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Kajeng Kliwon and Spiritual Celebrities

Ned’s bungalows are located down a dark and dingy alleyway off of Seminyak’s main road. With an overstuffed backpacker’s load and my guidebook in tow I found my lodging for the next 4 nights. The family that owned and operates Ned’s is small, Balinese and speaks broken English, but is accommodating. So much so, that my neighbour is a British woman that has been so comfortable there, she is going on year 11.
I cannot remember her name (I stayed at Ned’s three years ago this April) but her story and comments stuck with me. She was married to a Balinese man and divorced many years before, but operates her business working with a charitable organization located in the Gianyar district of Bali. Using gemstones, she and the children of the area handcraft charms of coloured gems that are believed to enhance communication and dangle from cell phone antennas. (How far technology has come in 3 years!) The profits from the sales of these charms go towards the children’s education. The obvious reason that I work with pearls, she said, is because of all the gemstones, Pearl is the strongest in removing negative energies from the body and help keep us balanced. It is important to remove your gemstones once in a while, place them on the ground, and stomp beside them a few times to release the negative and keep us pure. Is this logical? Meh, I do it anyway. I can definitely attest to pearls being therapeutic, and what I consider to be the most intimate of gems. What she told me made me fall in love with my pearls just a little bit more.
I have not visited Ned’s since I’ve been back to Bali. I’ve traded my guidebook for the internet and my search has brought me to Umalas. A new development in a secluded and quite area of Bali that is surrounded by rice fields, the sound of crickets at night and an obsequious staff that outnumbers guests. I’ve spent most nights with Kadek in the front lobby and restaurant learning the Balinese calendar, talking about strength, power gems and learning the caste system of Hinduism in Bali. Pearls are my business, but Bali is their home. Perhaps this is a bit out there, but learning the land, people, traditions and beliefs brings a light and energy to the pearls that is not offered in other areas of the world that cultivate and harvest these organic little orbs.
Kadek is almost 40. A widowed father of two, he is very strict in following his religion and studying his calendar. He is usually the staff member that places the offerings and is always the first to greet me upon my return to the hotel. Kadek wears a Balinese headpiece, a sarong and his hotel T-shirt. Many Balinese will have rice between the brows and usually wear flip flops. My first night at Umalas, Kadek introduces himself and asks my star sign. This quickly leads us to the Balinese calendar and Kadek starts teaching me about our ruling Gods and Goddesses, our power numbers, good mates, best days for purchasing vehicles, making decisions, our ruling elements and moon positioning.
Today is Kajeng Kliwon. It is the best day this month for spiritual guide and making things happen. (In short) I learned this at breakfast, and instantly thought of Mangku Tedja (I also learned we can spell it Teja). This must be the best day for him in the spirit world. I should have known better. Of course today was planned. Home, motorbike, relationship and business decisions are all decided after consulting the calendar, and so for a ceremony like today’s, I’d imagine the calendar was mulled over before announcing the chosen day. Of course it was.
It is my last full day in Bali and so before my meetings I rush into Kuta to do my part in supporting the local designers to purchase a wrap dress that I saw earlier in the week. Kadek calls me a taxi and I jump in quicker than he drives up and we are off for my last free 2 hours in Bali to pick up the closest I will ever get to a Gaga inspired outfit and for my need-it-or-not annual $6 pedicure. My driver is I Wayan Suryisana and he, too, is 27. His birthday, December 6th. Wayan is a dancer. Everyone who has seen a travel poster for Bali knows that dance is a huge part of Balinese culture. I’ve never met a dancer, until Wayan. Many of the charitable organizations in Bali have a fund that is exclusively for dance and the preservation and continued teaching to ensure it is taught to the young. I learned his love for dance because I asked why, why on earth his nails were all 5 inches long, perfectly filed. Dancers have long nails. That was a simple enough answer. Because Wayan is so involved in dance, which is often performed at ceremonies, I asked him if he knew of Mangku Tejda. He is a celebrity, Tedja. I knew, but I didn’t. You know? Wayan has seen Tedja on the TV only. I feel a bit proud to be able to discuss someone more relevant to the Balinese people than Justin Bieber.
The rain starts early afternoon. I’m back in a taxi though and en route to Umalas. I have conga-line coral on my toes now, ready for my last first re-meeting with the original pearl man. Suhaji. I am expecting him at 2pm. After 3 hours of translating an article I have googled (or as Kadek calls it – googlie) on Mangku Tedja and learning the importance of Balinese temples, Sunhaji finally arrives. 3 hours late, our meeting turns from afternoon coffee to dinner. Sunhaji is an interesting man to know. Originally from Jakarta, his residence is on the island of Bali, and his businesses. Many of them. He is a large shareholder in 72 spas, land development, a pearl farm and restaurant owner, and his latest venture, an acupuncture clinic. He takes me on a mini tour of his latest development and then it is off to his restaurant just off of Sunset road for what reads on the glittery green sign “Muslem Food’. I’m pretty sure Tom yum soup is Thai, but the grilled Tuna, chicken and vegetables are all prepared with a Muslim twist.
Sunhaji, like every other pearl farm owner has felt the hit of the economy and it has not only slowed, but halted the current production of his pearls. He is not currently producing at his farm and is waiting on the economy to strengthen before he re-invests in oysters. You see, unlike the Pinctada Margaritafera oyster (Tahitian) or the Akoya pearl oyster, the south sea pearl producing oyster, Pinctada Maxima, is not nearly as abundant. Aside from nucleation operation, the oyster must be grown first. Nursery grown oysters take 2-3 years to reach maturity and are able to host a bead nuclei (a business all their own), and so with detrimental environmental conditions and the slow-down of the economy shortly thereafter, many of the smaller producers have been forced to pause their operation or completely shut down. It is depressing to witness the providers and businesses that put so much care, time and love for their operations to go sideways, but both Sunhaji and I are optimistic that things are on their way back up. The positive – South Sea pearls are increasingly rare in good qualities, but coming to Indonesia instead of buying and trading at tradeshows allows for more reasonable pricing, and of course, the personal touch, brought to you by yours truly.
After the last couple of days I can’t help but wonder if Kajeng Kliwon (today) has the power of the spirits to align for things we want. Kadek tells me this when explaining the power of today to me:
“For example,” he says “If a man wants to marry a woman, but she does not love him, then on Kajeng Kliwon he will wish her to love him, and she will.”
I don’t know for sure if the bad spirits possess the woman into falsely loving the man, or if the spirits work to actually make her fall in love with him. The explanation wasn’t entirely clear. What I did understand from Kadek is that if you want something to happen, today is the best day to ask for guidance, and the spirits offer us strength, good or bad. After a clear and thorough conversation with Sunhaji, I am wishing and hoping and wanting the pearl farmers to be able to resurrect the successful businesses they once had. After my translation of Mangku Tedja’s interview this past October, he offers a little bit of light that can easily be translated to the current farming situation.
This article talks about the science and study of exploring the spiritual world. Mangku Tedja studied in Java with many teachers, but found his strength mostly within himself, and once he found that, he was most powerful. He talks about the balance of energies, and how we must have the good and the bad. To reach the highest levels we will always possess both good and evil, black and white. Our power is what we chose to do with the energy. (This is the article in layman’s terms) Right now, I think for many of the pearl farmers in Indonesia, this is the bad that will eventually, help recognize the good. I’m not sure how many of you read Indonesian, but here is the article for a clearer understanding, and for the rest, a photo of Mangku Tedja! Enjoy

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