Cock Fighting, Muddy Shoes, and Semen

Last Wednesday I was having a bad day. A “fuck you, fuck me, I hate everything” kind of day. I was truly in bad shape, and nothing seemed to be helping. I went to a meditation, which usually helps to calm my anxiety, but for some reason on that day, when the room went quiet it just gave ample space for the negativity and scary thoughts to be even louder.

But I needed to figure this out. I had to know that I was going to be okay here in Southeast Asia. I decided that I was going to go on a pilgrimage.

There is a waterfall a little over eight miles away from where I am staying in Ubud called Tegenungan, and I thought I could figure out what was missing inside me, (whoa this is dramatic even for me) in this 16-mile expedition. It was going to be perfect, what better place to find yourself than a spiritual center at the base of a waterfall that sounds like a planet from Star Wars.

So I embarked on my trek, lost in thought and in translation because the further outside the city center I got, the more difficult it became to communicate. After walking for about an hour I stumbled upon a weird looking coliseum in the middle of rice fields. I started snapping a few pictures of it, but it immediately felt like somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. As I was walking away I hear someone yelling at me, “HEY! BOY!” Fuck. So I walked over to this Balinese man who promptly asked me if I was taking photos. Back at the entrance of the coliseum, there were four or five other men who looked at me like not only a visitor but an intruder. I immediately apologized and offered to delete the photos. There was a really long pause before he erupted in quite an exceptional belly laugh. I was confused, and only understood when he patted me on the shoulder and told me he was just giving me shit.

We exchanged pleasantries before I asked him what this stadium was for. He said it was for “cocks”, and because I’m a ridiculous human being I thought, “damn take a back seat West Hollywood, this village in Bali has a stadium dedicated to cocks.” After he saw my confused expression he said: “for rooster fight”. Holy shit, did I just find an actual cock-fighting ring? Yep, I absolutely did.

I was so intrigued. And yet, I wasn’t nervous at all. He was such a warm and inviting person who just so happened to run an underground cock-fighting circuit in Bali. Also, for the sake of not wanting to get him into any trouble, I’ll be using the name Wayan in lieu of his real name. He looked at me like I was insane when I told him I was heading to Tegenungan (turns out I had miscalculated and it was another two hours by foot from where we were), and then he did something I did not expect. He offered to take me. Despite being told again and again growing up “don’t get on the back of a stranger’s pink motorbike in Indonesia”, (In hindsight this was oddly specific), I trusted my gut, thanked him, and hopped on.

We made a quick stop just up the road where he handed a man a glass vial filled part of the way with a brown substance, which I thought to be black tar. But, for the sake of my own delusion, I decided not to pry. We continued down the only road out of his village and he proceeded to stop every so often just to show me something. Wayan showed me how to harvest rice, how the Hindu offerings are constructed each morning, how fire is used to compost and so much more. I was enchanted by all of it.

Eventually, we made it to Tegenungan. I was so grateful and thanked him; expecting him to head back to his village and leave me to explore the waterfall alone. He had other plans. He showed me the small temple at the base of the waterfall and explained to me that the water had spiritual properties. Apparently, the villages around Tegenungan had been using the naturally pure spring water for many centuries.

We walked back up to his pink “ladyboy” motorbike as he so fondly called it. I asked him if it was all right for him to drop me off back at the cock coliseum. He said, “no no, now we go to sunset.” I felt a quick jolt of apprehension. Before, I at least knew the destination that we were heading, but now I was putting my full trust in this stranger. And yet, something inside me said fuck it. I guess I was tired of lying in bed at night and always wondering what could have been if I had said yes to certain scenarios. So I hopped on the back yet again, putting my full trust in Wayan.

We rode for about twenty minutes before getting to a completely secluded rice field. If there was a place he was going to knock me out to harvest my organs this would be it, but as I thought that he simultaneously said: “I’m proud of you.” I nearly fell on my ass. Say what? Proud of me…but why? He continued to say, “not many people would put trust in me like this, you’re not like many people.” Was this man psychic? Was Wayan a guardian angel sent to me by the universe to show me the path?

We reached the end of the path, which mysteriously ended dead center in the middle of a huge expanse of rice paddies. He said it was one of his favorite places to watch the sunset. So we talked and watched this sunset together. A few things struck me about our conversation. First, he kept mentioning his sister in Australia and his brother in England. At first, I thought his siblings had just moved away, but then he said, “I met my sister seven years ago.” He explained to me that family has nothing to do with blood relation, just the depth of emotional connection. And secondly, he told me that he used to be the elder at his temple for three years, but there was no way he could have raised enough money for the amount of ceremonies and offerings done on a near daily basis by simply asking for donations. That’s why he was running the cock-fighting ring. It was all for his community. I held back tears and watched the sun dip below the horizon.

It was dark at that point, and he asked me if I wanted to go hunting for birds. Oh man, I don’t know about this, I am a recovering vegetarian after all. I asked if there were weapons involved. He pulled out a small wooden cylindrical object with two holes in it and told me that it was a whistle. More specifically, it was a whistle that sounded just like the female mating call of a bird that loved to hang out in rice fields. Apparently, the sound attracts the male bird, you then shine a light at the bird, which blinds it temporarily, and the bird will ejaculate (yes you read that correctly) while flying right towards you, all you have to do is grab it.

I. Am. So. IN. So we swung by a compound that was close by to pick up a buddy of his who had the flashlight and we were off to hunt some birds. The first rice field we stopped at was too noisy because we were too close to a temple in the middle of a Hindu celebration. We had no luck at the second either. It was time to get serious. We ended up in rice fields with no artificial light to be seen in any direction. I was expecting it to be quiet comparatively to the bustling heart of Ubud, but the variety and volume of various tweets, caws, chirps, ribbets, and screeches shocked me. Wayan told me to take my shoes off. At this point, I stopped questioning anything and followed suit. We proceeded to walk through rice paddies, calf-deep in mud. We could hear the target. Wayan was sounding off on the whistle and sure enough, a male bird revealed itself from hiding. We shined a light at it and true to his word, the bastard relieved itself, only a little of it landing on my arm. But it didn’t work. Wayan explained to me that the flashlight was running out of batteries and it wasn’t bright enough to blind the bird for a long enough time for us to catch it.

So we made our way back to the bikes. Wayan asked me if I was hungry and if I would like to have dinner with him and his family. Bless this man. I quickly and exuberantly agreed, which was greeted by a hearty laugh and a gesture to hop on. I had always dreamed about getting on the back of a man’s motorcycle, this is not what I had in mind, but it’s so much better. Since we were the only light source for a few square miles bugs of all shapes and sizes we smacking us square in the face / in the mouth.

Once we got back to Wayan’s house, or more accurate compound (as he called it), because there were four families living in four spaces enclosed behind a wall. I was introduced to his son, his father, and his wife. This was a truly authentic experience. I learned about the differences in eating culture between Bali and The States, I learned about politics, Hinduism, cuisine, education, farming, family dynamics, and so much more. Wayan’s wife served us a huge plate of rice, then put three dishes in the middle. One was sambal, a spicy tomato based side dish. Another was some sort of fish that was similar to tuna, also spicy. And the third was some sort of leafy vegetable that Wayan had picked before we made the trek home, it was bitter and ALSO SPICY. I’m a white gay boy from California, my spice threshold can only usually palate the Spice Girls, and even Ginger Spice was too much for me. But I was so enthralled with this whole experience that I didn’t care, plus the food was delicious.

After dinner, it was time for my departure, so I hopped on Wayan’s bike one last time and we began the ride back to the center of Ubud. When we got back to my apartment, I didn’t know how to thank him. So I reached for my wallet and said “please let me pay you for this, you showed me your culture, your country, and you fed me. I don’t know how else to thank you.” He looked at me with a hurt expression. He told me that we were friends and that we had exchanged hearts and that’s all he needed. Once again choking back tears, I thanked him again and again and shook his hand. He switched the grip of the handshake so that we were now gripping each other’s thumbs (think the straight man handshake to hug combo). This was such an intensely genuine gesture and I wasn’t 100% sure why. I suppose because six hours previously he and I were strangers, and now we shared a genuine brotherhood.

So. I went on a walk in Bali to find myself, but I found something better. I found someone else. Someone who saw familiarity in me despite sharing almost none of the same cultural mores as myself. Someone who was more than happy to give me one of the most memorable experiences of my life with nothing for reciprocation other than friendship.

Thank you so much Wayan, I am truly grateful. We parted ways with mud in my shoes, bird cum on my arm, and bugs in my teeth, but fuller than I ever was before with life and love.

 

Much love & many adventures,

Wolfe