Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day Six in Bali - Ariawan's Compound

Initially our plan was to take a cooking class at Casa Luna today but because this morning's offer did not include a market tour, something Laura and I were eager to see, we opted to take tomorrow's class before leaving Ubud for Canggu. Therefore we were left with an entirely free morning.

We started the day with a bit of breakfast at the hotel's water garden with Toni and her newly arrived boyfriend Braden. After eating our fill we headed to the Sacred Monkey Forest with is a section of jungle surrounded by Ubud that is home to a couple of temples and a population of over six hundred macaques. Laura opted not to join us as she was tired and her knee was giving her a bit of trouble but I don't mind being a third wheel.

The three of us arrived at the forest, purchased a few bunches of bananas to tempt the locals and proceeded down the path. Toni decided that the best way to get the attention of the resident primates was to loudly sample a banana while vociferously expounding its deliciousness in the hope that jealousy would bring them into view. Her efforts proved entirely unnecessary because as we came around the first bend in the path we found no less than a half dozen macaques awaiting our arrival.

Due to the large number of visitors these monkeys have no fear of people and we eager to get to the bananas. Braden sat on the retaining wall and immediately had two perched on his shoulders but Toni, who didn't lower herself to the level of the monkeys, discovered that her additional height was no asset in protecting her fruit. Instead, the hairy little thieves grabbed onto her shorts and climbed her body to reach the bananas that she was taunted them with as we entered their forest.

We explored the various paths leading to the different temples and the small shrines scattered throughout the forest while meeting countless natives. The descended from the trees, out of the bushes, climbed up steep slopes and seemingly crawled out of every conceivable hiding place.

After a particularly brave group stole the remaining bananas the monkeys quickly lost interest in us and we were allowed to proceed through their territory unmolested. We arrived at the main temple and explored for a little bit before exiting the forest through the southernmost gate into the village on the other side. Here I decided to leave Toni and Braden to their exploring and I headed back to the hotel.

When I arrived back at ARMA dripping with sweat I decided to take a quick shower and then to see if I could visit the clinic and shelter for the Bali Animal Welfare Association, BAWA. A few days ago I passed their office not far from the Monkey Forest and picked up some literature after leaving a small donation and was invited to see the rest of their facilities. BAWA was start about a year and a half ago by an expat now living in Ubud who was distressed by the conditions that the island's companion animals live in. Because in just about all of Indonesia, and southeast Asia in general, people regularly eat dogs the way they are treated is not especially good. The vast majority are allowed to run the streets and return home only when they're hungry where they may or may not be fed. The idea of sterilizing animals is not one familiar to Bali's residents as it is expensive and most people have more pressing concerns. Just to give you an idea, the average wage for a relatively well-paid hospitality worker is about $25-50 per month and there are many people who don't earn nearly as much as that. Here the cost to neuter an adult male dog is about $10 and to spay an adult female dog is about $20 meaning that it might take a month's salary or more to pay for the sterilization of you dog.

What BAWA does is they run a veterinary clinic for those people who can afford to pay for the care of their animals though it is not equipped for most surgeries beyond the routine. This helps to offset the cost of their free clinic treating emergencies and the animals of the people who cannot afford to pay. The paid clinic also supports a free spay/neuter program that BAWA runs and they have already had to learn to be careful because people constantly try to take advantage of their services even when they can afford to pay.

The group also captures and rehabilitates stay animals as well as those who have been abused. One of the most common problems dogs have here is skin related, scabies and demodectic mange are widely seen throughout the dog population as well as a whole host of parasites. Their adoption program seems quite successful as the public relations woman who showed me around their facilities said they adopted out eleven puppies the day previous leaving them with only two ready for homes. There were many other puppies in their care but skin problems and kennel cough needed to be addressed before they would be allowed to leave. I was told that they desex all adult dogs, of which they had about eight available, but because the puppies are more sensitive they pick them up when they reach about six to eight months of age and neuter them then.

I was also show the area where they keep their cats. Apparently when the group started the number of cats brought to them was significantly less than what they are seeing now. With the near-constant heat and humidity I expect that it is breeding season just about constantly in Indonesia so they cat population must be growing significantly.

The last part of my tour was an explanation of BAWA's education/community awareness program. They work closely with the schools to education children about compassion, care and bonding with animals. I think that, abuse aside, a lot of the problems that exist in Bali's pet population stems from a lack of education about things like basic care, nutrition, and maintenance. People seem to feel affection for their animals, generally speaking, but don't understand the expense in time and money required to property provide for their companions. I think the situation is similar but different to what we've been through in the United States over the past twenty to thirty years.

After my tour I was taken back to the hotel where I got cleaned up a bit before Laura and I were picked up by Ari who took us to lunch. The food at Indus was fantastic and although it was pouring rain Laura and I were nice and dry on their covered patio looking out from the hillside where the restaurant is situated over the jungle. Our only negative experience originated in the woman at the next table who complained loudly about the wine, she didn't care for it and thought they were trying to pass off a long-open bottle on her. Now, I know it's a nice restaurant but can you really reasonably expect wine to keep well in a very hot very humid climate? Anywho, they finally shut her up and Laura and I were able to enjoy our meals.

From the restaurant Ari drove us to his family's compound in a village just outside of Ubud whose craft is the building of temples. The population is about 600 people who live in twenty-seven compounds. Although Ari's father is the leader of the village they have one of the smaller compounds. It is a walled collection of buildings that include Ari's parents house, his house, his elder brother's house, his younger brother's house, a communal house, the kitchen, the family shrine and the family altar. There is also a large open area in the back where they can erect temporary shelter in case these is a ceremony (i.e. marriage, funeral, etc.) in which the entire village participates. While there we met Ari's mother, wife, sister-in-law, nephew and his son who had just woken from a nap. It was a lot of fun being shown around and getting a glimpse into the Balinese family life.

When we left Ari's home he took us to a painter's collective where we were able to see a number of artists in various stages of their craft. They also had an enormous gallery that was easy to get lost in as Laura and I did a little bit. There were many schools of painting represented from the traditional Balinese to watercolors to the abstract.

We then went back to the hotel to relax, have dinner and pack so that we could get to bed early. Tomorrow we have a cooking class in the morning and we're meeting early so that we can go to the market!

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