Isolation under the Stars

March 25, 2020

The Balinese are known for their wonderful ability to let go, and these days I get to apply that spirit a lot. The execution of setting up a new store in a foreign country is a challenge on its own. Add to the mix that I’m in the last trimester of my third pregnancy and the economic crisis around the Coronavirus... It’ll take a bit (a lot) longer than I had originally expected! 

Whenever it consumes my mind, I remind myself to give it what my friend Ness calls a "Bali shrug", knowing that it’ll be ready when it’s ready.

Nurturing this beachfront baby is like expecting the real-life baby in my belly who’s coming shortly after the Nyepi holidays. Nyepi is arguably the most special day in the Balinese calendar, and I’m excited to carry this energy into the birthing process. 

We discussed this holy Balinese celebration last year. Even if it’s my 5th Nyepi, my belly still tickles (pun intended) whenever it comes around.

Nyepi means to be silent, and it’s happening this Wednesday. 

It’s a radical change for Bali. It transforms our beautiful island. All the hustle and bustle is gone, and peace descends. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. 24 hours dedicated to no lights, no noises, (traditionally) no fire, and no going outside of one’s home. 

That, for our team, means two things: 

1. An island so quiet we can hear the ocean from a mile away, and 

2. A well-stocked pantry with enough ice cream, meals and snacks for 24 hours, or sometimes more (because you never know what you’ll be craving). 

Evi, our sustainability manager, said that she laughs when she sees people swarm the supermarket to get several weeks worth of food. Although right now it’s hard to tell whether it’s for Nyepi or self isolation. 

Martina and Arya seem to laugh at themselves when they do just that, “what if I want different flavoured chips?” they said, “and promise, it won’t go to waste, we share it with everybody.”

Aside from the food prep, and the more important mental prep, what else will our team do this Nyepi? And what does it truly mean for them? This is what they told me.

Martina – Systems Manager

“It’s the best day of the year! I’ll sleep in, and wake up to the sound of birds and insects from the rice field next to my house. I can get away with ignoring any text messages that day, so my schedule will be: extra-special food and DVDs (yes, I still use those, especially as there's no Netflix without Internet). Post-dinner, I’ll get the bean bag out on the balcony and stare at the starry sky. With a glass of wine, of course.”

Evi – Sustainability Manager

“I won’t be in Bali for Nyepi this year. But the spirit goes everywhere with me. It’s the best time to self-reflect. The surroundings get really quiet, so I also try to quiet down my mind and thoughts. My advice is to have enough food for ONE day, it’s only a day people! Don’t be afraid to experience it. And count the stars! They feel especially close without all the light pollution, and it’s almost like you can really reach them.”

Yudi – Shipping Manager

“As a born and bred Balinese, this is the holiest time for me. I go back to my village in West Bali to spend quality time with my family. I don’t come from a super strict family, so we can still eat and drink and watch movies. You’re not normally allowed to do that if you’re a Balinese Hindu. I love to just eat and reflect on how I‘ve been the past year. In my village it gets very quiet and calm, it makes me feel very peaceful like no other time of the year. I’m mesmerized by the respect that the visitors give us during Nyepi, and I love seeing them join in this spiritual celebration.”

Tessa – Client Relations Specialist

“I pranked my parents the first time they came here for Nyepi. I told them that they couldn’t do anything at all, and have to whisper at all times, which isn’t necessarily true. Nyepi can be intimidating at first, but it’s seriously the ultimate me-time. Stargazing and fresh air are my favorite things! This year I plan to watch the last 2 episodes of The Good Place so please don’t spoil it for me! I overstock on books and entertainment, but not food. It’s only 24 hours after all.”

As for myself, I plan to relax at home with my mom and my 2 daughters. It’s not much different from the past few days of self isolation really, except for the lights, the quietness and 24 hours without Internet. Every year we jump into the pool at sunset and admire the star-filled sky. I’m secretly hoping the baby comes early on this magical day!


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