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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SANUR, Bali, Indonesia—On our last night in Ubud a really impressive dance was put on for us. The dance is usually done in preparation for the period when burials take place but it seems to have nothing gloomy about it. It is more in the nature of a festival.

The whole village gathers in the outer courtyard of the Rajah's compound. At the back the little portable shops selling edibles are set up, each with their little oil lamp burning. The crowd sits around the clear central space which faces a shrine. Lamps are placed so as to outline the front of the shrine to the very top.

I wondered what agile little boy had climbed so high to place the lamps and light them because at night they looked so like twinkling stars. An orchestra sat on the ground at the side and the musical pipes were a lovely sound.

The actors came down the shrine's steps very slowly and one at a time. The stories for these performances are based on old Indian religious themes or legends, and the people all seem to know them, but they hang on to the talks as though they had never heard them before. These actors also introduced some variety by making jokes about the approaching elections and the candidates running for office, which made the people rock with laughter.

The play moves slowly and the dances are slow so you can watch each movement and enjoy it. Every flutter of a finger means something as does every motion of a fan or glance of the eye.

This was our last dance in Ubud, for the next morning we left for Sanur. On the way we were stopped to see another village dance, which must be done fairly early in the morning or at night because it is so strenuous that they do not like to do it in the hot sun.

This dance depicted the struggle between good and evil and is, of course, danced by men. They work themselves into such a frenzy that at the end when they dance with knives one wonders that they do not really hurt themselves. The idea is that if they have made themselves spiritually strong enough the knives will not penetrate the skin. Only when they have not made themselves pure enough will they be even scratched.

One young man was in such a religious frenzy that when it came time to disarm him, he would not give up his knife and it took three men to take it away and to revive him or bring him back to normal.

I think this was one of the most dramatic dances we have ever seen.

Sanur was reached in time for lunch at a small and delightful hotel right on the beach.

The villages here are entirely different, being fishing villages. A coral reef lies outside and at low tide you can walk out to it and walk along it. It is too shallow except at high tide to swim inside the reef and one cannot swim outside because of the sharks. The water is warm but pleasant and from six to eight in the morning or evening just now one can get a fairly good swim.

Many men and women were fishing during the low tide and came in carrying baskets on their heads. Their boats are made from hollowed-out tree trunks and are very narrow. Sweeps extend out both sides of the boat and sometimes a sail is used and at other times just a pole. The people are poor but on the whole they seem content.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Sanur (Bali, Indonesia) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor -- Travel

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 10, 1955

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Nevada State Journal, , SEPTEMBER 11, 1955

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Transcription created from a published My Day column instance. Nevada State Journal, SEPTEMBER 11, 1955, page 4