Aaron Cantu ’11 – The first view out of my airplane window of Bali, Indonesia, was absolutely beautiful, and its been nothing but beauty since. I had no idea what was in store for me stepping off the plane, but almost two months into the program, its truly been an adventure.

My program center is based in Bedulu, a small village to the northeast of Denpasar, the capital of Bali. It is a beautiful place to call home. The village is riddled with tall palm trees, wild roaming chickens, and the zipping by of motorbikes down the main road. My classes are taught in an open air classroom which allows for a wonderful breeze on those hot Bali days. Being able to touch a refreshing rain during the rainy season from my desk is another spoil of studying here.

The intense language course has allowed me to communicate with locals and become integrated into the culture, as opposed to being just another tourist. After a mere week of class we were dropped off in a nearby village and expected to survive with our limited language skills. It was a frightening experience at first, but once I met a nice Balinese masseur, my nerves were calmed. We talked about America and my time in Bali while drinking a tasty cup of Balinese coffee and viewing a beautiful panorama of seemingly endless rice fields; all this in Bahasa Indonesia. It was my first taste of the wonderfully hospitable culture of the Balinese. 

This seems like a regular occurrence in Bali; being invited into peoples homes for meals after a mere five minutes of conversation is not uncommon. It’s the culture that allows for one to be completely immersed into Balinese life. I have been to temple ceremonies with my family, joining them side by side in prayer on some of the most holy of Balinese Hindu celebrations.

Along with wonderful people, the island also contains breathtaking scenery. I climbed the active volcano of Batur and witnessed the sunrise over the clouds on its peak. I felt as though I was on top of the world, on some secret perch that only few have been granted to experience. I have ran my toes through sands of every color on some of the most secluded and beautiful beaches in Bali. I have swam with dolphins in open ocean at sunrise with the view of mountains jutting into the ocean as my background. I have even hunted eels by hand through rice terraces with only the aide of starlight and fireflies.

The experiences that I have gathered so far will never be able to be fully understood through these words, or those of any others. I appreciate immensely the opportunity given to me by Wabash College to experience all that has been set out for me. I have grown in so many aspects of my life and will continue to do so in the coming month. I will be documenting village life through painting and sketching for the next month, which means no class, just living and painting. I will spend half my time painting in Seraya, a poor fishing village on the southeastern hill of Mt. Seraya, overlooking the pristine coast.

After my time is exhausted there, I will continue painting in Sukawana, a small village in the mountains near Batur. Although internet access will be hard to come by, I will be sure to update once I have finished my projects in these two villages. Sampai Nanti. Until Later.