Wednesday, June 9

Two and a half months in Indonesia: Canang Sari

These are canang sari. You know now more than I do about Bali than I did in my first two weeks here, which is really rather disappointing because the things are omnipresent. My first few days in Bali I had to walk nearly an hour to the nearest Internet café, and I spent most of that time avoiding these things because those that hadn't been set in front of every home, store and restaurant along the way had blown farther along the side of the road to fill in those spots they hadn't been set. I was absolutely terrified of treading all over one and having some grandmother pop out and shake her finger severely at me for not paying due respect to the island's ancient traditions.

A week or two later I finally bummed around Wikitravel's entry on Bali and figured out what they are. Turns out it's totally cool to walk over and on and through them. This amazes me. Near as I can tell, canang sari are a big deal. People don't just drop them on the ground and call them good. They may buy the leaf wrap and a few flowers from a grocery store, but they stock it full with their own incense, rice, cigarettes and coffee grounds. When they put it down, they throw water around. Then they come back around later in the day to do it all over again. I've had bemo drivers take a break to set cananga sari down on the way to the next city over while the rest of the passengers waited patiently. The Balinese even have waist-high stone thrones to hold them in along the roads and inside courtyards and keep the thrones with a checkered wrap.

But they don't care what happens after the carang sari are down. That picture at the very top? Like Ankh-Morpork, canang sari are just stacked on the remains of that which came before. Ants take away the edible offerings. They dry brown and are swept away, and no one is bothered.

I don't know, but if I had put that much effort into something on a daily basis, I expect that I would make a bigger deal about what happens to them when I go back inside. I guess that's part of why we travel, though, to discover new things and new ways of being.

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