The book Eat, Pray, Love, topped the New York Times best seller list for a year. Author Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her quest to ‘find herself’ after a devastating divorce. She spends four months in Italy eating fabulous food, four months in India meditating in an ashram and four months in Bali finding love and contentment. I read Eat, Pray, Love just before my trip to Bali.
Wayan was my favorite character in the book. She’s the proprietor of a small healing shop and restaurant in the city of Ubud. Elizabeth Gilbert is riding her bicycle in Ubud and falls injuring her knee. She goes to the shop for some ointment to heal her wound and ends up making friends with Wayan and her cute, irrepressible daughter, Tutti. Wayan has left an abusive husband and is having difficulty surviving on her own, since in Balinese culture divorce carries such a strong stigma. Wayan is often forced to move her business from one rental site to another and so has trouble holding onto enough established clients to be financially successful. Elizabeth Gilbert puts out an appeal to American friends to donate money to buy Wayan her own shop. It doesn’t take Gilbert long to collect $18,000. Before she leaves Bali, Gilbert sees Wayan established in a mortgage free two-storey building.
It isn’t hard to find Wayan’s shop. Gilbert’s book says it is a few doors up the road from the Ubud post office and that is exactly where my friend Kathy and I found it. The hand painted sign out front invited us in to have a massage, learn Balinese dance, buy medicinal plants, eat a healthy Vitamin Lunch or be healed of whatever ailed us. Huge pots on the shop’s front patio contained various herbs like ginseng, jasmine and aloe vera. Each pot had a sign that told you what illnesses that particular plant could help to cure.
We wandered inside. The restaurant had three tables. Wayan met us and after escorting us to the one table available asked if we had come to eat or be healed. We told her we were hungry after a morning of wandering the shops and galleries of Ubud and so she and her assistant began bringing food to our table. They grated tumeric and mixed it with ginger, honey and water to make a delicious juice. They brought us three kinds of seaweed, each flavored in a different way. We ate uniquely spiced melon and tomato served on banana leaves. We had rice and salad. As each dish came to the table Wayan told us whether it was good for our stomach, kidneys, hearts or love lives.
Wayan said for only a small, added cost we could have a healthy body check at the end of the meal, but she was very busy when we finished eating doing body checks for a group of French women sitting at another table. I noted one of them had a French copy of Eat, Pray, Love tucked into her bag. The book has been translated into more than thirty languages.
Since Kathy and I knew our husbands would already be waiting for us back at our hotel we decided to leave. We bid Wayan farewell.
One of the things I like to do whenever I travel is read a book set in the country I’m visiting. It makes the place come alive for me. I don’t always get a chance to actually step into the pages of the books and meet one of the characters I’ve read about. Happily I was able to do that in Bali.