iguazu falls
14th November
written by Ilana

When I thought about Bali I imagined beautiful rice patties and some sort of “spiritual” place.  God, what does it even mean to be a spiritual place??  Even though I hate to admit it, it’s actually quite obvious that I am generally a religious person, also I am fascinated by different religious traditions, so I figured Ubud, the “spiritual” capital of Bali would be the perfect place for me to relax and find my inner self…or whatever.

So what did I find in Ubud?

Well, for one, I found many Balinese men standing on the sidewalk saying “Taxi?  Transport?  Hello?  Taxi?? “  At first I responded with a polite smile and a “no thank you!”
Their response: “maybe tomorrow?”
“No, I don’t think so, sorry!”

Ten minutes later:  “Taxi?  Transport”
“No thanks”

Another ten minutes pass:  “Taxi??”
“No.  I do not want a taxi.”
“NO.  Not tomorrow either.”

Five minutes go by.  “Taxi?”
This time Bloom responds “Do I look shy to you??  Do you think I wouldn’t ask you if I needed a taxi??  I do NOT need a taxi, and if I need one, I will find you, and I do not need one tomorrow!”

I told Bloom that this was a rather aggressive approach, and seemed pretty rude.  “They’re the ones harassing me!” Bloom protested.  “And you want to spend three months in India??”  I asked him.  He ignored me.  I decided I was going to take the high road here.  I explained to Bloom that yes, these guys were annoying, and yes, they assume that since we’re white we are rich and want to hire private taxis to drive us everywhere, but the truth is we do have money, and even though we are not rich and have a pretty tight budget (that I am currently blowing on expensive lattes), it’s likely that we do have more money than they do, and so they have the right to harass us.

The next afternoon:  “Taxi?  Transport??”
I had just about enough.  Yeah, fine, they’re poor and I’m white and western and have some dollars, but step off!
“You listen to me, guy.  I DO NOT want a taxi.  I DO NOT need transport.  I am sure I will walk past here again, and you BETTER not ask me if I need a taxi.   Got it??”
The guy smiled and laughed and shook my hand.  “What’s your name?”
“My name is Ilana, and I’m on my way to dinner.  No taxi, got it?”

I looked at Bloom and apologized for being a self-righteous ass earlier.  Damn, these people were getting to me too.  I missed Sumatra where the people might harass you, but it felt friendly.

Ok, fine, I knew that Bali was a million times more touristy than Sumatra, I should have been prepared, but isn’t Ubud supposed to be some sort of spiritual haven and not a place of constant harassment?

So, about that spiritual thing…  I don’t know what exactly I imagined when I thought “spiritual haven,” but it was not a bunch of skinny American women sitting around with perfect posture and talking about raw food and their yoga class.  Ugh.  This is exactly how I imagine LA, which is why I don’t go to LA.  All this pseudo spiritual crap is making me realize that I am not zen at all, no, I am a Jew through and through, and not even a Jew-Bu at that!  Maybe I don’t actually respect other people’s religious journeys as much as I thought I did.  There is something that feels inauthentic about coming to a city and expecting that you will find some sort of spiritual enlightenment, just because other people may have had spiritual experiences there. Take Elizabeth Gilbert, the infamous author of “Eat Pray Love” for example.  There are now “Eat Pray Love” guided tours and different classes here in Ubud for you to experience your own “Eat Pray Love” style awakening!

WHAAAAT.  Look, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I like Liz Gilbert, and I liked her book, but just because she found something here in Ubud does not mean that I, Ilana G, will find something here.  My “journey” is mine and mine alone, which means I have to find meaning in places because it’s meaningful to me, not because it was meaningful to Liz Gilbert and to many Balinese people.

There’s also something that’s making me depressed about this whole place.  Are westerner’s so devoid of their own spirituality and meaning that they have to come and hijack someone else’s religious culture?

Ok, I’m being a judgmental ass right now, and I realize that, but there’s something so frustrating about this.  How am I any different than these spiritual seekers who come to Bali or India or wherever else?  Well, for one thing I have my own religious culture and traditions, I’m not looking for something completely new, I just want to see how other cultures practice their religiosity and then maybe see if any of their traditions can work within my own Jewish traditions.  Do they have something that I’m missing?  Do they have something that can enrich my own religious life?

Ok, so maybe I’m not so different than the alleged seekers.  Ugh, but I am!  Something just seems so disingenuous about this whole process here; people seem to just have automatic buy-in to yoga/ayurveda/chakra/healers, etc.

So Bloom and I actually went to a yoga class here to see what all the fuss was about, and because I have always thought it would be cool if I was into yoga.  So I guess I’m the real inauthentic poser here, taking a class because I think it seems cool and all…  But, in my defense, I also think it could potentially help lower my anxiety levels and help strengthen my leg injury, but anyway, back to the class.  There was a point at the start of the class when we were sitting there with our eyes closed and the teacher was telling everyone to think about their breath, the flow of your breath in your body, blah blah blah.

I of course got bored and opened my eyes a drop to peek around the room to see if anyone else wasn’t feeling it.  I looked at Bloom, he looked into it.  Hmm.  Ok, I tried again and closed my eyes and tried to think of my breath and nothing else.  Impossible.  I thought about how lame it was that I couldn’t focus on my breath, then I thought about how lame it was that everyone else was focusing on their breath.  Eventually the class was told to open their eyes and we all did some weird pulling at our knees and bending and stuff.  After pulling at our right knees for a while the teacher told us to sit back and see if we felt a difference between our right and left knees.  I thought about it and realized that my right knee actually felt loose and relaxed!  Had it worked?  I took the rest of the class relatively seriously, and had a pleasant time.  Maybe I can be a yogi yet?

But, dear reader, please do not be fooled by the fact that I enjoyed a yoga class.  This does not make me any less cynical than ever, but I do think that this whole yoga thing could be good for my pizza-eating, daily milk-shake drinking body.

So maybe I will go to another yoga class and see how I go.  The problem is these damn seekers everywhere.

Bloom just read over my shoulder and asked, “but how can you be sure that you’re not one?”
“Not one what?”
“Not a seeker.”

He laughs as he watches me turn back to the computer and type instead of answering his question.

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