Sam Wilding's Blog
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Talisman by Paul Murdoch – Chapter 1.


Talisman by Paul Murdoch – Chapter 1.





Sam Wilding Bali Visit – Part 4

Sam Wilding Bali Visit – Part 4

Today we set off for Bunga village. I should explain, when I say ‘we’ that I mean Komang, Allan, James Anthony, David Booth and I. James is a volunteer English teacher who’s worked for the EBPP charity for a year. Bunga was the first village to have a school in 1999. David Booth MBE realised that if he could get community consent and involvement in education here that the same model could be used in some of the other villages. Here is David Booth himself talking about the area and the initial problems he faced.(2 mins audio.)

We met a family who obviously had amazing respect for David, and he was almost in tears when they invited him to their daughter’s wedding. The girl, Susi, was part of the East Bali Poverty Project’s first illiterate student intake. This was in Bunga on 31st August 1999, and her father was one of the local tutors. David taught her father how to use techniques that were really interactive and engaging. Her mother (who came to our vehicle as we arrived in Bunga) is the school cook, trained by Komang, the EBPP HQ leader, she learned good hygiene, sanitation and how to cook vegetables they had never seen or heard of. Even now, all children are provided with a daily nutritious lunch accompanied by a glass of fortified milk and a multivitamin tablet. Around ten elementary school students were studying social sciences and we explained where we came from and a little about our different cultures. Differences in our cattle, our art and our dances etc. In the next class, which was a junior high class, David took this a step further and asked me, ha, if I would demonstrate some highland dancing. Well, I’m not sure how accurate it was, but it certainly gave the children a good laugh. Then a girl of about thirteen stood up and began to do a traditional Balinese dance. This was unbelievable. Here she is… (20 secs video)

In the next class the children wanted to talk more about clans, which are called, ‘adats’ in Indoneasian. They also wanted to see an example of a Scottish kilt. The closest word they could find in Indonesian for kilt was ‘roc’, which means ‘frock’ in English. But anyway, I passed round the paper kilts made by Christie Park School and the Balinese children’s faces lit up.
After another few classes, where the children found Scotland on a big map of the world, I was asked for another embarrassing Highland dance performance and was rewarded this time, with a Balinese battle dance, called a Wirayuda (The War Dance) This was performed by four young lads, who again, probably just had the edge on me. (30 secs video)

We were then taken to another brilliant East Bali Poverty Project initiative – called The Daya Bamboo Learning and Development Centre.

When the area was eventually opened up to the rest of Bali with the introduction of ‘roads’, all the indigenous bamboo, until then pretty inaccessible, was cut down until there was none left. Bamboo is used for construction, weaving, charcoal and a multitude of other uses, so it was pretty important to do something about this. The Bamboo centre grows around 20 different species of bamboo, and shows the local people how to get the best results from planting and harvesting in a sustainable way. They even have a process that hardens the bamboo and makes it much more durable and resistant to insect attack. I’m pictured here with Komang our guide and driver, he’s on the far left, then it shows Allan Sneddon – owner of Olida Publishing, and Ketut, EBPP the bamboo expert.


Today’s feature is this map of Bali. It shows the main areas of the island including the four highest volcanoes: Sangang, Musi, Batur, and of course, Agung. In the south of the island the beaches are very busy with tourists from Australia and other areas, but the beach next to our volunteer house is very quiet. It has black volcanic sand and there are lots of colourful fishing boats that go out at night to catch tuna and shrimp.


Our creature today actually whacked against my head while I was eating outside the volunteer house. It’s a female Atlas Beetle. It was like being hit by a golf ball as it measured 30cm. Thank goodness it wasn’t a male. It is three times bigger than again and could have knocked me out. The male also has a pair of giant horns protruding from it’s head. Yuck! At the volunteer house our toilet is outside. One gross but true fact, is that it’s very important to shake the toilet seat and check it carefully before sitting down. There are a few species of poisonous spider out in the woods which make going to the loo a very scary operation.


Sam Wilding Day 3 – A Window On Another World

Today has to be my favorite day yet. We visited another school at Pengalusan (pronounced pbungalucen) and chatted with the children, who were busy doing maths and art. Their teachers were very keen that they got to see the art produced by the children in Scotland, and were very excited to show us what they were working on here too. These are some of the brilliant pictures created while we were there. They were particularly fascinated by our highland cows, which are quite different from the indigenous Bali cow, a beast that is still central to the wealth and prosperity of local families, and to me, very much like an antelope or some kind of deer.

As we were leaving we were invited into the actual Pengalusan village. Behind the school on a very steep slope the village houses were so close together that they practically formed the one big, interwoven community. It was wonderful to see the different generations all sitting together, weaving bamboo baskets, eating lunch and chatting. Everyone had their door open and we were introduced to the community leader. We chatted, as best we could, and drank some kopi (coffee) sitting in his porch. Before we wound our way down the narrow lanes, back to the school, we were stopped by an old lady who offered us some freshly cooked Eddoe, a type of yam, a bit like a sweet potato. The friendliness and sense of community was overwhelming. Inside the gubuk, the cooker, bed and sitting area are all very close together. We were told how the introduction of chimneys and even separate sleeping quarters has saved many children from losing their lives to asthma and chest complications.

The visit to the village really made me think. It felt like I was stepping into another world, one that still had charm, trust and an openness so sadly missing in our towns and cities today, but a world still evolving, eventually destined to join the rest of us on the same hectic road to the future. I wonder if they will retain their culture and somehow balance the wonderful advances against the possible excesses and fixations that dominate our world?

Features and Creatures

Feature – a warung

Before we got back to the headquarters, we stopped for some lunch at a warung, which is a very small street-side take away. Typically you pick from a selection of dishes all plated up behind a glass screen. Then the owner lifts the selected food out, by hand, into a sheet of thick paper or banana leaf, which he or she folds into a packet ready to be opened up and eaten with your fingers. Although I was initially put off by the tactile elements to all this I have to say that it tasted absolutely wonderful. And to actually feel your food before you eat it adds an extra dimension to dining in my book.

Creature – The Balinese Wildcat

After showing some children a picture of a Scottish wildcat, I was told about the existence of a Balinese Wildcat, which, going by the description, “bigger than your wildcat, more spotty, bigger legs, less hair and about up to just above your knee,” may well be a Leopard Cat.
Nocturnal, they hunt on the ground and in the trees. Mainly rodents, birds, insects and fish. I haven’t found a picture of one but here’s how a leopard cat sounds………

Today’s phrase is
Selamat Siang which means ‘Hello’, between 11am and 3pm.
Selamat means happyness.


Sam Wilding Day 2 – A Window On Another World

Challenge Questions

1. Why are the new toilets so essential in Bali Village?

2. What size can the Giant Wood Spider web grow to?

I’m going to record the audio outside, just give you a flavour of the jungle setting of our volunteer house. So apologies in advance for the racket. So off we go to the East Bali Poverty Project HQ, up in Ban village. The roads are pretty rough and you tend to spend most of your time trying to avoid being battered off of the windows and roof of the truck. Ban village must be one of biggest villages in the world, covering over 71.2 square kilometers. About a third of the size of Glasgow.
Once inside the charity HQ we are introduced to the various medical and teaching staff and produced a plan to visit the six schools that are scattered all over the slopes of the Agung and Abang volcanos.

The road up to Cegi School, our first destination, is said to be one of the best, but we still had jungle-covered cliffs falling away from the track and an almost uninterrupted wall of giant spider webs either side. More about the giant wood spider later.

It’s fair to say that since The East Bali Poverty Project started up in Ban, things have really improved from a health and sanitation perspective. Many of the villages now have road access, new schools and a much improved infrastructure. However it’s import to realise that this has all changed in just 16 years. In Scotland the same transition from a very ancient lifestyle took around 16,000 years.

Cegi school, pronounced Chegi, is just opening up when we arrive. They have to leave plenty of time for the students to get to school from the various mountain locations, as people are very spread out. Most children get up at 5am and go out to cut grass for their cattle. These bundles are then perched on their heads and taken home. After this the children make their way to school by foot, often for an hour or so, before cleaning the school grounds and rooms. They sweep the outside and inside areas with palm brushes. They may have breakfast at the school before saying their prayers and giving thanks at the school shrine. After all this they arrange their seats for class.

I began my first school session with some of the artwork produced by the children back in Scotland. We talked about kilts and clans, monsters and legends and then about writing stories. I used an imagination game from one of my workshops, which I replicated here with the aid of a translator, to draw out some original stories from the children themselves. Both in Cegi and in the next school we visited, Darmaji, the children’s drawings and ultimately the stories they produced were extraordinary. They came up with a tiny creature called a cedwa and 150m high monster called a Bekbet, that would crawl out of the volcano at night and eat small children. Nice

The main reason I came across to Bali in the first place is because the children in Ban had used the Tiffy & Toffy picture books to practice their English. In the past UNICEF, Asthma UK, Glasgow the Caring City Charity and various charities working in Uganda have used the books for teaching young children. The children in Ban used the books at their Independence day ceremony back in August 2014 to demonstrate their reading skills to the whole area.

Features and Creatures.

Today’s feature is going to be the traditional gubuk – a single roomed bamboo house. The are signs of change everywhere. A few yards back from the schools, however, many of the people still live completely in their gubuk. This is where they eat, cook and sleep as a whole family. These structures often have an outside sitting platform, raised above the ground to protect from snakes and insects, and the gubuk itself is usually are no more than 3m x 4m square. These gubuks are slowly being replaced by a lava and concrete block mix construction. I also saw a blend of the old and new accommodation, where the project out here were building much needed toilets beside the gubuks. Proper toilets prevent disease and dirt from spreading and actually save lives.

Today’s creature is that giant wood spider I talked about earlier. Around 20cm long, it has a web that is often over 2m in diameter, which often traps small birds as well as a whole variety of insects. I’m told that it does bite by the people here and that it’s the females I’m seeing all along the roadside on their umbrella-sized webs. The males are a fraction of the size.

Finally my Indonesian phrase for today is – Hati Hati – which means – ‘take care’.


Sam Wilding Bali Visit – Part 1        the video

So eventually, after three flights and 12,000 km, my publisher, Allan, and myself landed in Bali. As soon as we stepped off the plane the difference in temperature hit us. My clothes began to feel clammy and damp and the air was like treacle. The humidity was sitting at about 80% and the temperature was 31 degrees centigrade.
We were driven to the hotel and got ready to meet up with the people from the East Bali Poverty Project.
One of the first things we did was to look through all the fantastic project work and art that had been produced by the children of Christie Park Primary and Braehead Primary. Paper kilts, Scottish songs, Scottish slang, and a whole host of drawings, bookmarks and even friendship bracelets. We also looked at the educational booklets produced by the East Bali Poverty Project and met up with the founder David Booth – MBE. David had literally searched for the poorest village in Indonesia and he had actually discovered an unknown village on the slopes of the Agung volcano in Bali. Unknown to anyone on the island, even villages several kilometers away, Ban village had lain undiscovered for thousands of years. It literally was a like finding a lost world.

However as sickness and disease was rife, David formed the East Bali Poverty Project and got to work addressing the poor nutrition and ensuring clean/safe water provision.  There were no rivers, streams or piped water supply: David says that ‘their water came from God’, because only source was by harvesting rain water. However all the water was highly polluted with E.Coli bacteria. There was also very bad sanitation. Most people had never even heard of a toilet!
Now the EBPP are focused on Education.

We discussed what we might do on our visit over lunch and then set off for the Agung (aaagong) volcano and our volunteer quarters. On leaving the city of Denpasar we headed east along the southern shore of Bali and up round the eastern edge of the island, the gigantic outline of the Agung volcano ever present. We zigzagged through busy villages and towns, skirted rice paddies and eventually wound our way down towards our accommodation in Tianyar. It was dark by the time we got settled in and as I write this the light of my iPad is attracting a wonderful variety of moths and mosquitos. More about them later.

But there is just so many interesting things to see here that I have decided that it might be useful to include a section called ‘features and creatures’ whenever I send an update.

So today’s feature is one of the biggest landmarks in Bali. It’s an active volcano in the Eastern part of the island called Mount Agung. It stands 3031 meters above sea-level and forms part of a chain of volcanos that jut out like a backbone all the way across the island. Called Gunung Agung in Indonesian, which means – Great Mountain, it is very special to the Balinese people and is home to the Mother Temple of Besakih. The whole mountain was supposed to have been formed when a Hindu God – Pasupati split the spiritual axis of the universe, Mount Meru, and then made Agung from one of the fragments. In Bali many of the people are very spiritual and have a whole host of ceremonies and beliefs.

And today’s creature is a giant millipede. Although millipedes look pretty scary, they are in fact vegetarians. They rummage through the rotting leaves and actually do a good job mixing everything up, a bit like earthworms do in the soil. They are also our oldest-known land animal. And there is even a bit a of Scottish link, because oldest example of a millipede ever found was uncovered in Scotland. This particular beastie was crawling through the leaf-litter of a tropical rain-forest in Scottish over 428 million years ago.

I am also going to try and pick up an Indonesian phrase each day. Today’s phrase is ‘Terima kasih’, which means ‘thank you’. [djb…Terima = Receive; kasih = give. So this is a beautiful greeting!!]
I hope you’ll keep tuning in to find out much more about Bali and it’s wonderful people.
Bye until next time.

Sent from my iPadp6