Since buildings tend to be open on Bali -- walls? Why bother with four? --there's not much distinction between outside and inside.
That's why there was no point in trying to explain to the ants all over the yoga studio floor that they didn't belong there, even when they ventured onto my yoga mat.
Our first morning on Bali, after meeting the gecko that called our room home and seeing the largest wasp ever floating above the open-air bathroom sinks, I did something no crunchy-organic yogi wants to do: I doused my limbs in deet. Then I sprayed natural insect repellant on my back and shoulders and wiped some onto my face.
I'd arrived on Bali terrified of Bali belly and dengue fever. So I wasn't about to let fear of a nasty chemical all over my skin get in the way of a much larger fear of picking up something dubbed "broke-bone fever" (because it makes you feel like every bone in your body is broken) while working into detoxifying twists in the open-air yoga studio.
Feeling protected by a cocoon of deet, I walked up to the kitchen for a hypocritical cup of coffee (one spoonful of fine-ground Indonesian addiction, one spoonful of sugar with ants unabashedly scurrying through), then marched upstairs to the studio ready to deflect mosquitoes, but surely sipping ants. Now, in daylight, the scenes unfolding from the studio knocked my breath away. Straight ahead, rice terraces cascaded below cumulus clouds already building over the ocean. To the right, papaya trees close by, the outline of Bali's volcanoes beyond. To the left, a flat rice field punctuated by a temple poking toward the sky.
This is where we did yoga every morning for seven days.
I rolled out a mat, trying unsuccessfully to avoid ants, and we settled in for silent meditation before getting into flowing yoga. But nothing about Bali is silent. Birds, frogs, insects and who knows what else contribute to the cacophony of jungle life that creeps into your ears, your room, your sugar in your coffee, everywhere.
Just when my breath smoothed out, a human voice carried over the rice fields: "HUUUAAAAAAHHH!" A few days later, I learned the holler was a farmer scaring birds off his paddies. By week's end, I eased with the deet, barely noticed ants in the sugar, but still smiled at the daily yell. Good, bad, there's no stopping life here, and that is good.
-- Jenn Fields