We’ve returned from our junket to Bali. And we need to finish the story. Sister Edna and Nina picked us up Thursday morning. Admittedly, we were skeptical about this arrangement. Our flight back to Dili was 10:30 am Friday, so why would we put more pressure on everyone by heading off to parts unknown when we were already conveniently established five minutes from the airport?
But Sister Edna is very convincing and she had this orchestrated down to the smallest detail. She also has a multitude of friends. One of her newest friends, a Catholic businessman from Jakarta, is the owner of Bali Safari, a magnificent educational attraction near Denpasar. We were to accompany her and Nina there for the afternoon. As shyness is unknown to her, she had requested free passes for all of us, who, she declared, are doing the Lord’s work. Her direct approach worked and we were given guest passes and escorted past long lines of mere mortals waiting for tickets.
It was a marvelous afternoon, partly because we got to see Sr. Edna in action, and partly because of the high-quality park and animals. Sr. Edna makes instant friends in whatever context she finds herself. As a result, we were given the VIP treatment, as newly-met park personnel (Wendy, Dewi, Nila), walking arm in arm with Sr. Edna, would escort us to the next thing we wanted to see or do. She even managed to serendipitously run into the owner as we were leaving. It was incredible. Anyone who knows our travel standards would understand that spending money at a theme park is not an established part of our routine. We ended up doing things that we never would have done otherwise: a camel ride, photographs taken with an elephant, a bountiful (and discounted) lunch at the park restaurant. Because of the largesse of the owner and the hutzpah of Sr. Edna, we thoroughly enjoyed seeing some of the earth’s most beautiful animals in their natural habitats, and watching a fun and educational elephant show. The highlight was a drive among the animals in the “wild”: Bengal tigers, lions, orangutans, rhinos, hippopotamuses, and all manner of antelope and buffalo. Having visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently, we respectfully note that the people there have something to learn from this Balinese paradise.
But our time with Sr. Edna didn’t end at the park. After resting for a bit and seeing the church and the school where the Sisters work, we went with them to have Evening Prayer with a Balinese family and their prayer group. We struggled through the Indonesian, sometimes chanted, sometimes sung. At the end we all gathered around the couple, offering individual prayers for them. After the prayer, food was brought out and we enjoyed our second huge meal of the day. We packed up that night, tired but content and happy that we had not cancelled out.
We both remarked on how comfortable and familiar Bali felt on this trip, almost a coming home. When we visited many years ago, we had noted then how much quieter and calmer it was than Java, particularly with the absence of the call to prayer. That is still true, even with regard to Timor, but underneath for us was a sense of returning. We knew we were back in Indonesia, and that was a blessing.