The taxi driver occasionally glanced at the road as he swerved around the hairpin turns and played chicken with oncoming traffic on the narrow highway; most of the time his eyes were fixed in the rearview mirror at my face, while he waved an arm about, emphatically describing to me Balinese life.
He pointed to a terrifying monster standing 15 feet high and explained it was an Ogoh Ogoh, a statue built for a parade to ward off evil spirits. Shuddering involuntarily as we flew past the colorfully ugly demon, I commented that much of Balinese culture seems to revolve around the spirits.
He nodded solemnly. “The spirits are everywhere. There is a very famous magician who loves to come to Bali because he says there is a special power here. He, and many people, think that Bali has its own magic. That is why so many people come here to heal themselves; even before all the Eat Pray Love tourists showed up, many people traveled to Bali to search for themselves or heal themselves. They come to feel Bali’s powers, its magic.”
He glanced at me mischievously. “What do you think, Miss Kaleena?”
I gazed out the window, thoughtfully. It certainly seemed like magic that we hadn’t had a head on collision or flattened any of the stray chickens wandering the roads. And the results of my ‘Bali Belly’ food poisoning were definitely feeling quite powerful as I desperately wondered how far we were from a toilet.
It seemed silly, though, to say that an entire island had “magical powers”. Surely that sort of thing was reserved for the TV show, Lost. But in thinking back on the last 10 days I’d spent in Bali, I had to admit that a certain electricity seemed to cling to the air and reverberate throughout the rice paddies and jungles.
I’d originally booked my trip to Bali on a whim, with a burning desire to escape my suffocating lifestyle in Korea and simply relax and rejuvenate on a tropical beach. Once I’d landed, however, the “eat, pray, love” mentality involuntarily took effect. Though my first few days were spent sprawled on the beach with a book, slurping down mango smoothies and taking dips in the sparkling turquoise waters, a deeper sense of contentment began sinking into my skin and I found myself lost in long moments of self reflection.
Maybe it was all the massages. Maybe it was drinking beers on a remote beach while the sun melted into the horizon in a bed of fiery red and shimmering gold. Maybe it was the yoga. Maybe it was just the act of being on vacation, of breathing fresh air and not stressing about lesson plans and bratty teenaged students.
Whatever it was, I felt the spark of a change ignite within me. I acknowledged the feelings of frustration about my life, but then I thought of ways I could change it; I envisioned myself as the happier person I wanted to be and with the future I wanted to have. I tried to be both practical and spiritual in the process.
Perhaps the greatest transformation came on the day I found myself releasing so much of the anger and resentment I still harbored about my past relationship. Even after two years I couldn’t believe how much my insides still burned at the thought of a sequence of events, and how the bitterness and sadness still weighed down on my heart. But I knew it was time to let go and, to an extent, I did. By the end of the trip, I was feeling a little bit lighter, and breathing a little bit deeper.
After 10 days in Bali, I knew I’d changed. It might have merely been because I’d had more time in the last week than I’d had in the last six months to stop and think about my life; Korea so far had been a whirlwind experience with most of my energy dedicated to basic survival and–let’s be honest–hangovers. Time to reflect on and analyze my life was not something I’d had enough of before, and it felt refreshing to finally get the flicker of happiness back that I’d been grasping at so futilely recently. I found myself with a renewed sense of purpose and a plan for how to get my life back under control.
So when I met the cab driver’s twinkling eyes again in the rearview mirror, I smiled and answered, “I think I know what you mean. I’ve felt Bali’s magic. Now… can we stop for a bathroom?”
He chuckled and slammed on his brakes, bringing the cab to a screeching halt in a cloud of dust and chicken feathers. I flew open the door and bolted, wondering if this was the price to pay for the island’s magic…
Thanks for everything, Bali.