I absolutely adore this book. In fact, there are a bunch of similarities to my own life (which I will leave for another post) that are spookily uncanny.
Recently I went to Bali for my sister-in-laws 30th birthday celebration. After discovering that we had booked to go to Bali. I decided to look into making an appointment with the now famous 9th generation medicine man Ketut Liyer from Eat, Pray, Love. Upon Googling him, I discovered that he was pretty easy to find (I thought I would have a difficult time locating him), but the blog post reviews from other people that had gone to consult him for a reading were not entirely happy with his advice, and this had almost acted as a deterrent to me making the long trip out to see him at all.
The last time I was in Bali was in 2001, for my honeymoon (yes, I was a child bride), and it was unrecognizable to me from the last time I was there. And it was funny that the underlying reason behind my want to visit Ketut Liyer, was of course to mostly find out about where my relationship was heading.
We hired a driver, and made the trip up into the mountainous region of Ubud, which is where all of the artists come from. Along the way we see lots of carved furniture and paintings and wooden statues, including statues of Ganesh, the remover of obstacles – he seems to be wherever I look these days – but he is another story also – I have lots of stories.
We pull into a small suburban street which actually looks like quite a well to do area for Bali. Everyone has walls surrounding their large homes which generally include a family temple, a garden, as well as their home. This is quite typical of the region our driver tells us.
The driver pulls over on the side of the road, and we are at the front of Ketuts home. He has a small sign hanging outside his home advertising his “business”. Everybody in Bali knows who Ketut Liyer is. He is the man you go to for everything from a common cold, to having a curse removed. Two days prior to going to see him I was getting a massage from a young Balinese girl, who was tempting me to leave my husband and come and live with her at her home, so I could have “20 boyfriends” – gosh, wouldn’t that be a treat – the Balinese are quite friendly, although the Thai massage girls take friendliness to new levels – which again, will be yet another story. This young girl told me that she had recently consulted Ketut, and he told her that she would be sick soon. She said this very matter-of-factly as she used her forearm to wipe her running nose – “And see? I am sick!” she exclaimed.
Hmmm. I still wasn’t sold. I’m all for destiny and the like, but I think that was really just a coincidence. It didn’t really offer me much insight into what I could expect from Ketut, but as I am such a massive fan of Eat Pray Love, I was excited nonetheless to go and see what he was all about.
So I am standing out the front of his compound, and I enter through a narrow gate to his home which is filled with gardens and other buildings which our driver explains are his family temple, and a bed and breakfast out the back of the property. There is a tiny lady (and I mean tiny – she stands no taller than 4 feet) tending to the garden whilst we wait. We have to take a number and get in line. There are 4 people in front of me. I have come on a good day apparently. Ordinarily he has up to 20 people waiting which can take hours. His readings are 15 minutes each, and I go and take a seat in front on a covered gazebo type thing, which is opposite where he conducts his readings.
He is in his 90’s but looks quite good for his age. He has a full head of hair (from what I can see anyway – he is wearing a bandanna of sorts), and is sitting cross-legged on the ground– a feat that I find myself to be difficult after extended periods of time, and I am six decades his junior. He is facing his client, who is an Asian looking woman from somewhere or other – he has people come to see him from all over the world. He keeps on asking her wear she is from, and how old she is. He laughs a lot and seems to be a bit of a joker. The lady has a look of confusion on her face the entire time, which makes me think that maybe he’s a little bit full of shit.
He finishes with her, and it’s my turn. I go and sit cross-legged in front of him on the ground, and he asks me where I’m from to which I reply that I’m from Australia. His son, who watches from the sidelines, promptly comes over to me to ask for payment up front. This put a little dampener on it. It’s not as if I was not going to pay, and it made it feel a little too business like. But whatever the procedure is I guess. So I hand over the fee, and we begin.
“Sorry, my English isn’t so good” he keeps repeating himself. He then looks at my face, and tells me that I’m “very pretty” and that I will live till I’m “100 years old” (a thought that doesn’t particularly appeal to me after having seen my Grandfather at the age of 88 being forced to wear adult nappies, and forgetting the most basic of things), and that I will be pretty all my life. Well, it’s a nice thing to say, but there doesn’t seem to be much substance to it. He then asks me again what country I am from. He points out that I have a smile line on the right side of my face near my mouth (I smile with a slightly crooked smile, hence the reason for the deeper lines on that particular side – which his observation was in fact inconsequential), and he tells me that I’m impatient. I’ve never been accused of being impatient – in fact I am very patient, so this was not true of me at all. It all seemed a little generic.
Again, he asks me what country I come from. I let this slide for the second time, but start to think that perhaps, he’s a little past his use by date, and like my Grandfather in his old age, he might just be suffering the early effects of dementia. He told me that I would get married once, which I was quite pleased about – now at the ripe old age of 33, I can safely say I’ve had more than my fair share of marriage and would hope that I would not have to enter into it again at a later stage. However, I never say never! He then went on to tell me that I would have two children. Now this bit both confused me a little. I had gone through a 5 year struggle with infertility where the clinical director of a leading IVF clinic had told me that my chances of ever conceiving naturally were around 1% – so having not only one, but two children, would be almost as miraculous as the fabled immaculate conception.
He then asked me how long I had been married. I told him 12 years (well its actually been just over 11 and a half years, but I may as well have said 45 years – it feels the same to me). He then asked me why I don’t have any children. How do you explain this one to a near centurion who barely speaks English?
“I have problem” I told him as I pointed to the general region of my reproductive organs.
He looked at me with the same look of confusion that his last client had on her face.
“Cannot have baby” I said, making a stupid swirling action with my finger as I pointed to my stomach. What the fuck does that mean anyway? I pondered to myself over the hand gesture I was making to him.
“You go see doctor?” he asked me.
“Yes” I answered.
“And what he say?” he asked, concern now crumpling his tanned face. It’s always such a tragedy to these types of people if you are unable to bring forth children into our already overpopulated world.
“He doesn’t know what’s wrong” I answered truthfully. He doesn’t know. After tens of thousands of dollars spent on invasive testing over the years, my diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” was one that I could have given myself. The doctors words were ”Just because we can’t find a reason, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a significant problem” – which in layman terms means “I’m sure there is a reason, but we just can’t figure it out”.
Ketut answered me “Well, if doctor doesn’t know, me not know too”.
Some medicine man he was.
He then told me to spin around so he could check my “lotus position”.
He examined my back, and diagnosed me as being free of arthritis, and his parting words to me were “Stay with your husband. He’s a good man” – words I was even less fond of hearing.
I left there feeling a little ripped off (250,000 rupiah is his fee, which is quite expensive considering that you can buy a packet of Malboro lights for 10,000 rupiah), and feeling a little bit as though he was almost just a fictional character in Elizabeth Gilberts memoir.
But that’s ok.
It was a good experience, and something that I can tick off the list, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend a consultation with him. Maybe just make the drive up to Kintamani Volcano, and stop through Ubud on the way to take some photos of the old man, just to say you’d been.