revving her SUV towards me (so that it was touching my body and I had to jump away 3 or 4 times, further and further), but I was shocked, and almost in tears. (they came later). The best part of the story happened immediately after. The only fellow who seemed to care (besides all the others entertained by my misfortune), came up to me as I was walking away on the sidewalk and said, “Well, you know you’re not supposed to start walking on a red flashing hand… so, you were jaywalking”.

Ok, I shant put the words in this journal entry that sum up how I truly felt about this, or what I would have said to this man had I acknowledged him, but I can say that I walked away really missing Bali. How can we be so angry here? We are so stressed with work, responsibility and financial burden – obsessed with gadgets and superficial gain – that we become inhuman, and forget to acknowledge that we are living amongst human beings, with feelings, and complex life-situations and challenges. There may be burning garbage in the air in Bali, but when you walk down the street, people are gentle, they are kind, and they remember that they are human, just as you.

Perhaps this doesn’t seem like it has to do with music and ethnomusicology, but it does. These attitudes are what shape everything we create. 

There are not only monsters here, albeit my cynical perspective at times. It is not a case of, “White guys are assholes” and third-world countries are peachy-keen. As you know from my experiences thus far, it just ain’t so. I am happy to be home, mostly, and am having a blast in grad school, with my private students, and my three groups of kids I’m conducting for the Vancouver Children’s Bach Choir. Most of them are 4-5 year olds. We have so much fun. Last week I wrote a new song for halloween, set to the teddy bear’s picnic. I thought I should share:

When we go out in the streets tonight
Be sure of a big surprise…
We’re in our costumes made of fright!
You might want to close your eyes…

For every ghost or witch that there was
will gather there for certain because
today’s the day, the children turn into monsters… BOO!

So there it is. It has actions, too… incase you were at all disappointed. I am here: Ethnomusicologist, conductor, songwriter,  journal-writer, actress, singer, and goofball. All in a day’s work. And just as colourful as anywhere else in the world, I am living my adventure in my hometown, Vancouver. The leaves are changing as I transform into the next level of life, and beauty still exists everywhere, every day. Hope everyone is having a great week… I’ll be back soon!

Chelsea

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