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“I am sorry” she said. I look up from my poolside chair to see the pretty girl in traditional Balinese dress who bailed on us last night after having promised to babysit our son. I was a bit annoyed as I had really looked forward to the romantic birthday dinner in Ubud without a 5 year old present.

“I had to take my mother to the doctor” she said, talking fast, betraying that she felt bad about letting us down. “I am sorry to hear that” I said, “is she ok?”. “She is feeling a bit better now” the girl answered, “she was very sick. Someone cursed her so she has burns on her back, and it was getting worse so we had to take her to the Balian. He lifted the curse so the pain is less now.”

I looked at her speechless for a moment, a small part of me expecting to see this modern young girl smile and say “just joking”. Even for my self proclaimed open-minded-Western-spiritual-meditating-in-a-Buddhist-monastery-believing-in-miracles self, this was a bit much to take in. But she looked at me with a serious and worried look on her fine featured face. Before I could figure out what to say she shoved her phone under my nose. There was a picture on it of a woman’s back, covered in black blisters on top of raw red skin. She swiped right to show me the picture of how her mother’s back looked a few days before that. I recognized it from my husbands painful encounter with shingles a year before and felt sorry for the lady. I asked her: “did you see a regular doctor too?”. She said “yes, he said it was allergies but his medicine did not work”. I told her carefully that it might be something called shingles and showed her Google images of very similar looking blisters on my phone. I told her that it might come back in the future so next time she could ask about this at the doctor’s office. She Google translated the word shingles into Bahasa Indonesia and promised she would do so.

Then she left, and as I watched her walk back to the reception desk of that slice of paradise, I pondered appreciatively about the magic of this beautiful place. Where everyone has a phone and internet access, but believe in the Gods is real, where beautiful flower offerings are laid out every day and everywhere, where the smell of incense penetrates everything and where traditional healers who take away curses can do a better job healing people than the regular ones with a university education.

Richmond, VA. Marielle is a traveler, world citizen, wife, mother of a magic boy and two wonderful step children, party organizer and admirer of life in general. Lately the urge to put her life and thoughts on paper has struck and it comes up with bursts and bouts like a hesitating geyser. Sometimes hot, high and steamy, sometimes disappointingly cool and low, but always gratifying.