Kodak Moments

Hi everyone! I am back from my Bali trek, rested and more than a little mind blown.

Our travels took us to Kuta and Seminyak – the most popular beachside “villages” where most of the shopping and cocktail sipping takes place.

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Cocktails at Ku De Ta

Much of what I saw made sense when I learned that Bali’s population of 4 million is far eclipsed by the 7 million annual visitors it gets per year. Most of whom are from Australia.

Despite the overwhelming hospitality and warmth of the local people, it was impossible to overlook what they really think about us Aussies – giving pause for more than a little cultural cringe.

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Shopping sights in Seminyak

But leaving the tourism epicentre and heading inland to the arts and culture capital of Ubud, I experienced both the high and low point of my trip.

At an Australian operated Elephant Safari Park, we were introduced to a herd of 31 elephants.  Three born in the park, and the rest rescued from Sumatra due to habitat loss from palm oil plantations.

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The lodge was its own little oasis – a small tropical jungle with ponds and fountains, a lake and a safari track.  A little Garden of Eden tucked away in the hills of Ubud.

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Booked in for three nights, I had high hopes for an elephant hug or two.

On arrival, we were informed a schedule had been drawn up for our stay.  At 6.30pm, an elephant would collect us from our room and take us to dinner and a show.

We would rise for an 8.00am elephant washing, 9.30am safari ride, lunch and another show, and the whole routine would be repeated daily during our stay.

There were many opportunities for ‘Kodak moments’, as the staff insisted on capturing our fumbled attempts to scrub an already clean elephant…

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If I look like I haven’t had coffee, it’s true!

Our ‘swim’ with the elephant, that consisted of the elephant dunking us in the water, and lurching back up for a photo…

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Our hand feeding of hungry elephants, and their on command moments of gratitude. Click. Click.

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We learned that the elephant’s day typically starts from 8.00am and ends at 9.00pm.  On a busy day, they can take up to twenty rides around the same thirty-minute circuit – in addition to the rest of their activities.

Sometimes, this means eating on the job.  But on quieter days, they get time out for a feed, tethered to small patch of dirt amidst the park.

On one of our Safari rides, the elephant suddenly stops on the track.

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“She’s tired,” her mahout explains, pressing her ears with his foot to push her forward.

“It’s okay,” we say. “Let her rest.”

Relieved, they both relax. The mahout swivels around on her neck to talk to us as we pause there, in the man made jungle.

We ask how he enjoys his work.

“I love the elephant,” he redirects, politely. “My wife is jealous. She says she is my second wife.”

He explains he came with her from Sumatra, and has worked with her for thirteen years. A job for life.

“There is no training or study you can do
that can teach you how to love the elephant.
You either have it or you don’t.
Some say it is magic. But it isn’t magic.
It just comes from your heart… ”

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I’m tearful as the mahout gently encourages her to move on down the track.

When we reach the end of our ride, and disembark, I reach down to pet the elephant’s head.

She sighs, and leans her head and trunk on the platform next to me, hungry for the recognition.  Her eye searches mine, and a tear escapes us both.

“Thank you, you are a very beautiful elephant.” I say. And she lingers there until her mahout gently pushes her to go.

In that moment, I forget to take a photo.

And perhaps that’s just as well.

Do ‘kodak moments’ make you uncomfortable? What’s your favourite kodak moment that you didn’t take?

Comments

    • says

      Magical – yes! I originally was going to call this post ‘Elephant Magic’… Where did you go in Bali?

      The trip was lots of fun – now that I’ve seen Bali, I would like to spend more time there blending into the scenery :)

  1. says

    What an experience…. and what glorious creatures… I felt so sad that they work so hard and get so tired…
    I’ve just discovered an amazing blog about elephants which I will go and find for you….XXX

    • says

      Hey Valerie – I knew you would connect with the part that did give me very mixed feelings. It seems there’s no perfect solution to the plight of these beautiful creatures… But I’m glad I got to see them. Look forward to hearing about the elephant blog! :) xxx

  2. liz says

    sounds like you had some beautiful, amazing moments. and while i’m all for capturing as much as i can on film, sometimes it is way more important to just be present in the moment. to be fully alive. fully focused. fully present. i believe that you and that magnificent creature had a sacred moment together, and it was perfect just the way it was. i suppose photographing it would have stolen some of the magic and sacredness. what an amazing trip! i am simply dying to make it to bali one day.

    xo

    • says

      Hey Liz, how are you? I’m looking forward to catching up on your news… Promise to be over soon.

      It did feel like a sacred moment, and I will never forget it. I was sad, though, how difficult it was to bond with the elephants there – because they were on a very tight schedule. But that was sublime…

      I’m pretty sure you would love Bali – you must do it! :D *hugs*

  3. says

    thank you for that! I really love Bali and as much as I love elephants I dont know if I’d cope visiting there. I’m crap with animals being forced to do anything that isnt their natural thing. I am sentient sensitive and I absolutely tap into their feelings. For instances the few times I’ve been to the zoo I’ve just about being ripped up from the inside out. Especially around the Gorillas. I’ve been in a hellish pit of renovating my new home… or trying to make a shack look better than just a shack…. so thank you for sharing your trip with me… much needed!

    • says

      Oh, I love you and your comments, Adriana! You said exactly how I felt about the whole thing. It was quite different to how I expected it to be there at the park, and it just struck me that they don’t seem to get any time to just be…elephants. The whole thing is so complicated, because they are well cared for comparative to their life in Sumatra. It’s just sad that our lifestyles have created a situation where this is how they have to live to survive.

      Your project sounds hellishly fun!! Hope it all goes to plan, and glad to give you a moments reprieve ;)

  4. Very Tessa Tangent says

    How lovely, Alarna! I’m so glad you had an amazing trip. Who doesn’t love an elephant, or 31? :D A wonderful time. The great thing about those Kodak moments (when you pay attention to the experience, ignoring the camera) is that you can keep them in your, ok blown, mind for ever and no-one can take them away. My best ones haven’t faded. I love them!

    Bali left me with fabulous memories to smile about and you’ve done a great job reminding me. Before mobile phones and internet, etc., we were in Bali in 1987. We took our hired jeep on an adventure (going north/north-east from Nusa Dua in search of Mt. Gunung Agung) with our then 1 year old son. The jeep broke down in the back of beyond – at the edge of jungle – but some amazing locals found a mechanic for us, gave us tea and cakes on their verandah and were utterly kind and giving to us. More Kodak moments! They make me tingle. :-) x

    • says

      Oh wow, what a wonderful experience that would have been! The locals are very beautiful people – I actually felt very safe in Bali, and it helped being with someone who can speak the language. When I get back there, I would like to spend time exploring with my own transport (rather than free hotel shuffles and taxi’s) because there’s so much to see.

      Thank you for painting that picture for me…Yep. The best are the one’s imprinted on the mind – you gave me another tear :) xx

  5. says

    My Alarna, I cried when you & your friend the Elephant wept. Did he/she have a name? It looks like a wonderful experience for you & your Ms.

    I was alarmed by the “cultural cringe” you experienced… I don’t know Bali at all, but with most cultures, the haters are always the loudest, yet smallest in numbers. I hope this is true in Bali.

    One last comment, you are so beautiful… that’s it ’till next week! xxx

    • says

      She, the elephant, does have a name, but out of courtesy for the staff there, I thought anonymity was best…

      The stickers in the pic are commonly sold in Bali – the Balinese are far from haters! The cringe was because the (largely Australian) market buys this stuff. Which says something none to complimentary about our culture. Just a moment of self reflection ;)

      And… thank you, gorgeous xxx

  6. says

    That was so beautiful… And the fact that you did not capture it on film, in a way makes it even more beautiful… Cause now, it will always be yours and only your moment- your special moment… :)

  7. says

    Did you ever read Water for Elephants? This post reminded me of that novel. What a lovely experience, Alarna. While I’m grateful there are people/places that act as a sanctuary for endangered and threatened wildlife, I am certain the wildlife know the difference, and they wonder why they aren’t home anymore.

    • says

      I haven’t read that book, no, but you give me reason to now!

      These elephants, I have no doubt, remember why they aren’t home anymore. There’s a sense with them that they know they have been rescued, and are gratefully resigned to their new life…

    • says

      Good question – I’m not sure if the tears are emotional or physical either, but you’re about their reasons to cry. I’m amazed how gentle and feeling they are…

  8. says

    Wow! What a stunning time ya had there, Alarna? Could feel the joy you have experienced there through your heartfelt descriptions put here. :)

    Rahul

  9. says

    Kodak moments often do make me uncomfortable, though I loved yours. Most of the time I forget to take pictures when I’m supposed to, and end up making a song and dance of the ones I do get. I blame this on my inability to multi-task.

  10. eduard666dantes says

    Hey, how are you? I remember you once wrote a piece about the film Brave. I thought you might find this interesting. It is quite sad really.

    • says

      Hey, I’m well! How are you? It’s past time I visited your world…

      I can’t believe you remember the post I wrote!! Thank you so much for this article… I’m quite horrified, actually. Aren’t we past all this yet, in the 21st C? I made sure I signed the petition. Much appreciated.

  11. says

    Wow, wow, wow, Alarna! What an awesome trip. That photo of swimming with the elephant is amazing! And the part where you and the elephant look eye to eye and you tell her she’s a beautiful elephant, I love that. Wonderful pics!

    I miss “Kodak” moments all the time when I think I’m videoing but didn’t hit the record button right!

    • says

      Hehehe…. well, that’s one way to miss Kodak moments! Actually, I’m always terrified I’ll do that in my interviews. It has happened once or twice when I was distracted by everything going on… Not a good thing!

      Thanks, Lynn – it was a great trip :D

  12. says

    Have a cousin, whom worked for Kodak at one stage, but Kodak moments, don’t think I’ve ever had one. The holiday and photos turned out good! My youngest brother, and family is still waiting for me to go up to Ubud to visit them. Sometime this year I may suspect..

  13. Rita Azar says

    Wow Alarna! What a wonderful experience you had! Your photos are great! I have to admit that I like Kodak moments!

  14. says

    ahaha, she went to Bali and communed with the elephants. ;) i hope you had a good time. did you, guys, swim? :)

    next time, do come to Philippines, ahaha. our Boracay beach is even lovelier than Bali, swear. :) and you’ll notice that folks here look like the Indonesians, ahaha.

    sorry i had little time to bloghop recently… hope your tan has done you good and proud. warm regards from the tropics, Alarna… :)

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