by Karen Agwu (United Kingdom)

Making a local connection Indonesia


Searching not escaping is why I am in Bali. I arrive at the Ashram inappropriately dressed and mentally unprepared. Am I really ready for this? It’s the meeting of two spheres the marriage of the natural world and the spiritual world that keeps me grounded. I’ve been here so long it is assumed that this is part of my heritage, that I have always been on this path. However the particularly perceptive students notice otherwise, always asking the same questions; how long have you been here? Why did you come and why do you stay? Forever. To escape. How could I leave... Truthfully I left everything and everyone to be here, and found a higher purpose that justifies my existence. Deep breath. I’m here I didn’t come all this way for nothing. Scanning the surroundings I can't help but notice the simple beauty that surrounds the Ashram. The grand steps crowned by green flora snaking down towards a central pavilion. The buildings, sporadically located within the compound, feel somewhat romantic in their resistance to modernisation. Cracked stone walls and chipped roofs add to their charm. Removing my shoes I follow the path. Momentarily hypnotised by its serenity, I can feel why people stay and never return. It’s the peace, the spirituality this is why I stay this is what keeps me from returning. The guilt sometimes shakes my resolve but then I remember why I left. Sweat pools around my neck, is this from the heat or simply nerves? I walk closely towards the pavilion and settle at the back, trying to be inconspicuous, trying not to disturb the meditative silence. The floor a mosaic of colourful patterns and meanings I do not recognise. “Can I help you” “Sorry I didn’t mean to disturb, I am looking for Ketut Arsana, sorry Guru Ketut Arsana, he is expecting me” “Follow me” Dutifully I follow, I am led across the courtyard past an impressive water feature large enough for swimming. Lily pads and exotic fishes decorating the scene. Moss growing through steps that lead towards a submerged altar. “It’s for ritual cleansing, all new students go through a ceremony that signals your rebirth into the spiritual and natural world” She caught me staring, I feel wildly out of place here. Finally we reach a small stone outhouse at the back of the compound. “The Guru is available to see you now” She leaves me alone, my hands wont stop shaking. A voice calls out from the back. “Welcome son please enter, I knew this time would come”