The Book.

“I think I’m going to move to Ubud for a while, maybe for 3-6 months,” I typed on my WhatsApp.

It was a cloudy Monday morning in Ubud. I was sitting cross-legged on the front porch; trying to decide whether I would go for a swim or not before meeting Alfred later in the afternoon.

Ubud, Bali

My phone vibrated.
“Moving to Ubud? And doing what?” Alfred’s words popped up on my screen.
“I don’t know,” I typed back. “Writing my book…”
An emoticon laughed at me. “Seriously?!!” Alfred replied. “Who the heck wrote a book in Ubud? Even Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t write her book in Ubud!”

And of course, he was right.

***

I decided to spend 2 weeks in Ubud; thinking that I would finally have the time and solitude to write The Book. These past few months, I had restrained myself from publishing any posts from my traveling journeys in Malaysia, Yogyakarta, Flores, and India–simply because this tiny (annoying) voice in my head kept saying: “Don’t post them now! Those stories will appear later in The Book!”

The Book is supposed to be my first non-fiction book: a travel memoir–and I have everything I need to finish it: a title, a premise, a rough outline…I even had almost 80% of the stories typed. All I need to do is type the rest of it, rewrite some parts that don’t come out as strong as I intended, and organize them to create a flowing narrative of 297 pages. It sounds so simple and easy, yet I had missed my deadline. Twice. I have no excuse, and I don’t intend to start finding one.

Every day, as I woke up to the sound of the morning in Ubud, I told myself that I needed to sit down and wrote a few pages for The Book, today. I needed to create my own Ubud’s book-writing timeline and stick to it.

I ended up doing everything but writing The Book.

***

Ubud kept me busy.

I bumped into some old and new friends (who happened to know each other)–and spent some days conversing with them on the back porch while munching on mangosteens. There were some days when I was on fire: typing around 6 proposals for several movements and social projects that I was about to pursue, as well as making business plans for some friends of mine–just because I felt this rush of enthusiasm and inspiration needed to find an outlet.

There were some days when I didn’t really have anything to do. And for some unexplainable reasons, on those kind of days, I kept bumping into people who practiced Reiki, spiritual healing, channeling, or yoga… to one point whereby I met a friend of a friend, and somehow ended up in a house full of statues and crystals by the rice fields near Penestanan for a kundalini meditation session–all the while asking myself, “What the heck are you doing, exactly?” and immediately answering back, “This could be an interesting story for The Book!”

When I didn’t bump into those interesting flocks, I went out for coffee or some healthy meals in one of those organic restaurants sprawled around the town; then walked around aimlessly for around 2 to 3 hours–checking out different alleys and shops and gelato bars, too lazy to even snap pictures. Other days, I would hang out with the staff at the hotel–conversing all night long by the pool while being bitten by mosquitos, listening to their life stories, and ended up explaining about meteors, eclipse, and earthquakes (“So, it’s not because of the dragon that is moving under the earth’s surface?”).

But most of the times, I would find myself sat lazily somewhere: reading a book, sipping watermelon juice, watching people, and then went back to my hotel–took a cold shower, wrote a long letter for my muse, and fell asleep.

It sounded like a vicious cycle, but the funny thing was: it actually didn’t feel vicious at all. I wanted to feel guilty because I didn’t touch The Book while I was in Ubud, but I just couldn’t.

***

It has been around a month since I got back from Ubud, and this week, I started to revisit The Book again. I realized that a ‘rough outline’ I have at the moment was not enough. This time, I committed to tighten it, restraining myself to edit (and re-edit) my stories before I could get that nice flow of narratives mapped out in a final outline.

It was not an easy task. To be honest, I hate making outlines–especially detailed one with so many bullets and sub-bullet points. I always think of myself as a ‘spontaneous writer’ and outlining just doesn’t work for me. However, deep down inside, I know that I won’t go anywhere if I am still unsure of where I should place my stories on The Book. I can keep on rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and it will never get done. The stories will simply get lost somewhere in the middle of it all.

Ubud

And then it hit me. Right there. When I thought about ‘getting lost’.

I laughed at myself for a while, as I realized that ‘getting lost’ was actually my way of exploring a city when I travel. I am too lazy to read a map, I am not good in remembering routes (too busy noticing the small things along the way), and I get disoriented quite a lot–to the point that I could even get lost in a big shopping mall. I don’t plan things. I don’t keep a list of places I want to see. I don’t aim for landmarks or museums or souvenir shops. I just… go.

Now I know why mapping out The Book’s outline feels so darn hard since the very beginning.

Walking around aimlessly, not really heading anywhere, and letting the city I visit opening itself up to me as I get lost in it–that is how I travel. And The Book, indeed, is my travel memoir.


Making Batik in Ubud: Susuwatari Spotted A Lotus.

Batik (/ˈbætɪk/ or /bəˈtiːk/; Javanese pronunciation: [ˈbateʔ]; Indonesian: [ˈbatɪk]) is a cloth that is traditionally made using a manual wax-resist dyeing technique. UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on October 2, 2009. 

I had always wanted to learn how to make batik. The hot wax, the tracing of the lines, the coloring, the patience… I found the process both beautiful and calming; like a meditation practice. The opportunity to learn how to make batik came to me not in Yogyakarta or Solo, but in Ubud, Bali. Adit introduced me to Pak Nyoman and Ibu Rai, who own Nirvana—a small inn/gallery hidden in the midst of Ubud’s touristy Gautama Street.

Adit batik

Pak Nyoman is an Ubud-born painter who works with batik, oil paint, and water color. He had been an artist-in-residence at Bondi Pavilion, Sydney and Toorak College, Melbourne, lectured at John Kennedy Hall, Guam University, and exhibited extensively in Australia, Italy, Guam, Japan, Singapore and Switzerland. One morning, together with Adit and his cousin, Uma, I spent a day in Ubud to learn how to make batik.

The very first thing to do is to draw a pattern on the cloth with a pencil. Since it was my very first time, I decided to draw something simple and playful. I ended up drawing Susuwatari (wandering soot/ススワタリ)—that appears in Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away; who got curious due to a sudden appearance of a lotus.

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 1.31.52 PM

Once the drawing is finished, we continue to the second step: tracing the lines with hot wax. Dip the “canting” pen into the hot wax and make sure the canting isn’t too full, or else the wax will spill out. Before tracing the lines, blow the tip of the canting pen to make the wax flows easier. We need to concentrate during the tracing process and keep the canting pen at the right angle to ensure that the wax will continue to flow without spilling over.

batik susuwatari

batik susuwatari

Next, a more relaxing process: coloring! Don’t mix the paint with too much water if you’d like to have a vibrant color. Uma worked on a Balinese drawing with Balinese color that day—the kind you’d be seeing in cloths sold at some small shops along Kuta or Legian street stretch; while Adit worked on something more Japanese with the drawings of a fish in a pond.

batik susuwatari

batik susuwatari

batik

Once the coloring is done and the paint is dry, we need to go back to the hot wax. The next step is to glaze the paint (colored areas) with hot wax. We don’t use canting pen for this. We use a brush instead. Dip the brush into the hot wax, and glaze, dip and glaze, dip and glaze. You need to ensure that the colored surface has been glazed perfectly. You can check this by turning the cloth over; the spots you miss will be visible. Pandjul—the son of Pak Nyoman and Ibu Rai helped me in checking the missed spots and glazing them; while Bocil, the family dog, was waiting for us to finish with sleepy eyes.

batik glazing

bocil

After the glazing, the next step is to color the whole cloth. You can pick the color that you like. The cloth will then be dipped into a color solution of your selection.

batik susuwatari

And then, it’s time to get rid of all the wax in your cloth. How? By dipping the cloth into a pan of boiling water, of course!

batik

After that, you need to put your cloth to dry… and then you can see the results. Adit and Uma’s cloths turned out seriously stunning and beautiful! They are so talented!

batik

batik

And this one is mine. My batik cloth: Susuwatari Spotted A Lotus :D

batik susuwatari lotus

Would you like to learn how to make batik, too? If you’re in Ubud one day, come early in the morning to:

Nirvana Gallery
Jalan Gautama 10, Padangtegal Kaja, Ubud,
Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia. (80571)
Phone : +62.361.975415
E-mail : info@nirvanaku.com
Website : http://www.nirvanaku.com

and please pet Bocil the dog for me!


Bali, Bursting in Ubud

I woke up to rain. To the faint smell of pandan leaves and frangipani. The sky was dark gray. The garden were glistening under the downpour. I watched the mist floating silently in the air, astounded by its ghostly appearance. A dark and wet morning in Ubud for a bunch of depressed writers. A perfect gift. When the rain subsided to drizzles, we tip-toed to the breakfast area, to avoid stepping over the offerings (banten).

Breakfast was served in a small hut next to the paddy field. The sound of Balinese gamelan, the hush of the wind, the rhythm of the raindrops, the spores of Actinomycetes. There were three of us at the table, but we did not talk much. I sipped my coffee without hurrying.

Leaving the cottage at around 10, we decided to take our separate ways. The guys went uphill, while I sat on the edge of the bridge, looking down to the mesmerizing beauty of Tjampuhan (Campuhan) river. I could spend hours just looking at the flowing water, orchestrated by the faint sounds of the birds and monkeys from the nearby forest. It was so calming, like a therapy to ignite a sense of melancholy.

Joe Forgas, a social psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has spent the last decade investigating the link between negative moods and creativity. He has repeatedly demonstrated that a little melancholy sharpens the spotlight of attention, allowing us to become more observant and persistent. Forgas has found that states of sadness also correlate with better writing samples; subjects compose sentences that are clearer and more compelling. Because they were more attentive to what they were writing, they produced more refined prose, the words polished by their misery*.

That was probably the exact reason why the three of us decided to hide in Ubud for a few days.

True, it was that time of the year when they held this annual International Ubud Writers & Readers Festival—where writers from all over the world came to this little dot on the map for a series of talks, readings, or workshops. But the festival was merely an added topping. The core ingredient of our #PecahdiUbud (“Bursting in Ubud“) journey was actually the one that Forgas mentioned.

We were looking for a place where we could savor the melancholy of being silently depressed and miserable.

Ubud was just the perfect place to do this. A small village hidden beneath the lush canopy of green, with its forests, rivers, hills, temples, and October rain, far from the beach-side’s sunny celebrations. A bunch of traveling companions who could understand these shared state-of-sadness. Those who wouldn’t mind to sit together in silence—each one got lost in one’s own thoughts: racking our brains, scribbling some notes, typing stories, reading books, or gazing out into the emptiness.

In the afternoon, after a long lunch, we would wander around listlessly—only to find ourselves took our separate ways, again. Adit went to a batik workshop, Ney went to a book discussion, and I decided to sit in a class of 15 people; clutching my Vernon God Little novel while the author, DBC Pierre, was sharing his writing experience right in front of me.

When the sadness and depression overwhelmed us, we left Ubud for Seminyak and walked under the sun until our feet got tired and our skin were burning hot. That day, we waited for the sun to set in Cafe Bali, Oberoi Street. Sat lazily on a huge couch overlooking the tiny pool and the Ganesha statue, we sipped our coffee and devoured six types of desserts to wash away the bitterness.

As night fell, we climbed back up to Ubud: the wind was chilly, the air was damp, the sky was dark. A small sliver of the moon was hanging there, looking lonely. We walked past the darkness of the museum not far from our cottage, the sound of the night enveloped us. It was the museum of Antonio Blanco—a painter of Spanish and American decent who came to the island in 1952 and fell in love with Ni Ronji, a Balinese dancer, and got married to her a year later.

Love stories.

My mind was instantly filled with mythical creatures, kisses and fireworks, invisible inhabitants of the past and the future, the traces of unrequited love, explosion of tears. It was that time of the year. To celebrate sadness and misery, to welcome tears and despair, to get high just by looking at the words pouring from my computer screen. “Bursting in Ubud” was about embracing all these, to wake up again in a different morning one day and walk out with my golden slippers, sunglasses, shirts, and shorts—heading to the beach with a burst of laughter.

__________

*) p. 77, The Unconcealing, a chapter from the book “Imagine” by Jonah Lehrer.


:: ketika kau benar-benar menginginkan sesuatu…

Sewaktu berada di Ubud minggu lalu, saya dan kawan saya sempat nongkrong-nongkrong di Bali Buddha, mengistirahatkan kaki yang pegal karena sudah berjalan terus seharian.

Bali Buddha adalah sebuah kafe kecil yang biasa dituju para vegetarian maupun non-vegetarian karena koleksi makanan sehat dan organiknya. Jadi sekitar pukul 3 sore hari itu, saya dan kawan saya itu mendamparkan diri di Bali Buddha. Saya memesan ‘balancing drink‘ yang merupakan campuran dari pisang dan almond, serta segelas besar es kopi Bali (saya suka kopi Bali, karena rasanya tidak asam), sementara kawan saya memesan jus nanas-semangka, segelas susu kedelai, dan sepotong bagel.

Nah, justru si bagel inilah yang hendak saya ceritakan.

Siang itu, karena saya baru saja makan di Bebek Bengil dan berhasil menyantap setengah ekor bebek hingga bersih dan tinggal belulang, sebenarnya saya masih agak kenyang :) Jadi, saya memutuskan mencicipi sedikit saja bagel yang dipesan teman saya itu. Bagel polos yang disajikan dengan krim keju. Krim keju. Krim keju. (echo).

Ternyata, rasanya luar biasa!!!

Oh. Bagel dan krim keju ternikmat yang pernah saya makan seumur hidup. Namun atas nama kenyang dan jarum timbangan, saya memutuskan untuk menyudahi kemesraan saya dengan si bagel cukup sampai di situ saja.

Nah, sepulangnya dari Bali, saya masih terbayang-bayang akan si bagel dengan krim keju itu, bagaimana rasanya, kelembutannya, gurih kejunya yang pas, ahhh. Dan ternyata, pagi ini, kerinduan saya pada si bagel memuncak, sehingga dari meja kantor saya berteriak pada kawan saya–yang membagi bagelnya pada saya di Ubud: “Yayaaaaaa! Gue mau bagel dan krim keju yang seperti di Bali Buddhaaa!”

Maka betapa terkejutnya saya ketika kawan saya itu berkata dengan entengnya, “Nih, di tas gue ada. Tadi pagi bikin sendiri. Mungkin perlu dimasukin microwave dulu…”

Hah–?

Ini tidak mungkin, pikir saya. Kok aneh. Kok bisa?

Tapi akhirnya saya mampir ke mejanya dan mencuil bagel dan krim keju buatannya itu. Hmm, lezattt! Ditemani secangkir kopi Italian Roast Extra Bold, rasanya… sempurna!

Kemudian terlintas dalam benak saya, bahwa terkadang, ketika kau benar-benar menginginkan sesuatu, all you need to do is just to shout it out loud. Agar orang lain mendengar dan mengetahuinya. Karena mungkin, mereka bisa membantumu untuk mendapatkan apa yang kamu inginkan :)

—————-

:: untuk seorang kawan yang sedang melangkah mengikuti kata hati dan keinginannya sejak lama.

BALI BUDDHA

07:00 AM – 10:00 PM.

Jl. Jembawan no. 1, Ubud

Ph. 0361-976324


:: perjalanan yang melepaskan

Bandung adalah perjalanan yang membukakan.


Perjalanan yang dilakukan sendirian, diputuskan secara tiba-tiba. Sedikit impulsif. Sangat berbeda dengan saya yang biasanya. Begitu pula yang dikatakan teman saya, ketika sepulangnya dari Bandung, saya membalas emailnya yang hanya terdiri dari dua kata: “Gimana Bandung?” dengan rentetan cerita panjang.

Senang bahwa pertanyaan dua kata-ku dijawab dengan respon yang ‘sedikit’ lebih dari dua kata. Gak nyangka. Aku bisa merasakan emosimu dan membayangkan ketika kamu menulisnya. Rasanya, aku tidak pernah melihat (tepatnya, membaca)-mu seantusias ini. Kamu itu menarik sekali secara kepribadian. Ada antusiasme dan letupan emosi, celetukan tidak biasa. Tapi lebih sering semua berputar di dalam otak/hati dan semua tercetus dalam bentuk simbol-simbol yang cukup halus.

Asli, waktu baca emailmu itu aku lagi di gym tuh. Walhasil, aku senyum-senyum sendiri (agak-agak terharu sedikit). Setelah itu, perasaanku jadi ikut terangkat. All is going to be ok.

Tapi beneran, aku sebenarnya sudah antusias ketika kamu bilang akan ke Bandung sendirian. Wah, sebuah terobosan. Ini baru pertama kali? Terobosan beneran. Bahkan mungkin lebih dari yang kamu–kita?–sadari.

Tidak banyak orang yang memutuskan untuk pergi sendirian tanpa kenal siapa pun. Itu harus pake rasa pasrah–sikap whatever will be will be. Dan aku yakin seyakin-yakinnya bahwa seorang kamu akan menikmati kesendirian itu. Tidak semua orang bisa, tapi kamu bisa.

Bandung membukakan mata saya akan hal-hal apa saja yang bisa saya lakukan. Hal-hal yang saya cintai. Hal-hal yang saya anggap penting. Lebih penting dibandingkan yang orang lain anggap penting. Apa-apa saja yang menarik dari sudut pandang saya. Kesempatan untuk mencumbui kesendirian pelan-pelan tanpa perlu merasa kesepian. Bukankah itu merupakan suatu kemewahan tersendiri?

Bandung juga membukakan kesempatan bagi saya untuk melihat masa lalu dan masa kini bermain-main dalam bingkai jendela. Dalam perjalanan panjang berlatar gedung-gedung dengan arsitektur art deco itu, saya memotret semuanya. Masa lalu dan masa kini. Juga memberanikan diri untuk mengintip masa depan dari balik jendela.

Bali–Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Uluwatu, Jimbaran, hingga Dreamland, adalah perjalanan yang membebaskan.

Selalu demikian. Ketika kau merasa berada di ranah tak dikenal, di mana tak seorang pun peduli apa yang kau katakan, apa yang kau kenakan, dan bagaimana kau berpenampilan. Tempat di mana semua yang kau lakukan bisa mendapatkan permakluman atas nama liburan.

Tempat di mana kau merasa begitu kaya hanya dengan sandal jepit, celana pendek, dan kaos oblong, mengubur kaki di dalam pasir di siang bolong, kemudian memasang iPod dan asyik sendiri mendengarkan MIKA menyanyi, tak peduli keadaan sekitar, memandangi ombak di lautan, orang-orang yang berenang dengan bikini berwarna-warni, dan cakrawala di kejauhan.

Juga mengagumi barisan pemuda-pemuda tampan ala boyband yang berjemur di atas pasir pada pukul 2 siang dengan dada telanjang. Seperti berteriak, “Dipilih, dipilih, masih hangat, masih hangat…”

Ah, memandangi mereka semua itu saja sudah bisa memberikan saya kesenangan selama berjam-jam. Terik matahari pun terasa lebih ramah. Semua indah. Panas dan hujan. Semua indah ketika kita merasa bebas untuk menjadi diri sendiri, apa adanya.

Ubud adalah perjalanan yang melepaskan. Melepaskan semua. Pekerjaan dan rutinitas sehari-hari. Pemikiran tentang menulis. Kawan-kawan di ranah maya. Blogwalking. Semua terhenti di Ubud. Semua tergantikan dengan berjalan kaki selama 2-3 jam sehari, menyusuri jalan-jalan, pasar-pasar, sawah-sawah, dan toko-toko kecil… menumpang ojek melewati jalanan macet ketika kaki sudah nyaris lecet.

Memandangi hutan di kejauhan. Tidur dalam desau angin dan gesek dedaunan, suara-suara alam dan gemericik air. Sungai yang mengalir di bawah. Binatang-binatang yang bermunculan dari segala arah. Udara dingin yang menyembur dari pemandangan sawah-sawah pada senja hari. Mengakrabi semuanya membuatmu menggigil, tapi bukan karena dingin. Dan membuatmu tak lagi merasa perlu untuk mempertanyakan segala sesuatu dengan sepotong ‘mengapa’

Langit Ubud selalu penuh dengan bintang-bintang pada malam hari. Terang dalam pekatnya sekitar. Memberikan secercah rasa yang bukannya ingin saya simpan dan nikmati sendiri seperti biasa, tetapi justru ingin saya bagi. Karena bukankah langit selalu terlalu luas untuk dipandangi sendirian? Kita bisa berbagi sepuas-puasnya, dan langit masih tak akan ada habis-habisnya.

Teman saya itu benar. Ubud is such a magical place. Ubud bisa membuat saya takut, kagum, dan jatuh cinta pada saat yang bersamaan. Dan yang sedemikian itu baru bisa kau rasakan jika kau sudah melepaskan semua. Dan rela untuk lebur dalam rasa apa saja yang menggulung dirimu dalam ketiadaan.

~ sebuah suvenir kecil dari Ubud bisa ditemukan di sini ~


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