The Yayasan Discovered Me
By Barbara Howarth
The first time I visited Bali was nearly eight years ago. It was right after September 11th. My husband, Randy, and I had planned a diving vacation. Nothing was going to stop us and after enduring dire warnings against traveling abroad during such uncertain times, we set off. That first evening in Jimbaran Bay with the table torches lighting the beach like fireflies, any concerns I ever harbored were released. I was forever marked with the peace of that first night. One year later, those same family and friends commented after the Kuta Beach bombings, “I’ll bet you are glad you are not there now!” All I felt was a strong but uneasy feeling to return and my heart went out to the people of Bali because I knew that was not the Balinese. They were victims much the same way that the people working in the twin towers were victims on September 11th. How was I to know that half a world away, my life would be so touched by one wonderful, generous man?
I would tell everyone what beautiful people the Balinese are and that I would not hesitate to go back in a minute if given that opportunity again. That opportunity did indeed present itself a year ago. I am always amazed at how serendipity can intervene when your heart has a plan of its own. It was my fiftieth birthday and my husband and I were trying to decide if we would go to a place we had never been or back to Bali. My yoga teacher, Shiva Rea, announced she was going to be doing a trip to Bali on the exact week of my birthday. Perfect! With this, the events were set in motion.
I don’t think I need to go into much detail for anyone reading this article, of the qualities of Bali. It is an absolute feast for the senses. The scent of sandalwood, the flowers placed in the cracks of stone figures and the enduring smile and grace of the people of Bali. I am amazed at the way the hundreds of motorbikes flow evenly, defying the laws of traffic. Instead, they emulate the way water flows around obstacles in a river. I suppose I am like one of those motorbikes riders. Helmet in place and ready for anything I might crash into, I find myself freely flowing in the river that is Bali. It was this sense of adventure that week that had me doing six hours of yoga each day, scuba diving, river rafting and hiking. I was invited by Megan and Charlie of the Yoga Barn to visit the Yayasan Widya Guna, teach yoga and meet Ketut and the children. To call this a life altering experience would be too mild a term. You know when you meet “the right one,” find the perfect home or hold your child for the first time, you think, oh yes, THIS is LOVE. It hits you profoundly and permanently and everything else in life seems to fall away in that moment. As I write this, those familiar tears are flowing again. Some of my group did not want to visit for fear of witnessing the tragedy of an “orphanage.” That is far from what I experienced. I saw sincere joy, excitement and kindness. I witnessed pride and curiosity and was overwhelmed by my reaction. Ketut and the Yayasan entered my heart and has not let go. Last year, I was able to participate in a fundraiser for a new dormitory. That seemed like a monumental task. The children danced and played the gamelan. I vowed that evening that Ketut would hear from me again and that was it. I felt bonded to this amazing man who was motivated to help the children of Bali. We never know where our life will flow, if our hearts are open and we let that love be a conduit through us. Sometimes I just don’t feel like I am really steering this motorbike of mine but I am open to this journey.
I came back again this past March to Bali. Now ALL my friends know of the Yayasan. I am sponsoring a beautiful girl, Kadek Dwi. I met Earnie Giles and Frances Blair. It is wonderful to see that there are so many others like me who have fallen in love with the Yayasan as I have. That dormitory building is complete and is a solid manifestation of how much can be done when that river flows! When I visited this time, it was during Nyepi, the Balinese New Year. I loved participating in all the temple events preparing for Nyepi. That day