Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tabra's Birthday, Penestanan

Dedi picks us up at 10:30 for the 1.5 hour drive to Penestanan (Ubud.) Dedi is Tabra's driver and he speaks good English and chats with us as we make our way to Ubud. The road to Ubud is congested with traffic and scooters carrying entire families zip by. We see parents with their young children sandwiched four to a scooter and very few wear helmets. The craft culture is rich in Bali and the road is one continuous craft market of statuary, carving factories and shops, all blending into one another; wood, marble, metal and cement. 

Driving to Ubud

We pass rice paddies along the way; walled family compounds with ornate decorative doorways and the towers of the family alters rising above the walls. The temples are beautifully decorated with flower and food offerings, palm leaves and bamboo towers. 
Family Compounds, Bamboo Towers

 When we arrive in Penastanan-Kaja and see Tabra walking down the road in front of her tiny new shop. She wears a sarong that she has designed from hand printed Indian fabrics and a straw hat and is adorned in her striking jewelry; silver bangles, earrings and a Jaguar ring. She is a lithe and graceful gypsy woman and she welcomes us warmly. 
Tabra, Gypsy Woman

The fare from the airport is $40,000 Rupiah (about $32.00) and Dedi drops us off at the Topok House, just around the corner from Tabra's new shop. It is the same bungalow complex that we stayed in 7 years ago except that the compound has been divided into two properties, presumably because of a family disagreement and division.  Our two story family bungalow is lovely; overlooking the river with a lush and private garden. There is a small pond,  a spirit wall and a gate to the river below. Orchids grow in the crevices of the rock walls and ferns and flowers frame the walls of our tropical paradise.  Art and I choose the upstairs bedroom with a not so private outdoor rock shower. (When I look up I can see the widows and the balcony of a bungalow above….and I surmise that they in turn can look down into our shower enclosure?)   We settle in briefly before accompanying Tabra a few short blocks to the compound where she works. 

Tabra and Marty, Topok House

Topok House Garden

It is Tabra's birthday and the family where she rents her workspace has prepared a feast in her honor. They welcome us with tall icy glasses of grapefruit juice and we are introduced to Dekti, Tabra’s manager and Made, Tabra’s accountant and book-keeper.  The extended family lives in this walled compound and we meet and greet them all including Dekti’s and Dedi’s 12 year old son and several other children. The compound has a number of family spirit temples, several cages of birds and three dogs. 
Tabra's Birthday Lunch

Tabra's Birthday Lunch

Birthday Lunch Buffet

They must have been cooking for days to prepare this beautiful buffet. We sample chicken tu-tu, chicken ayam sate, a spicy flower salad, curried long green beans and red rice.  I fill my plate cautiously at first but all is so delicious that I return for seconds. We sit in the outdoor enclosure of their compound, eat and visit. Dessert is a decadent chocolate mousse cake from the best bakery in town. We are extremely fortunate to be meeting and experiencing life with this Penestanan village family.  We learn that Penestanan means black magic and Tabra tells us that the villagers believes in black magic.  
Dedi, Art and John, Tabra's Compound
Tabra and Marty

After lunch Tabra shows us around her workrooms. She rents two rooms, each filled with trays of stones and beads and cast silver components. John and I are especially fascinated with her process and her extensive and delicious collection of stones.  Recently, Tabra has expanded into making skirts and sarongs and there are piles of fabric tucked in the corners. Her space is rich with creative energy. She rents a small bungalow a few streets away and we follow her to her home, one large room secluded behind rock walls with a lush garden.  There is a wrap around outdoor porch for sitting and a small kitchen in a separate room off of the porch.  Folded fabrics are piled on an outdoor table, soon to be sewn into gypsy skirts and sarongs. Tabra has a remarkable eye for color and texture and her clothing collection is beautiful and I imagine that I will be buying a skirt before the week is over. 

At 4:00 P.M. we return to our bungalow to shower, rest and write. John goes swimming in the pool in the adjoining compound, a privilege that we are charged $5 per day for. Tabra calls for us at 7:00 P.M. and with flashlights, we walk down the narrow path towards the stairs and into town. It is New Years Eve and we have unfortunately late (9:30 P.M.) dinner reservation at Bridges, one of the top restaurants in Ubud. The locals are celebrating with fireworks and sky rockets  that burst into flowering cascades of sparks. We walk along the shop lines streets, looking for an open money exchange. John is ravenous and getting cranky and we take a taxi back to Bridges in hopes that we can be seated early and are soon seated on the outdoor terrace of this upscale restaurant.  John and I order Mojitos and Tabra and Art order Mango Margaritas. The drinks are expensive, American prices at $12 each, but the food and the ambience is perfect. I order Mushroom raviolis and a vegetarian napoleon; remarkable. John orders mushroom raviolis and filet mignon; Tabra  a chicken dish and Art seared scallops and duck. Bridges is one of the top 6 restaurants in all of Ubud and our meals are superb.  When we order we let it be known that it is Tabra’s birthday and after dinner, a white dish arrives with 4 chocolate bon-bon’s, a candle and Happy Birthday Tabra written on the plate  in chocolate syrup.  It is a delicious and beautiful presentation and the end a lovely evening.
Tabra's Birthday at Bridges Restaurant, Ubud
It is midnight when we catch a taxi back to Pennestana. At the intersection of the village and our road to the Topok House, a group of men are setting off fireworks.  These are unregulated rockets and the sky blazes with colorful bursts of fireworks the sparks and trailings raining down upon us.  I am afraid to look up lest a spark fall into my eyes.  We laugh and dodge the villagers and disappear down the dark street to our bungalow where we fall into bed exhausted and listen to the seemingly unending bursts and cracks of the fireworks a block away. I am so tired that I fall asleep to the sound of fireworks and wake later to the soft sound of rain on our roof.

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