My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SANUR, Bali, Indonesia, Sept. 12—The evening we reached Sanur we went to a dance held in connection with a tooth-filing ceremony which had already taken place. It was, we were told, more like our social dancing, but I think our young couples would have been surprised to hear this. The orchestra was there and also a professional dancing girl. She dances first alone. Then she singles out a boy in the crowd, touches him with her fan, and he has to come out and put on a ceremonial overskirt and dance with her. The first boy was very shy, and when his overskirt fell off he ran away with great relief. We did not wait for any more to be chosen, as we were told these parties often went on all night. The walk over and back along the quiet roads, where the houses on either side are almost hidden in the trees and only an occasional light is seen, gave one a feeling of having people all around and yet being alone.

Wednesday morning we were invited to the house of Mr. Lemaire, a Belgian painter who has lived here ever since 1930, to see his wife dance. A man also danced alone, and then they did a dance together. Both were well-trained and to Western eyes very graceful; but I am sure to the Balinese, who feel all dancing must be done when you are little more than a child, this exhibition must have lacked some of the charm which it had for us who do not look only for youth in our dancers. Mrs. Lemaire is Balinese. Her name is Polak and she is beautiful as well as a noted dancer.

I have rarely been so isolated from world news as one is here. And yet some of the attitude of the people themselves seems to communicate itself to their visitors. One feels no news is good news, and probably nothing of great importance is happening. Our ambassador lent us two books on Bali—one called "Island of Bali," by Miguel Covarrubias, the other "Dance and Drama in Bali," by Beryl de Zoete and Walter Spies. Both are wonderful. Their description of life on the island makes much understandable which would otherwise be a mystery. The descriptions of the dances and the good pictures make these books invaluable to visitors who are trying to get a quick impression and some understanding of the life of the people.

Mrs. Oka is a great help and such a tactful and sweet person. She went on a trip to the United States some three years ago at the invitation of the State Department, and she also visited various other countries. I wish all those we bring over could profit as much by their trip. She speaks with affection of those with whom she stayed and who helped to make her understand our ways of living. She has six boys of her own, ranging in age between two and twelve, and yet she teaches English and biology in the high school. She has made a trip to all the islands to tell women about the way other women live in other parts of the world.

I asked her to give me a recipe for an Indonesian dish which I would like to try to have made at home. The basis is rice, of course, but many other ingredients combine to give it a delicious flavor, and whether I can get it just right remains to be seen. The first time I have Indonesian guests I shall try it out and watch closely to see if they enjoy it. Of course they would be much too polite to tell me if it was wrong, so I will have to rely on my powers of observation to know the truth.

E.R.
PNews, NSJ, 13 September 1955