I was happy we experienced the ogoh ogoh procession in Kutuh Kaja the night before Nyepi, the day of silence in Bali, Indonesia. I felt as though we were part of the community, and experiencing something special. But, by the time we returned to the house, it was dark, as the lights around started to fade. Although Nyepi does not technically begin until sunrise you could already notice a difference in the village. Quiet took over.
We started our Nyepi lock down with a night swim, Eric’s babi guling soup, some chocolate mouse cake, and a little TV. It was an early night for us, and our friend Emerald who hunkered down with us.
Around 11pm the power went out. I was worried. During the silent period of Nyepi you are not supposed watch TV, play music, cook, or even turn on lights. The goal is to allow the demons to pass over the island. As Bule, we are given a little more leeway with these things, so long as we are not disruptive and stay within our homes, but for a moment there, I worried that they would turn off the power entirely. I worried about all of the ice cream I bought. I worried about sleeping in a room with no fan.
It must not have worried me too much, because I was asleep a few minutes later. When I woke in the middle of the night, I heard the hum of the ceiling fan and I knew my ice cream was safe.
I woke early Nyepi morning, which for us seemed much like other mornings, except that we were not allowed to leave the house. As I sat in bed using the computer (a Nyepi no no), the first thing I noticed was that our gardner, Pak Mejo, was out and about in the rice fields, doing a little work. He came by to water our plants and deliver us some bananas, all things that I thought were not allowed on Nyepi. I felt a little less guilty about using the computer.
First breakfast came early: papaya, bananas, and a beet root juice from Abe Do Warungin the village. We waited for Emerald to wake. She actually has a “job” here in town, and works normal hours. For her, sleeping in on a Monday was a treat, and we let her sleep. Then, Eric became a little passive aggressive, and started cooking bacon to wake her up, a trick he learned when we were living Washington, DC. I would try to sleep in on a weekend, and he would wake me with the smells of coffee and bacon. I never complained.
After, second breakfast, and a dip in the pool, I taught a little yoga for Emerald and I. Until then, we were trying not to watch anything on TV (which is nothing more than a screen for the stuff we have downloaded on the computer), or play music. I choose to play a little music for our yoga, though.
Yoga was followed by another dip in the pool, some snacking, a little ice cream, more babi guling soup, some watermelon margaritas by the pool, a nap for me, another dip in the pool. It was a day of pure relaxation.
We even moved our outdoor lounge chairs into the living room so all three of us could lounge while watching TV – perhaps reaching a new level of relaxation. Or laziness.
Perhaps we did not keep to the code of silence, nor did we spend the day meditating or contemplating our existence or our plans for this coming Balinese new year. The internet went down for a few hours, either planned by our internet provider or due the large number of people at home with nothing to do. That helped us disconnect for a bit. In fact, we assumed we would do nothing all day but watch TV, but that never really happened. We each spent our moments outside alone, and we spent a lot of time just chatting and spending time together.
We did many things we were probably not supposed to, including cook, watch TV, use electronic devices. But, we were respectful, ensuring we kept noise to a minimum, and only using one small light after dark. One friend of ours put on a few too many lights and he was scolded by the Pecalang, the neighborhood police.
While watching a movie, Eric went outside for a moment and beckoned for us to join him. It was a clear sky over Ubud that night. And, without all of the lights that usually fill the horizon, with a constant orange glow over the tree tops, the stars were brilliant. The three of us laid by the pool, necks straining upwards. There were some of the brightest starts I have ever seen. It made the entire day feel just a little more special.
Just after Eric returned to the house, Emerald and I caught a shooting star. Having spent most of my life living in cities, I have only seen a few shooting stars before in my life. I realized how lucky we are to be living in Bali and especially to be experiencing the day of silence in Bali.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.