Just because I’m 8000 miles from home doesn’t mean I don’t get triggered now and then. Not by Bali, with its fresh bowls of purple dragon fruit, its incense and little paper altars every two feet, a place so peaceful I haven’t seen one cop or heard one harsh word. A world where most people I pass on the street look up and smile, and who are so kind-hearted that today on my run when I almost got flattened by a young man on a scooter, he put his hands together in prayer and smiled when I mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
A friend from home poked me for being online so much, “What happened to unplugging?” he wrote. I guess I thought the wi-fi scene here would be worse, and while a break from the internet would have been hugely beneficial for me, I found myself sending photos and texts to friends and family fairly regularly. I’ve stayed connected and it’s felt good.
So when I got the text this morning from a man I like a lot, and when he shared that he had met someone and that there was a lot of spark, I initially felt, “oh no,” and a cold, crystally feeling spread into my chest and I sunk a little because he and I had been having such beautiful exchanges – these texts back and forth ever since I’d been in Bali – and before that, back home.
We’re not lovers, we may never kiss, but the connection between us is intelligent, strong and intimate. I liked the attention I was getting from him, and his excitement about this new woman triggered a smallness in me, a feeling that I would be forgotten.
I know I just wrote that piece about the lack of intimacy in technology – but he and I seem to be an exception. We’re frightfully honest, and each text is an opportunity to tell some slice of truth about ourselves, and how we experience the other.
“Wow,” I texted back. “Does this mean you’re going to disappear for a while?”
“I don’t think so,” he wrote.
And then I set out for my early morning run here in Ubud, before it got too hot. The minute my feet hit the pavement I felt happy. Not only because I’m an endorphin junkie, but because running these particular streets so early in the morning makes me happy. And it was more than the run itself, it was that I was alone, thousands of miles from home in a third world country, the only white woman at 6:30 a.m. in a sea of Balinese men and women on scooters, a girl in a skirt running past early morning monkeys hanging from phone lines looking for trouble. I was happy. Happy without my friends and my family, happy without a date, happy without the special latte god I pray to every morning, happy without my own bed, my amazing students, my milk frother, and everything else I’m attached to back home.
There’s a world out there and I forget it all the time. A world way beyond my tiny frame of reference; the few miles I travel to and from each day, my schedule – teach, gym, write, teach, gym, write – a world beyond my work and the things that I focus on at home and sometimes make too important – like whether someone likes me or not, or whether they meet someone else more perfect for them.
I don’t think I’m running away from my life when I run, more like I’m running into my life. In Ubud I love running up Monkey Forest Road to the school and watching the children arriving on the backs of their parent’s scooters. I love watching them get off in front of the school, and the way their parents stick their hands out for their children to kiss – just like the queen. This morning I ran past a large group of men whittling bamboo for a funeral pyre that’s being created for a holy man who died this week. A few doors down is the gorgeous temple that butts up against a small 7 11 convenience store. Dogs and monkeys rule the road, and I weave in and out of them as I make my way each morning.
Bali is waking me up – and partly because you actually have to keep your eyes wide open when you run here. You have to watch your feet as well as your periphery because it would be so easy to trip on the broken pavement and land in a pile of monkey doo, or swerve yourself right into the sea of scooters. You have to keep a wide view here and pay attention to everything because it’s all coming at you, and you have to look 6 ways before you step off the curb. It’s definitely keeping me on my toes. It feels dangerous, and beautiful and alive all at once.
That’s what I want to bring home with me next week, the wide view. Yeah, I get triggered, my tiny tin heart goes ker plunk sometimes, but there’s a world out there and right now I’m in it.