Friday 20 September 2013

PART 2: religion reaches Cuca

The altar in our kitchen
Religion has also invaded Cuca’s life. As soon as the first employee walks in, the “canangs” are prepared and placed around the restaurant: on our cars, on the main entrance, staff area, in the office, on the reception counter, etc. Special attention is put on the main “pecati” in our kitchen, carefully decorated and daily taken care of. The ceremony of blessing all the key locations takes place at least twice a day and the Balinese masterfully organize themselves to take turns to carry out these intriguing tasks. 

Our priest 
For you to understand the degree of importance of the spirituality in Bali, let me tell you about our “Mlaspas”. Our initial plan was to open Cuca’s doors for the first time on July 20. However, a brief consultation with the priest revealed that we could only request permission from the Gods to open Cuca on July 22, a full moon day. Our staff explained to us that it was unquestionable to open Cuca without divine permission, so it was decided by the higher power to postpone our opening until July 23 and celebrate our Mlaspas on 22. 

The “Melaspas” is a traditional Balinese ceremony meant to cleanse and purify a new building after it has been completed and prior to its occupation. This ceremony is held by priests, relatives, neighbors, friends, etc.  for the people who will occupy the building to feel at ease and avoid undesirable tribulations (pain, frustration, conflict). During the day-long intricate ritual, we asked the spirits of our coconut grove to consent us to carry out our business in their land. We fed them with countless offerings so they leave us work in harmony and Kevin and I witnessed the endless series of rituals participating as we were told. 

Feeding the spirits with offerings
Cuca staff ready for the ceremony
Cuca's ladies discussing the ritual
Blessing Cuca
Blessing Cuca
The main ceremony
Taking the blessed water
On the way to the beach
The end of the ceremony: in the sea
A few weeks later, on August 10 we celebrated Saraswati Day. This is a very special celebration in which the Balinese give thanks for the gift of knowledge, for the ability to understand human nature, to write and to read. We got up that day leaving our bedroom to find incense burning on all our bookshelves at home. Cuca’s office was equally scented and we were recommended not to write by hand and seriously forbidden to erase anything written.  Schools are closed on that day and students pray for the success in their studies. 

On the morning of August 24 Cuca was a very busy restaurant. Our Balinese staff was waving dozens of beautiful offerings made of coconut leaves. We soon found out that we were celebrating "Tumpek Landep", or the Day of the Iron. Originally this day was about giving thanks for the swords but it has evolved to all things man-made from metal: computers, kitchen equipment, cars… That afternoon when we briefly left Cuca for a meeting we were amazed by the wonderful decoration on our cars and smiled every time we came across to other cars in the road similarly decorated. How nice look the streets of Bali with so many mobile decorations!

The front of our car

It is not easy to find out why you are supposed to do or not do certain things on certain days. Balinese take these beliefs in such a natural way that when you ask them why this or that they just look at you surprised at your question. Trust me, no matter how much you ask, you don’t get a straight answer, they simply tell you “don’t worry, just make sure you don’t erase anything today”, what leaves you with no option but to follow…  Life in Bali is a constant enigma.