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Nyepi: Bali's Day of Silence

Nyepi: Bali's Day of Silence

Two weeks into my Bali experience, I had never heard of Nyepi. It wasn't until I began to see a ton of roadside signs emerge out of nowhere while riding my scooter with the word plastered across it along with March 22nd, generally alongside a man in a turban-like wrap and a bunch of religious symbolism, that I began to do my research. Was I lucky enough to be in Bali at the time of the most sacred festival in the world or was this some kind of election?

My assumptions were immediately dismantled upon reading that it was the new year for the Balinese and it would consist of fasting, silence and meditation. While I wasn't overly thrilled with the concept of silence, how strict could it be? Reading into it further, my questions were answered and to my dismay, these Balinese took this day seriously. Everything would shut down...from airports to shops, from restaurants to even hospitals working at a reduced scale. On top of it, all phone services would shut down and you could not leave the place where you were staying. And when the sun went down, you were meant to keep the lights off or at least not have any lights visible to others. Essentially the entire island of Bali would come to a complete apocalyptic, yet peaceful stand-still.


My adventurous side was in love with the idea of time stopping, but my rational side suddenly chimed in to mention that I am expected to work 8 hours that day for my company, on German time! Anxious question began racing through my head. How was I going to do meetings with the horrible wifi that would then be spread even thinner by all the others in the hotel? What was meant to be a joyous day of relaxation and reflection was already turning into a nightmare in my mind, as I prepared for the worst, thinking that I might even need to call in sick that day (is that really even that bad, though?).

Good morning, Nyepi

Nyepi finally came around with services shutting off at 6am that day. I woke up thinking the end of the world had come, but when I walked down to the dining area (we were allowed to stay anywhere within the confines of the hotel), it couldn't have been more of the opposite vibe. It was as though a massive blanket of peacefulness had fallen over an already peaceful setting (we are surrounded by rice terraces for square-kilometers here).

The day started to pan out nicely and I began to understand the benefits of having a holiday like Nyepi. I started to feel the inner-peace that the others were feeling around me and let go. The rain started falling for the first time I was in Bali and I spent a long time looking out across the rice terraces, listening to the many ducks quacking about, and feeling the gratitude of being where I am in life.

rain on the rice paddies in Bali

When work finally came around in the late afternoon, the wifi wasn't at its best, but it was enough for me to get work done. When the meetings came around, well let's just say I shut my camera off for once and wasn't the most active participant that day. "Whatever" became my mantra of the day. I would prevail through Nyepi.

In comes a hornet

Around 10 or 11pm, or the latter part of my work day, I was writing some code from the bed, with the blinds completely closed to hold in the light, being as respectful to Nyepi as I could of course, when suddenly I heard a faint buzzing. I thought nothing of it for some moments, until flying in front of me and making brief, but traumatizing eye contact was the most terrifying hornet I had ever seen, like Asian murder hornet style. Being inexplicably fearful of hornets and wasps since childhood, I threw my computer nearly off the bed and jumped up into the corner, paralyzed, hanging on for dear life. The rest was a blur thanks to the shock and adrenaline, but all I knew was I needed to break all the rules of Nyepi for the sake of getting this hornet out. Fabio and I turned on the lights of the balcony and front door and threw open the doors widely in hopes that the hornet would be attracted to the lights and fly out. Light could not be seen for miles and miles and I am sure if a satellite were flying by right at that moment, it would see a little explosion of light in a vast sea of darkness that was the island of Bali. After 5 minutes of the hornet not budging, I went downstairs to find a staff member, all of which were asleep, as they should be at that hour of Nyepi. Instead of breaking their peace, I found a long stick they used to clean the pool, and snuck it back up to Fabio. He proceeded to poke the angry hornet until it charged at him as he ran out of the flood-lit entrance.

We ran back through the door as it swarmed around it and successfully averted a hornet attack.

The calm after the storm

It took me a while to settle down after that incident. And after shutting the lights out and praying to the Nyepi gods to forgive us and blame the hornet instead for this disturbance on this sacred day, we went out onto the balcony and looked up at some of the most brilliant stars we had ever seen in our life. We could even see the milkiness of the galaxies, which we miss out on so much living in light polluted areas.

A restful sleep finally came (even if I did dream several times of hornets) and the island of Bali resumed its normal daily life the following morning.

Always a lesson learned

Despite all the anxiety and stress I felt about the unknown, everything worked out in the end. From getting to experience the peace of a stand-still Bali, to still being able to work despite the complete island shutdown, to experiencing a near-death (ok, I am being dramatic) experience with a hornet, but surviving to tell the tale, it all worked out.

We need to weave this into our lives a bit more on a daily basis. We will never know what is coming around the corner, but be it good times or bad, there will be a calm after the storm. Thank you, Nyepi, for reminding me of the oldest cliche that my mom always says to me,

Go with the flow!

I can't promise I will be relaxed through another hornet attack or spotty wifi, but I will try to remember to not take everything as seriously and know that the calm is on its way.