“This is where I heal my hurt”

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This is where I heal my hurt”

My first nights on the magical island of Bali

Every chair was taken after I seated myself. In the corner of my eyes, I saw them sitting at the table opposite of me as they were charging the batteries of their phones and talking to one another. I had just left a sticky, airconditioned flight that had taken me all the way from Brussels to Abu Dabi airport, and was now patiently waiting for my next flight to Jakarta, Indonesia. I still had about five hours before boarding, which left me with enough time to stroll around the not so interesting shops, to read in The Middle East Magazine (that I got for free and in which – to my surprise when I opened it – a photographer friend from Palestine had gotten some of his pictures published), to eat dinner, to sit, to observe (there are so many people from a diversity of cultures joining in this one big airport, so I started inventing a small game of guessing where people came from and looking at their next destinations on the big boards next to their gates to discover the answers), to lie down, to sleep and to listen to music. And oh yes, I almost forgot: to talk. Being all friendly and social as I am, I went over to the other table where they were sitting, and started talking to them. They were waiting to take the same plane as me, and were traveling to Bali as well. So we were heading in the same direction. I gently nodded at them, mumbled “See you later” and moved along.

Later, after another long and sticky flight on which I watched a bunch of you-would-never-see-these-unless-on-the-plane movies, we met again at the Jakarta airport. As we started talking again, they friendly invited me to stay at their bungalow park. ‘They’ were two guys of my age – now living in Germany but born in Bosnia and Kosovo during the war. ‘They’ had a third friend who would come a few days later as he’d gotten some problems with his Visa and was waiting for a new one to arrive. So ‘they’ had an extra bungalow in a private resort that they had rented as their base in Seminyak for the coming month. I could stay there for a few days, they suggested. But since I didn’t respond immediately to their suggestion, they asked another girl. I kinda wanted to be on my own, and didn’t feel like we had much in common. Plus, I read that Seminyak is a party place – and drinking or partying until late in the night were the last things on my mind (they hardly ever are). I was so so tired. Two days and one night of traveling. A few weeks of almost no sleep and a lot of work. And two interesting, but o-so intense projects with theatre maker and activist Hector Arastizabal in Palestine and Italy. I needed to do one thing: NOTHING. But would I find rest in the hostel that I had booked for this first night in Sanur (I read it was kinda boring there and not a very nice beach)? Would I find a taxi driver who would take me there, as someone told me today was a day of festivity (so many people were not working or the taxi drivers would charge much more)? Would I ever receive another opportunity to go to Seminyak, if I didn’t join them now? (I ended up going up going there three weeks later for a concert of spiritual singer Nakho, but that’s another story.) There was a girl coming as well, so I guess that makes me more safe? And who knew, I might even like it there?!

My mind started playing tricks on me, but finally the other girl and I decided to go along with them and share the extra bungalow for my first night in Bali. After 20 minutes, we arrived at Seminyak. We drove through a street full of clubs (outside, I saw travesties and prostitutes taking a hold on the passengers passing by), made a turn to the left into a narrow street, got out of the car, walked through an even more narrow street, and arrived at a small resort with 3 bungalows and a beautiful pool in the middle. I could hear the bass of the club’s music pumping into my vessels, and wanted to leave right away. At the same time, I realized it was already midnight and had no idea where to go elsewhere. I just needed to sleep. After a dive into the pool and a small meal, I went to lie down in the bungalow. An hour later, the girl came back from a walk with the two German guys. It was 3am. The music stopped. I promised myself to leave as soon as I would wake up. And thus fell asleep.

I woke up in gentle quietude and took a shower. The sun was shining through our bungalow window. I took a deep breath and realized it was cold. I wanted to leave, went out, realized it was very warm having left the airconditioned room, and started talking to the guys who were sitting outside. Another man had entered the resort, he turned out to be the owner and told me that I shouldn’t rush myself: “Just stay here for one more night, and leave to Ubud tomorrow. You are tired now, so you should take it easy.” He was right. I was amazingly tired. I started breathing in and out more deeply, decided to buy a local sim card, get breakfast and take a look around. At least I had arrived on the magical island called Bali, so I wanted to explore which hidden gems were waiting for me – even in a place like this. We went out together and started walking around in the little shopping streets. The sun was shining more strongly now and I started feeling more and more relaxed. After lunch, the girl and I went to the beach and stayed there for the entire day. I enjoyed it so much, that I forgot about my plans to go to Ubud. “I will survive one more night,” I promised my body. Besides, one of my favorite teenage bands were playing that evening – the soulful hiphop band De La Soul – so I really wanted to see them live!

That evening, the girl left. Her friend had arrived, and they found another place to stay. The German guys made plans to go out, so I decided to skip the concert and enjoy the time on myself in the resort next to the pool. Before they left, we jumped into the pool again. I talked to the guys about their home countries and about the war. I told them about the project I had been doing with Hector Aristizabal in Palestine, and they complimented me for my courage and dedication. “It is so important to spend your money wisely,” they told me, “for example, in project like these.” “Yes,” I answered, “it is important to be a witness of their pain and struggle at the same time sharing moments of play, relaxation and joy with them.” They left at 10pm, and I put on music, started dancing around the pool and went to lie down on the cushions at the covered terrace. The monsoon rain started pouring and I was feeling at ease and happy. In the distance, I heard the music pumping again in the clubs. But this time, I felt safe in the little container that I had created for myself. I felt rested in my own energy. I felt ready for the adventure that was awaiting me.

Or so I thought.. 2.30 am. I heard a male voice screaming. I woke up with shivers running through my entire body. What was going on outside? I reminded myself that I luckily had locked my door. The German guys had entered the resort and were now talking at the terrace in front of my bungalow. One of them screamed again: “Call now!” I overheard the other guy talking on the phone: “Yes yes, we want two girls. No come on, really? That’s too much. Let’s make it half price. And send us pictures of the girls, okay? We want to see them.” My body continued shaking, and I realized that I was hardly breathing at all. As if my safety shrunk to a diameter smaller than my smallest bone. My bones started hurting because of my sudden tension. I could only think that they shouldn’t know that I was awake. One of the guys screamed again, this time saying that he could not wait to get a blow job, so they needed to hurry up. I wanted to stay as quiet as possible. I didn’t want to hear more, but I also needed to know what was going on. Just in case. I. Could. Get. In. Danger.

My mind started running like crazy. So many thoughts entered my system, and I immediately forgot that I had met these guys – and that they were actually human like me. That they had needs, but different ways of dealing with them. That they had pains and fears, but different ways of dealing with them. I started dehumanizing them. Making them into monsters in my mind. My mind started making up stories, of them coming knock at my door, not being satisfied with their cheap thrill, and needing more body, more objectification, more numbing of any feeling or sentiment. I have a tendency to face whatever arises. But hearing them order prostitutes like that, I felt like running away. I had nowhere to go though, and felt unsafe to walk out and face them. I thought about the young girls that ended up being forced into prostitutes in order to survive. They might survive, but they are not alive. I cried for them. For their limited freedom. For their pain and daily suffering. I remembered the dance therapy work I had done with prostitutes and victims of trafficking in Kolkata, India. I could see the faces of the women’s children as they ended up living in the Red District Area – not being able of finding any other job than following in the footsteps of their mother or her pimp. I remembered Kolkata Sanved Organisation giving them new future prospects. I cried for the terror, and for the possibilities. I cried for humanity.

Being a woman, I have felt unsafe many times in this lifetime. I have never had any physical abuse happen to my body. I have never been raped or physically hurt by another. I have never had to do anything against the will of my body. And still, I have felt vulnerable and connected to a very old and traumatic fear of abandonment and violence. This is of course the wound of the feminine. And of the masculine. So many women are unsafe, even in their own homes. So many men are afraid to face their own power and the power of the feminine. So much fear. Fear. Fear. And denial. Ignorance. Suppression. Misinformation. Lack of education. At this very moment, a woman is being raped. At this very moment, a child is being born. At this very moment, a man is being hurt. At this very moment, a soldier is being commanded to shoot a small child. (And who is commanding the commander?) At this very moment, a small child is being killed by a car. At this very moment, a small fish is swimming in the ocean looking for food. At this very moment, another volcano is bursting into flames. At this very moment, the ocean is being polluted. Stories are everywhere. Everything is happening at the exact same moment. It is up to us to voice these stories. And to rewrite the old ones. To speak our truth. Old stories, new voices. How do we want this life to be? We have the power. We have the choice to come together in circles. With men. With women. With both men and women. And we have the responsibility to heal. To heal these wounds. To heal these wounds of both the feminine and the masculine.

Lying there in my little bungalow, I tried to embrace my fears as if it was a child in need of comfort, so I could regain a deeper feeling of compassion and trust. Even though very subtle, I could experience how the undercurrent of love was present even in that deep moment of fear. I kept reminding myself.. The guys outside might feel hurt, just like me. They might feel scared, just like me. At the same time, it is my duty to speak my truth. To stand up for injustice, and to use my anger in a creative way. This is my body, this is my home. This is my church, this is where I heal my hurt. During that second night in Bali, I kept on breathing through my fears. Telling myself I was safe. I am safe. I am safe. Praying for guidance and support. Promising that I would continue speaking my truth, and the truth of humanity. I asked for help, and received it. Some of my friends were online at that very moment (my night was their evening), and their support through Skype messaging dragged me through that night. Around 4am, I heard them leaving the resort. Around 4.30am, I heard them entering again and talking more softly with each other. Around 5.30am, I heard them turning down the lights and closing the doors of their bungalows. And I remained as silent as I could, with the knowledge that this silence would be broken. Around 7am, I got up, packed my bags as quickly as I could, and left the resort. This is my body. This is my temple. This is where I heal my hurt. This is my body. I am safe. I pray for every human being on this planet to be safe.

– Of course, after this challenging experience, I also got to have many more amazingly beautiful experiences.. So stay tuned for more stories!