|Not exactly a cubicle: writing in the Desa Visesa restaurant|
We landed in Denpasar last Tuesday, both Nikos and Sophia overwhelmed by the humidity. They're used to Melbourne's 40ºC spells, but 30ºC and humid is another universe of sweat altogether.
Bali is hot, and we inhabited an odd region of gratitude (Melbourne was 8ºC when we arrived today) and exhaustion (now I understand Pokari Sweat).
After an hour and a bit in the car, we arrived at our hotel: Desa Visesa, the Royal Tulip. I say 'hotel', but it is a resort. An enormous world within a world, with its own permaculture farm, fish ponds, rice paddies, cows and more. And this is before you get to the villa, with its private infinity pool, gorgeous Balinese carvings, huge four-poster beds, outdoor bath and shower, and population of custodial geckos on the walls and ceilings.
|Pool fountains, Desa Visesa villa|
|A welcoming table, Desa Visesa|
|Epic envelopment: the Amandari pool and valley|
Later was the festival's gala opening, which featured snacks from local hotels and restaurants: from raw chocolate fudge, to perfectly crisp spring rolls, to a smoked salmon cone that tasted like happiness. (If you don't believe me, ask Anita Heiss.) After some speeches, the opening hosted a new performance by a Balinese playwright: a dance and musical show celebrating the traditional Balinese village, marked by intricate syncopation of claps and shouts, and some powerful singing. (The lead female soloist was incredible.)
|Opening night gala performance|
On Thursday my gigs began. First was "The Art of Reading", which saw me discussing my latest nonfiction book with Jeni Caffin (former director of Byron Writers Festival, former international program director of UWRF).
|The Art of Reading, Indus restaurant.|
Photo: Greg Saunders
|The Art of Reading conversation, Indus restaurant: JC, DY|
Then I was on a panel entitled "Origin Stories", with Indonesian authors Eka Kurniawan and Sidik Nugroho. Our deft host Kirsti Melville nudged us to revisit our childhood literature, with one obvious cross-cultural theme: teenage sex and violence. But we also discussed Enid Blyton novels and Asterix comics (both very popular in Indonesia, it seems), and the importance of supernatural stories. One man asked, in Bahasa Indonesia (so I can only go by the translation), one of my very favourite audience questions. It began with a short lecture on the tropes of Javanese horror, and ended with a direct query: did Sidik plan to depart from these genre cliches? I plan to read Eka's Beauty is a Wound soon, as part of my ongoing #nowhitedudes reading adventure. Eka also recommended Pramoedya Ananta Toer's quartet.
|Translator, SN, EK, DY, KM|
|Don't believe the hype|
Saturday was Nikos' eleventh birthday, and we began the day with a surprise song and cake from the hotel restaurant. Then Nikos continued with his usual holiday breakfast: bacon, sausages, hash browns, eggs, two doughnuts and a chocolate brownie, washed down with fruit juices.
|That subtle superpower, prosody: teaching the Cikal Amri students|
|Mad, bad, plaid: on the walk|
|Philosophy in the Garden, in the garden: Moksa restaurant|
|More Moksa (more audience)|
The next day, Ruth dropped in on two sessions: 'The Look of the Book' and Hannah Kent's 'The Good People'. Meanwhile, I took Nikos and Sophia to the Monkey Forest. It is aptly named, and a primal scene of appetites: food, violence and the other thing.
|Born from a drinking fountain on a mountain top: Monkey Forest dweller|
|Boy and infinity|
|Nasi campur in full effect|
|Coffee, ink and other forms of liquid happiness|
|The Punisher and her father|