Day Five took us out of the mountains and down to the beach. We fueled up with our ever-delicious, traditional breakfast and piled into a van, which took us on a ride through rice paddies as well as urban parts of the island.
During our trip, we stopped at one of the local temples. Reverently wrapped in sarongs, we took in the beauty of the architecture, and the dedication of those giving offerings around us.
Our hostesses had booked us a lunch at the Whacko Beach Club, a posh location which overlooked the ocean. Modern decor and the striking effect of the infinity pool made for an environment which truly felt like paradise.
Lunch was a seemingly endless spread of colorful dishes and varying flavors - I cannot express how truly impressed and grateful we have all been when it comes to the food!
We started with a stellar potato leek soup - a taste of fall and home.
The rest of the dishes arrived in a flurry of colors and aromas. We were so eager to dig in!
Relaxing in or by the pool was the perfect end to our delightful meal.
While kicking back, we heard some commotion from other guests... It turns out that there was a pile of puppies who had been given a makeshift home underneath one of the beach benches! We all rushed over and completely melted at the sight.
Three boys and two girls - each cuter than the next! The staff informed us that the pups' mother had stopped coming by about three days after their birth and that the staff had been caring for them for about three weeks.
We took turns feeding them after it was clear by their finger-suckling that they were hungry!
In an inspiring, collaborative effort we remembered having stopped in to a storefront in Ubud for BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association), which cares for stray animals on the island. They were contacted and it was arranged for the babes to be picked up at our resort when we returned with the cuties later that evening. It was a truly happy ending for these little love-bugs, even though most of us wanted to stow one or two away in our purses to take home to our respective continents.
We were then reminded of a certain enlightenment about the nature of the universe maintaining balance earlier in our retreat experience as some of us were faced with a harsher reality of life in the islands. Five of us opted to take a snorkeling trip while we were at the beach. Having had a surreal experience snorkeling off of Key West a few years before, I was eager to engage in underwater exploration in Bali. Unfortunately, the beach area was not very clean. We spotted some pieces of trash floating by during our adventures and, overall, I would not recommend it to others. There was no instruction, no aftercare advice of washing off saltwater once we were finished, and no admonition about not touching or disturbing the wildlife.
In fact, we were subjected to the horrendous witnessing of one of our two "guides" calling to the other (in Bahasa or Balinese), who jumped in the water and joined him, holding a long hook-like instrument. Watching underwater, I observed one of the men jab the spear under some coral and remove an octopus from its home. We were shocked. The water was choppy, my mind was trying to make sense of what I was seeing, and he did not surface often for us to get his attention. Eventually, after he had been dragging the animal back toward the boat for a distance, I was able to get his attention and ask him what he was doing. Of course, he stated his intent was to consume the octopus. We pleaded with him to set it free. He appeared confused, yet did oblige our request. Even though he stated that he thought he had killed the animal, I watched it make its way back under a shelf of coral after it was released. My only hope is that it was not too injured to make a recovery and that it may live out the rest of its life, unharmed.
The whole incident left an impact on those of us who witnessed it. I have never seen an animal being injured or killed right in front of me. I don't quite think my mind has truly processed the event, honestly, as it has only been a few hours. The beauty of the aftermath, however, was in the compassionate and empathic responses from our fellow retreat-goers. (Again, these women are amazing.) We discussed the difficulties in accepting others' cultural practices when every fiber of ourselves is screaming in protest to the basic injustices of taking another's life. It was a heavy afternoon.
During our trip back to the resort, we were able to refocus our energies on the puppies as we watched them wiggle and squirm over each other. This experience truly made the trip something much more than simply a wellness retreat; the hearts of these women led to action that forever changed the fate of five little lives, which is something I surely won't soon forget.
Dinner at the resort was another night of mind-blowing creations and, after a day in the sun, we were so ready to eat!
Lettuce cup with tofu and peanut sauce, roasted pumpkin, vermicelli salad, rice with ginger tofu and hot sauce, steamed veggies, and a big salad with mango dressing.
And a surprise dessert of coconut mango cake! Moist and decadent, this was truly a treat. The kitchen staff at Alam Sari have gone above and beyond our expectations, which is especially impressive because this is the first time they have worked with someone to arrange a totally plant-based retreat.
One more day in one of the most beautiful and inspirational parts of the globe and I am not ready to leave! See you all soon for the final recap of the Blissed Out Retreat 2014!