Category Archives: Guest Post

Bali on $300 a day: Insider Tour

THIS JUST IN –  last minute chance to go to Bali on an insider tour led by Kathleen Winn.  A friend who went on this tour last year is “wildly enthusiastic” and she lives in Princeton, hence my excuse for putting it up on Princeton Comment.  It’s a last minute chance, if interested contact 

balis below: 
From my friend: I’m sure you recall how wildly enthusiastic I was about my trip last August/September.  A very similar trip is going this year, again with Indonesia expert / private guide ( with no personal profit -only a love of the the country). Several people just had to drop out for medical reasons, opening up their spaces. The trip costs ~$2,700 including local flights (Bali-Flores round trip), the boat trip – all but airfare , which is about $1,100 right now. Most such trips are double or more, without the personal home visits and connections that are part of Kathy Winn’s trip.
What I found most meaningful were Buddhist Hindi and other ceremonies/visits. It brought far greater understanding of people with different traditions, cultures and religions.
Friday, September 1 DEPARTURE
Friday night, at 8:30 PM, we get a free shuttle in Piscataway to JFK airport.
Day 1  Saturday, September 2 
We leave J.F.K. on EVA Airlines at 1:45 AM early Saturday morning, September 2, proceeding directly to Taipei.
DAY 2 Sunday, September 3 KUTA, BALI
We arrive in Taipei at 5:45 AM.  En route we cross the International Date Line and lose a day.  We will change planes before we depart for Bali at 10:15 AM, arriving in Bali at 3:15 PM.
After we go through immigration, we will be met by our guide, Effendy Yassin.  He will take us to the Rani Hotel in Kuta, on the west coast of Bali, where we will check in.  We will find our rooms situated in the middle of gardens and near the ocean.  Relax, swim, walk around, change money.  We may watch an amazing sunset over the ocean from the beach.
DAY 3 Monday, September 4 LABUANBAJO, FLORES
This morning we depart from the hotel at 6 AM  to catch our 8 AM  flight east from Denpasar over Mt. Rinjani, the highest volcano in Indonesia, found on Lombok Island.  Continuing to the east we fly over Mt. Tambora, on Sumbawa Island.  This volcano had consisted of two soaring cones, each more than 13,000 feet, visible from nearly 19 miles at sea.  It last erupted in 1815 discharging more than 1000 feet of cone into the air and causing the deaths of 90,000 people either from its ash or subsequent starvation of all the people on this and neighboring islands.  Throughout the world 1816 was referred to as “the year without summer.”
We arrive in Labuanbajo at 9:15 AM.  It is a coastal town and fishing village in western Flores with a beautiful island filled bay and harbor full of trimarins, canoes, single-hulled sailboats, and inboard motor craft. The Muslim Bugis and Bajo seafarers, from Sulawesi to the north, have settled close to the water and are the fishermen.  In fact this town is named for the ethnic Bajo people since Labuhan means harbor, “Harbor of the Bajo.” They catch large quantities of squid which are salted and sent to Singapore.  The squid are attracted to the lights on top of the nets attached to bagans or off shore movable platforms.  When enough have gathered, the net is dropped.  The Christians live across the main road away from the sea.  These farmers grow rice, manioc (tapioca), corn, oranges, jackfruit and other crops.   During the night the ship will have returned to Labuanbajo where we will be anchored.
After our arrival, we will be taken to the top of the hill outside of Labuanbajo where we will visit Melo Village.  They will welcome us with a ceremony.  Then they will perform the caci or whip dance for us and demonstrate their culture.  You will be able to participate.
We proceed to the harbor where we will meet the crew and board the Tarata, our home for the next six nights.
After lunch on board we will sail to Sabolan Island.  This is a tiny uninhabited island with a white sand beach and underwater coral gardens.  We will spend the afternoon swimming and snorkeling on this beautiful island.   To further your enjoyment of the trip, if there is time today, there will be a lecture on a subject which pertains to Indonesian culture, history or natural history.
DAY 4 Tuesday, September 5   RIUNG VILLAGE, FLORES
During the night we will sail east along the north coast of Flores, following its backbone which is an astounding string of active and extinct volcanoes along its length.  Discovered by the Portuguese explorers in 1512, who named it Capo de Flores or Cape of Flowers, deep ravines, rugged valleys and thick tropical forests have separated population groups and created different and distinctive cultures on this island.  Because of the Portuguese, 85% of the population is Catholic and the church dominates every tiny village.  Only in the ports are there any number of Muslims.  The Dutch eventually took over this island from the Portuguese in the 16th century when Indonesia became a Dutch colony.  This island exhibits a rich and varied folklore expressed through magical dances, music and songs.
We will spend the morning visiting the fishing village of Riung.  The people are a mix of Muslim Bugis and Bajau fishermen, originally from Sulawesi, and Bajawanese Roman Catholic farmers originally animists from the mountains.  The farmers export copra, shallots, coconuts, and kapok.  The fishermen export trochus shells, trepang (sea cucumbers), dried fish, yellowtail and skipjack tuna.  The women weave and embroider sarongs with yellow and red flowers on a blue-black background.  We will pay a visit to the nuns at the local orphanage school to observe the children and take them school supplies.
In the afternoon we will spend the rest of the day enjoying water sports on the white sand beach of one of the deserted islands, part of the Pulau Tujuhbelas (Seventeen Islands) National Reserve.  At night we will continue sailing east to Maumere.
DAY 5  Wednesday, September 6 MAUMERE, FLORES
This morning we will spend time on Pulau Besar Island swimming and snorkeling.  We continue east sailing the Flores Sea along the north coast while we have lunch on board.  We will arrive in the largest town in Eastern Flores, Maumere, which was badly damaged by an earthquake in December, 1992.  We first top in the busy market to learn about different fruit and vegetables with which we may not be familiar.  We will take some time to visit the busy market.  Then by van we will drive up int he mountains and visit Watublapi, a local village where we will see traditional dancing and customs including a demonstration of the complete process of making ikat (tie dyed) cloth beginning by making the thread from cotton, producing natural dyes, dying the thread, tying grass around the stretched thread to resist the dye, and the rest of the many steps to prepare the finished cloth.  We will return to the ship.
DAY 6  Thursday, September 7  MAUMERE, MT. KELIMUTU, FLORES
 After breakfast we will disembark at 5 AM  and board a bus for a morning excursion south to the 5,544 ft. volcanic lakes at Mt. Kelimutu, the most fantastic sight in Nusa Tenggara if not all of Indonesia.  The drive is through attractive scenery with spectacular mountain terrain, deep gorges, and rice terraces.  Numerous picturesque villages along the way reflect the natural beauty of Flores.  Mt. Kelimutu is famous for its three colored crater lakes, black, turquoise, and emerald green, colored by the chemicals in the rock.  These craters are spectacular and offer a fitting focus to our day’s journey.  There is an unforgettable view from the summit and we may hike along the rim.
After lunch at Ecolodge we will proceed to Moni village to to meet the local people and observe their lifestyles.  The constant sound of running water through rice fields, fantastic views of surrounding volcanoes, and in the far distance view of the ocean all give this village a tranquil feeling.  Here we will see a dance performance.
After lunch we will go to a Wologai traditional house belonging to the Lio tribe.  We will finish our excursion at Ropa fishing village where we will board ship, have dinner and set sail to the west.
DAY 7 Friday, September 8 RIUNG, FLORES
We will stop by Riung Island for swimming and snorkeling before we head west across the Flores Sea where we are likely to see whales, dolphins, schools of tuna, and flying fish.  Stopping at an island, we will be able to swim and snorkel.  Back on board, there will be lectures on culture and natural history before dinner.  We will watch the nightly departure of the Flying Foxes or fruit bats which fly over the ship by the thousands on their way from their day time resting place to the orchards of Flores.
This morning we will arrive at Komodo National Park.  Komodo’s big attraction is the giant lizard also known as the Komodo Dragon, the largest monitor lizard in the world.  This lizard may grow to 12 feet long.  The Komodo area is the original and only habitat in the world of this giant prehistoric reptile.  Komodo, Rinca and other neighboring islands are now a National Park protecting this prehistoric species.  We will take a mile hike through the park observing the trails of the Komodo Dragons and we see their lairs in the banks of the dry stream bed.  A park ranger will escort us across the island to a protected viewing point in the National Park where we can watch the dragons at very close range.  This island is also the home of other wildlife such as wild deer, feral pigs, wild banteng bulls, the sulfur crested cockatoos, noisy friar birds, and the mound building megapode birds.  Wild orchids and staghorn ferns as well as other wild flowers hang from trees.  These islands are made of limestone and are gradually subsiding into the sea.  The islands only receive 16-20 inches of rain a year resulting in the islands being covered with dry savannah and lontar palm trees.  On the beach you will have the opportunity to buy white, pink, yellow and black pearls which are cultured nearby at unbelievably cheap prices .
There is only one village on Komodo Island.  The ancestors of the inhabitants (who were criminals on the mainland of Sumbawa) were exiled by the former Sultan of Bima.  They live close to the sea and make their living fishing for squid from their small outrigger boats.  They fish at night attracting the squid with the twinkling lights on their boats.
 We will spend the rest of the afternoon swimming and snorkeling off the “pink beach,” so named because of the red coral which has colored the white sand.  The diving and snorkeling in Komodo is world class with numerous multicolored fish in water clear as glass.   We will sail to the north of the small fishing village where we may see at dusk thousands of fruit bats or flying foxes wake up after spending the day hanging upside down as they sleep on the mangrove trees and fly across the water to the mainland.
Tonight we will have a farewell party on the beach under the black star-filled sky.  The crew will set up a fire of driftwood and will grill sate as part of our dinner.  Music and lights will be provided by means of a battery .
DAY 9 Sunday, September 10 CANDI DASA, BALI
We will visit the Batu Cermin cave where the stalactites and stalagmites unite into huge pillars.  The inhabitants of Labuan Bajo hid in these caves from Portuguese and Dutch invaders.  Afterwards we can stroll and explore Labuan Bajo.
Our plane to Bali departs at 3:25 PM and arrives at 4:15 PM.  Our guide Alit will meet us at the airport.
We will proceed to southeast Bali to Puri Bagus Candi Dasa, a luxurious resort on the ocean.  On the way to the Karangasem Kingdom we will see Kusamba, a fishing village with its black volcanic sand, originally the principal port for the kingdom of Klungkung.  We will pass the area devastated by the1963 eruption of Mt. Gunung.  Huge boulders dot the fields.  Rubble has been carted off for building purposes.  Large stones form the foundations for rice terraces.  But volcanic eruptions enrich the soil with minerals resulting in very fertile soil so that they farmers my put in three crops a year.
Puri Bagus Candi Dasa is another beautiful resort and your bungalow is in the middle of gardens, facing the ocean.  We will have dinner in the open air dining room.
DAY 10 Monday, September 11     CANDI DASA, BALI
This morning we may swim or take a ride out to the huge rocks looming out of the ocean in one of the colorful outrigger fishing boats with eyes painted on their hulls.
We start our tour with a short drive to the Ujung Water Palace on the coast which was destroyed by the 1963 earthquake but has since been rebuilt.  The building sits like a pearl in the middle of a pool surrounded by statues.
The Amlapura Palace, the Puri Kanginan, was the seat of the ruling branch of the dynasty since around the beginning of the 18th century.  The architecture is European, Chinese and Balinese.  We will tour the palace and its surrounding buildings.
One of the prettiest places in Bali is Tirta Ganga (Water of the Ganges).  Built by the last raja of Karangasem, the water palace is a series of pools down the hillside, the water spewed from one pool to another from the mouths of carved animals.  We will walk through this spectacular and lovely park-like area.   
 In the 16th century there was a migration of Hindu Majapahit refugees from east Java, escaping the domination of the Muslims.  The people who populated Bali before this migration are said to be the residents of the Tenganan Bali Aga Village.  This village is famous for its rare and exquisite double ikat cloth called kain gerinsing  which means that both the woof and warp are tie-died to make the designs.  This cloth is said to have magical qualities.  Girls dance one of the most ancient ceremonial dances and men play the rare gamelon selanding, the iron-keyed metalophones.  The lontar palm books which contain the customary and ritual law were said to have been bestowed by the Hindu god Indra.
Near to the hotel is a chocolate factory.  They produce the dark chocolate and other flavored dark chocolate. They also produce coconut palm syrup, tropical maple syrup, sunblock, skin products etc.
During the afternoon you may swim, snorkel or take a boat ride or just relax at the hotel.  We may go to a local restaurant for dinner and a dance performance.
DAY 11  Tuesday, September 12  LOVINA, BALI
We leave Candi Dasa this morning.  As we drive along the coast we will see off shore the island of Nusa Penida.  Facing it is Goa Lawah Bat Cave Temple.  It is home to thousands of bats but the depth of the cave is unknown since it’s taboo to venture too deeply.
We will stop at what remains of the palace of the Klungkung Kingdom after the Dutch burned it in 1908.  Although the smallest of Bali’s kingdoms, Klungkung was the greatest.  The rajahs (or kings) of all the other kingdoms gave homage to the Raja of Klungkung in word, if not in action.  The royal family was probably directly descended from the powerful 13th century Majapahit civilization of East Java.  Until its fall to the Dutch in 1908, the palace remained the island’s political and cultural nucleus.  Only two buildings remain after the Dutch assault, the Bale Kambang, or floating pavilion, and the Kerta Gosa or Hall of Justice.  The ceiling of this building is painted in the Kamasan style of painting from the Golden Age of traditional Balinese style named after the village of Kamasan near Klungkung. The Hall of Justice ceiling displays nine layers of panels, most of them a story, Bima Swarga, from the Mahabharata, the Hindu epic, in which the Pandawa brother Bima goes to the underworld to rescue his parents.  On the way he witnesses the tortures suffered by those who sin.  He battles demons and gets to heaven in quest of the elixir of immortality.  On the palace grounds is a museum which we will visit.
We will drive up Mt. Agung, a 10,300 ft. volcano, first stopping at Putung where we are able to view Padang Bai, one of Bali’s few natural harbors and the spot to catch ferries to points east.  In this same area is the Sibetan Salak Fruit Plantation.  High on Mt. Agung is Besakih, the mother temple, the most important temple in Bali, dating from before the 11th century.  In 1963, during the Eka Dasa Rudra ceremony which is held only once every 100 years, Mt. Agung erupted killing 1600 people and leaving 86,000 people homeless.  Besakih temple was spared. This volcano had not erupted since 1350 AD.  The temples are dedicated to the Hindu gods Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
Next we ascend the 5,633 ft. Mt. Batur volcano for lunch on the edge of the crater lake, Danau Batur, at Penelokan.  This caldera is 8.5 miles across.  We are able to see the steam coming out of the lava flows on the side of the volcano which last erupted in 2000, shooting ash 300 meters above the crater.  Another Bali Aga village is on the far side of the crater lake.  These people leave their dead out to be eaten by wildlife.
  We continue north over the volcano and we descend through mist and casuarina trees to the north shore, the site of the old Dutch capital of Singaraja.  The east-west string of volcanoes divides Bali resulting in separate cultures north and south.  Our luxurious resort hotel is Puri Bagus Lovina, situated on a black volcanic beach facing the Bali Sea.  Your individual cottage is surrounded by lovely gardens.   We will have dinner outdoors under the moon after a swim in the sparkling blue pool which seems to touch the sea.
DAY 12  Wednesday, September 13 LOVINA, BALI
This morning there is an opportunity to swim, to get a massage or to take a boat ride out into the ocean to see the dolphins before we begin our tour of the north shore area.  The northern temples are more baroque than southern Bali.  The land is dryer with less wet rice paddy.  Cloves and coffee are grown in the north. We move on to Singaraja.  Singaraja was formerly a royal court center, then the center of Dutch commerce and administration in Bali and major port before it silted in.  Old Dutch houses line the shore at the Old Harbor. The city has an extensive Muslim and Chinese quarter.  We will tour the open air Buleleng Market in Singaraja where you will learn the names of unusual fruits and vegetables.  Then we will visit the Gedong Kirtya Museum, founded by the Dutch in 1928, in order to preserve its extensive collection of 3,000 lontar palm leaf books as well as tour the palace which is nearby.
We next visit  the Pertenunam Berdikari Hand Woven Cloth Factory which specializes in beautiful replicas of antique textiles.  We will watch thread being spun and cloth being woven.
We will stop at the Yuddha Mandalatama independence monument, then on to a Chinese temple, one of the few in Bali.  From there we will go to Bukit Suci, the old Chinese cemetery.
A short distance away is the Buddhist temple, the Brahma Arama Vihara, which we will visit after lunch.  This temple is the residence of Bali’s only Buddhist monk and it plays a central role in Buddhist religious life and education. On it’s upper terrace there is a small replica of Borobudur, the world’s biggest Buddhist monument in Central Java.
This afternoon you may swim in the pool, or snorkel in the ocean, get a massage, or read and relax.  You will have another opportunity to buy pearls.  Again, we will have dinner under the moon.
DAY 13  Thursday, September 14  UBUD, BALI
This morning we head south across the mountains of Bali.  We will drive south a short distance where we will arrive at Gitgit Falls.  We will hike down a mystical ravine into the jungle where we arrive at a spectacular waterfall in the midst of lush vegetation.  Passing through forests of cloves and mandarin oranges, we will cross cross the extinct volcanos in the middle of the island, passing the crater lakes of BratanBuyan and Tamblingan.  We will have lunch along the way.
We will stop at a coffee plantation as we descend the mountains where you can sample different kinds of coffee locally grown as well as see different kinds of plants such as ginger and the elusive civit cat.
On the way back to Ubud we will first stop at Mambal Village, where we will visit our guide Alit’s family compound.  During this private visit some of his extensive family of 50 people will welcome us and explain family life, religious observances, and relationships.
We continue to Pertiwi Bungalows in Ubud.  This resort is another beautiful place, peaceful and quiet although it is in town.  We will find our rooms situated in the middle of gardens.  Ubud is the center of painting in Bali, close to other art and craft centers such as wood and stone carving, silver and gold jewelry.  Relax, swim, walk around, change money, and shop.
Tonight we see the Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppets) at 7:30 PM at Pondok Bambu on Monkey Forest Road.
Day 14 Friday, September 15 UBUD, BALI
This morning we go to the Tampaksiring area which has a long history.  We will explore the Hindu temple of Tirta Empul Holy Spring.  This spring is still most sacred to Gianyar Regency.  It is here that the Barong masks were bathed.  It is said that this spring was created by the Hindu goddess Indra who pierced the earth here to obtain the elixir of immortality.  Many ancient monuments are found here.
At Gunung Kawi, Valley of the Kings, massive commemorative monuments to 11th century rajahs and ranis (kings and queens) are hewn into the cliffs on both sides of the river.
From there we will be guests at Tampaksiring Village, a typical Balinese village.  We will visit a kindergarten and a school under the patronage of the Village Children Association.  We will walk through the village back streets and be welcomed by a typical Balinese family offering us lunch in their family compound.  We will learn how to weave delicate offerings from young banana leaves from a Brahmin woman, Ida Ayu, the champion artist of Bali.  After lunch we will visit the family garden and orchards, introducing us to typical tropical plants.
This evening we see the Kecak Fire and Trance Dance at the Pura Dalem Ubud at 7:30 PM.  During the Kecak Dance, 100 men provide background chanting while dancers depict the Ramayana story on the temple grounds.  During the Trance Dance, a man goes into a trance while riding on a hobby horse and dances with his bare feet on burning coals of coconut husks.  A priest is called to bring him out of his trance.  Amazingly, his feet are unburned.
Day 15 Saturday, September 16 UBUD, BALI
We again return to the Tampaksiring area where we will have lunch in a scenic restaurant which overlooks a verdant gorge.  After lunch we visit the 11th century Goa Gajah Elephant Cave which has as its entrance a fanged mouth. This appears to be an earth spirit clawing its way out of the cosmic mountain which is populated by a curious and often comical array of animals and phantoms.  This was one of Bali’s principal Buddhist sanctuaries.  In the caves are statues of the Hindu god, Ganesha, Shiva’s son, and linggas from the 8th to the 14th centuries.  A pleasant walk down into the adjacent gorge with its clear and rushing stream and lush vegetation leads us to an ancient 8th century Buddhist site.
In the same area, Pejeng has at least 40 sites of ancient relics making it one of Indonesia’s richest archeological zones.  The Pejeng Moon, dating from 300 BC, is thought to be the largest kettle drum cast in one piece similar to those made by the Dongsonculture of Vietnam.  The Pejeng Temple Museum houses numerous displays from paleolithic stone tools through the pre-Hindu Bronze Age to the golden era of Balinese Hindu-Buddhism and beyond.
We will have lunch at a restaurant overlooking a breathtaking gorge before we go to the Bali Safari and Marine Park for a spectacular show called Bali Agung (Great Bali).  This show is an historical tale about the events in Bali between 1179-1181.  It is about the great king Sri Jaya Pangus who took a Chinese wife, Kang Ching Wei.  As she was barren, he secretly had a child by Dewi Danu, the goddess of the lake.  When she found out he was married already, she turned both the king and his wife into stone pillars.  The Safari ride takes us through wilderness so that we may see animals which are not found in any other country such as the babi rusa.  Along with an aquarium, there are animal shows.
Tonight at 7 P.M. at the Arma Museum, we will see the Wayang Wong dance performance.
Day 16 Sunday, September 17  UBUD, BALI
We leave early this morning to see the Barong and Keris Dance in Batubulan.  The story is an episode from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.  This dance is a confrontation between the wonderful Barong, a sort of lion symbolizing good, along with his buddy the monkey, and Rangda the witch symbolizing evil.  Trying to defend the Barong, men in a trance turn their kris, or wavy knives, on themselves under Rangda’s spell but protected by the Barong and in a trance, they are unable to pierce their skin.  Nearby we will visit the Taman Burung Bird Park.  This park has beautiful gardens and exotic birds from all part of Indonesia.  Next door, the Reptile Parkhas a variety of exotic reptiles including monitor lizards displayed in their habitat.   We will have lunch in a nearby restaurant.
After lunch we will take a stroll in the the Monkey Forest at the end of the road.  At the bottom of a ravine under a huge banyan tree there are pools and a small temple in addition to the larger temple along the path.  Guard well your belongings and sun glasses since the monkeys are fast.
This is a free day to shop, swim, explore.  You may want to go to the art museums in Ubud:  Antonio Blanco Gallery, The Neka Museums, Komaneka Gallery , Seniwati Gallery, Hans Snell Gallery, Puri Lukisan Museum, Lempad Gallery, Rhudana Art Museum and Agung Rai Museum.
This evening at 7:30 PM there is a performance of the Legong of the Mahabharata at the Ubud Palace.
Day 17 Monday, September 18 TAIPEI, TAIWAN
This morning will be your last chance to shop, get a message, manicure, pedicure, and pack or visit the Monkey Forest if you haven’t gone yet.
We will be picked up after lunch at our hotel and taken to the airport for our 4:20 PM departure to Taipei, arriving at 9:35 PM.  We pick up vouchers for the hotel at the EVA Airlines desk.  Overnight is in the CHUTO Hotel paid for by EVA Airlines, confirmation #15002624.
Day 18   Tuesday, September 19  JFK AIRPORT, N.Y. USA
This morning we will be taken by van to the airport to catch our flight from Taipei which leaves at 7:50 AM.  We will gain a day as we cross the International Date Line and arrive at JFK Airport at 10:45 AM.  A shuttle bus will take us to Piscataway.
Since our flight departs Taipei 7:05 PM, we have the whole day to enjoy activities in Taipei.  The National Palace Museum is a great attraction housing countless treasures which were carried away from Mainland China by Chiang Kai-shek.
The most famous of Taipei’s  temples is  Lung Shan or Dragon Mountain Temple, built in the early 1700s, to honor the island’s deities, Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy, and Ma Tsu, the goddess of the sea.  The temple is renowned for its fine stone sculpture, wood carvings and bronze work.
Kong Miao, the Confucius temple, is a tranquil place, more peaceful than other temples.  It honors the man who influenced Chinese philosophy for thousands of years.
The Bao-an Temple, is a gaudy monument to traditional Taoist or Chinese folk religion.
Lin An Tai Homestead is an example of a traditional Chinese home and garden.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a massive monument to the late president.
The Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine is dedicated to the heroes of China’s wars.
Snake Alley has stacks of cages filed with deadly hissing snakes good for potency, as well as herbal shops, tattoo parlors, fresh fruit stalls and hawkers of baubles and bangles..  
Our departure from Taipei is at 7:05 PM  for our flight back to the USA.   We will cross the International Date Line and gain a day, arriving at J.F.K. Airport at 10:05 P.M. where we will go through customs.  A free shuttle van will take us to Piscataway.
All scheduled events are subject to change depending upon the situation.  For example, there are many festivals in Bali during the summer or dry season including spectacular funerals.  If we have the opportunity to experience this kind of special event, we will alter the itinerary rather than do what was originally planned.  In addition, inter-island flight schedules are subject to change.

Book Review: Simona L. Brickers

levineSimona L. Brickers, my colleague on the board at Not in Our Town Princeton, reviewed this book by Caroline Levine. Thank you, Simona, for drawing my attention to Forms: Whole, Rhythms, Hierarchy, Networks (192 pages, $19.95, Princeton University Press).

Levine’s book is a fascinating journey through Forms, defined as the “fluid overlap of social and cultural order, patterns, and shape that open up to the “generalizable understanding of political power” (Chapter 1).  It brings together, nicely outlined, literary work by Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Jacques Derrida, and Ralph Waldo Emerson along with many others. It weaves the literary examples into accounts of lived examples of institutionalized, systemic, freedoms and constraints that influence social collaboration and chaos.

In relating the act of punishment to rhythm, Levine highlights African music as repetitive, cyclical, polyrhythmic and dialogic and expressing pleasures that produce a participatory and embodied collective singing.  Rhythms turned out to be the repressive form used against African captives by slave masters to impose solidarity, control, and subjugations through chain gang songs (Chapter 3).

Levine’s central concern, as reflected in her title (Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network), was to present a platform to explore the phenomenon called “path dependency.”  Path dependence is learned helplessness depicted as a systematic composition that constricts diversity (race and gender) with barriers that prohibit reversal because of social and organizational cost.  The mechanism of sex is a device that produces hierarchical distinction (Chapter 4). The implicit disconnect in the various forms creates constraints and differences. Various forms overlap and intersect. They travel and influence political policies in particular historical contexts (Chapter 1). 

Nevertheless, the whole theoretical concept is misleading when it is carefully examined to reveal the social advantages that differ according to the traditional rhythms of the hierarchical color-coded network . Levine quotes Derrida’s work because the desire for bounded wholeness has grave political consequences (Chapter 2). Levine addressed the underpinning of social order, pattern, and shape by examining the dysfunction of forms. She also studied how the web translates into “literature as landmarks,” depicted as advanced transgression.  “Repetitive temporal patterns impose constraints across social life…standard repetition, durations, and arcs of development organize our experiences of everything from sleep and sex to governments and the global economy (Chapter 3).

 Levine writes brilliantly. Each word captures an essence of social order, patterns, and shapes (norms) that have become invisible, taken for granted without acknowledgement of the transhistorical or macro-environmental influences on society and the policies governing our daily routines.  The reader learns that we are not authentic — but domesticated, trained to behave, believe, and act according to a socialized outline that serves some differently than others , with no regard to how overlapping forms influence injustice.

Her masterful last chapter discusses The Wire (2002-2008),  the David Simon HBO series. This conventional cop drama exploration of the ways that social experience is structured within African American communities (Chapter 5).  The Wire rendered radically unpredictable and overlapping social forms. Levine ends the book by leading readers to contemplate the unsettled, unexpected and bewildering effects of an ideologically coherent society with power lodged in the hands of a few.  The challenge is self-reflective, aiming to push the reader to seek beyond what is controlled by a few — the societal whole, rhythms, hierarchies, and networks that influence social order, patterns, and shape individual and collective Forms.

Levine asked this question on page 18: “Which form do we wish to see governing social life, then and which forms of protect or resistance actually succeed at dismantling unjust, entrenched arrangements?”

The book is a masterpiece. It offers an opportunity to read, reread, and discuss the forms that are accepted as “unchangeable.”

Simona L. Brickers

Marathon Singing Today


For anyone who appreciates outstanding music, please join the community at Nassau Presbyterian Church (at the top of Palmer Square) anytime from 11 am Tuesday, January 31 (yes, that’s today) to 11 am Wednesday, February 1. Westminster Choir College is one of Princeton’s crown jewels, and we cannot afford to lose it to the Lawrenceville campus of Rider University. The musical equipment, the recital rooms and even the culture simply cannot be duplicated in another location.

There is no cost to attend, and you won’t be asked to do anything but enjoy — John F. Kelsey. 

Here is the back story: 

Marathon Performance To Save Westminster Choir College’s Princeton Campus 

Hundreds of performers including dozens of choirs, prominent opera voices, quartets, organists, pianists, students, alumni and other members of the music world who support Westminster Choir College will hold a 24-hour marathon choir performance on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 11 a.m. at the 180 year old Nassau Presbyterian Church located at 61 Nassau Street in Princeton. The performance will last through Wednesday morning.

The marathon performance will be held so the performers, who will come from throughout the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia areas, can show their opposition to Rider University’s plan to close Westminster Choir College’s Princeton campus and consolidate all students onto the Lawrenceville campus. It is being considered in order to avoid a possible $13.1 million deficit by 2019.

“The announcement has outraged current Westminster students, parents and alumni because the historic Princeton campus is unique in the world in preparing performing artists for the rigors of concert halls, classrooms and recording studios,” the Coalition to Save Westminster College said in a release announcing the event. “Over the last 90 years, Westminster Choir College choirs have performed with premier orchestras and conductors, welcoming the likes of Arturo Toscanini, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Mazur, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.”

Rider University first announced this possibility in December. After that, the coalition was formed. Additionally, a petition that has launched, known as Keep Rider University’s Westminster Choir College Campus in Princeton Open, and there is a Keep Westminster Choir College in Princeton Facebook group.

Earlier this month, the coalition made its case to the Princeton Historic Preservation Committee that the Princeton campus is worthy of historic designation.

“At a time when arts, music and theatre programs are being threatened across the United States, this ninety year old institution which has trained many of our nation’s leading artists cannot be allowed to become a victim of the accountant’s balance sheet,” the coalition said in its statement issued this week. The final decision, expected next month, may come at a later date.

Please do not respond to this…but attend if you care about music.

Very sincerely

John F. Kelsey, III



March, call, write!


What do I do, personally, about reacting to Trump? March? Tweet? Write letters? Make calls? Many of my Trump-resisting friends will go to Washington on January 21. Many more will carry signs in Trenton.

At first I resisted resisting. I espoused the views of an Italian on the  Right Way to Resist Trump ?

“The Berlusconi parallel could offer an important lesson in how to avoid transforming a razor-thin victory into a two-decade affair. If you think presidential term limits and Mr. Trump’s age could save the country from that fate, think again. His tenure could easily turn into a Trump dynasty. (the opposition) was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity.”

So, no, insults don’t work. Focus on issues, like how healthcare can be improved by patient-centered healthcare, whether under the ACA or another system.

But a good friend, a Washington insider, tells me that “the op-ed from the Italian is already outdated (we’ve learned a lot about Trump’s future government since 11/18) and shows the folly of the approach he advocates. Trump’s made  most of his cabinet picks, so we now have the benefit of actual decisions to use to evaluate whether there is really any interest in bi-partisan governing that would be consistent with his campaign promises. 

“It will easily be the most extreme cabinet ever sworn-in.  The Department of Labor nominee opposes the idea of a minimum wage and required overtime pay, not exactly economic populism.  The AG was rejected by the Republican majority senate in 1986 when he was nominated to the bench.  And the details of the infrastructure plan that he says Democrats should work with Trump on have been announced and will amount to a massive give=away to corporations and the privatization of public infrastructure. 

“The NYT has run an excellent series on the potential consequences of that policy choice.  A recent article was on the Bayonne water authority.   

Will Trump himself pay attention to the marchers? I don’t think so. But the march can put the legislators on their guard.

“I agree with you that Trump will care little about the protests nor will he care what Democrats think of him.  The key are those people and institutions that are enabling him and necessary for him to govern. NeverTrumpers who worked hard to defeat him in the primaries did the good work, the Republicans that have continued a public stance against him after the election are true heroes and that opposition is mainly from the foreign policy and national security wing of the party.  They have put country ahead of party.

“Unfortunately, the broader so-called Republican establishment, if that still exists, has decided that the opportunity to get its policy wish list through is more important to them than the dangers that will come from giving this man and his followers the keys to the country with little oversight or accountability.  The only thing that will change that will be if they believe there will be electoral consequences as a result of Trump’s unpopularity. 

“To that end, protest, including the occasional massive protest like the woman’s march, is an important action but of course cannot be the only thing. Mass protest is a piece of movement building AND people need to contact their elected officials.

“That needs to be followed up with intensive grassroots organizing in the places that Republican elected officials represent, like Pennsylvania, including reaching out with empathy towards those that are suffering economically and need help.  Help that Trump has already shown he has no interest in delivering at a systematic level. 

This article for the Guardian tells how progressives should use Tea Party tactics. Former Congressional staffers have created the Indivisible Guide for resisting the Trump agenda. “Unless you worked in congress the summer of 2009, you cannot fathom the volume of phone calls [that came in],” said a former staffer. The Tea Party “slowed federal policy making to a halt.” 

Call your own members of Congress. If you like and agree with their decisions, call  the lawmaker’s office and say so. Rally the troops behind them. Say  ‘Thank you for opposing Trump’s agenda but also speak out at every turn.’

If you need help learning to make a difference, and you live near Princeton, put this workshop on your calendar for Wednesday, February 22 at noon at Princeton Public Library: Sam Daley-Harris: Writing Checks, Signing Petitions, and Protest Marches: Is That All There Is?

Shall I march? call? write? I’m glad for the marchers –my prayers go with you! We marched in DC 25 years ago (photo above). But this year I will find other ways to ‘speak out at every turn. ‘

Silence and Scooplets: Eileen and Barbara


“Stories Still Matter: In Print and Online” was the theme of the Princeton Chamber’s Business before Business breakfast networking meeting this morning.  Richard K. Rein, founding editor of  U.S. 1 Newspaper, shared stories that only dig-deeper news people would know. His speech was informative, entertaining and well-delivered.

As a Speech Coach, I was especially taken by his smart opening which was void of verbiage.  Yes, Rein opened with silence, four seconds worth (as the audience later learned).  He created the “verbal white space”™  that level-sets audience attention and highlights opening remarks.  Silence is often scary for societies that talk a lot.I noticed one or two people in the audience getting antsy after 2 seconds of quiet, but saw the other 90 people in the audience palpably poised to listen and patiently await the stories that would soon unfold.

Starting a speech with silence makes perfect sense.  It can feel risky and uncomfortable at first, but the positive impact is quite rewarding. Silence is to speech, what margins are to writing.  The ability to be present without words in speaking and in life, can be a strong differentiator.

eileen and rich
Eileen Sinett  with Rich Rein

Rein pointed out that his four seconds of silence equals the four seconds needed to read a Tweet of optimal length, 100 characters. Other statistics show that our focused attention is just 8 seconds, one second less than that of a goldfish. We want instant gratification and can google just about anything and be instantly satisfied.  

In this digital age, we have become great multi-taskers and short-cut communicators.

However, I’m not sure that these gains offset our low tolerance for silence or our reduced listening attention.

— Eileen N. Sinett, Speaking that Connects

Narratives can change opinions, said Rein, citing the late John Henderson (a former reporter who built his real estate business on the lyrical descriptions of his listings) and Jerry Fennelly, who issues real estate analytics in story form. Long form narratives can also clarify the thinking of the writer (as well as the of the reader) and help establish credibility for both writer and subject.

me rich michele
Barbara Fox with Richard K. Rein and freelancer Michele Alperin

Then it was story time:  Rein told of almost-missed stories about Colin Carpi, lawyer Bruce Afran,  and Muhammed Ali (as written by himself and fellow Princetonian sports writer Frank Deford) and he related a bit of gossip about Larry L. King. (Based on observing Ted Kennedy at a party, King vowed to do everything he could to keep that Kennedy from being president.)

In a lively Q&A Irv Urken asked about the value of print in a digital world: Brandishing the articles he used in his speech, he said, “you don’t have to worry about your batteries going down.” He also cited “the science of touch” and suggested that some presentations and pictures “require a bigger screen.” That print media has a limited space means that somebody must edit it to fit the space, and when editors get to do more than just run a spell check, readers read more carefully. Then Rein gave a shout out to Urken’s offspring who have media careers — one works for Newsweek and Street, the other for Yahoo.


Former reporter Vickie Hurley-Schubert (now with Creative Marketing Alliance) asked which was his favorite story. Hard to pick, but Rein cited one early in his career, for New Jersey Monthly, on the scandal surrounding Circle of Friends.

I liked his answer about whether the media has a liberal bias: “When you spend time with people, you begin to assimilate their values. Media does have an ego, but it also bends over backwards to present other points of view.”

So — down with ‘scooplets,’ which, as Rein explained, are what Jill Abramson calls the focus on quick content that spawned $1.9 billion in free publicity to the Trump campaign.

Up with narrative journalism. Long live the long form stories in the likes of U.S. 1 and Princeton Echo.

But I still get good info from Twitter.

— Barbara Fox 


Review: Puerto Rican Soundscapes

Princeton Comment is delighted to welcome Oscar J. Montero, professor emeritus at Lehman College. He reviewed the improvisations staged by Alicia Diaz (a Princeton native) and Hector Coco Barez on May 14 at Hunter College.  

alicia 2

Princeton Comment is delighted to welcome Oscar J. Montero, professor emeritus at Lehman College. He reviewed the improvisations staged by Alicia Diaz (a Princeton native) and Hector Coco Barez on May 14 at Hunter College.

During Puerto Rican Soundscapes, a music colloquium at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Alfonso Fuentes tapped a key on the piano to launch into a compelling improvisational riff. Improvisation, he said, is at the core of his musical work.  Iranian scales led to melodic asides echoing the traditional Puerto Rican plena in recurring counterpoints.  In his performance Fuentes underscored the tensions in his work between improvisation and tradition, that is, between the individual’s creative quest and collective forms that belong to no one but are shared and reshaped from one generation to the next.  The work of dancer Alicia Díaz and musician Héctor Coco Barez brought to the “soundscape”of the colloquium its own improvisations.  The dancer and the musician centered their performance on suggestive counterpoints between body and sound, between movement and music, between the visual and the aural.  

In her comments throughout the performance, Alicia Diaz suggests identities that take shape precisely, and perhaps only, through improvisation and dialogue.   Notions about identity as a fortress to be defended have been contrasted to identities as series of ongoing personal and political negotiations. Especially for dwellers in one form or another of exile, national identity as a place of origin is at best a nostalgic narrative; at worst, the troubling memory of violence and loss.   The vibrant collaboration between Barez and Díaz maps out other places in the complex field of our identities, inviting the audience to see in them not the finality of theplace we can name as our origin but the ongoing creation of shared spaces where our own pleasures and anxieties about who we are and where we come from may be performed.

diaz 2016Díaz’s agile, remarkably precise movements are flowing at times, cut sharp at others.  During the question/answer period, a person in the audience mentioned the pioneering work of José Limón, implicit in Díaz’s highly personal choreography.  Yet while fluent in the vocabulary of modern choreography, Díaz dances bomba, steeped in the traditions of Puerto Rico, and riffs on the resonance of such a loaded quotation in her work.  Bomba’s relationship to a Puerto Rican identity may be said to be seamless.  Its roots are found not just in specific locales and well-known historical circumstances but in Puerto Rican families.  Díaz mentioned the teaching of Tata Cepeda, a member of one such family and one of the contemporary heirs of the legacy of bomba.  Yet a folk dance, performed today in various settings, may approach stereotypes that can flatten identity for easy consumption, a process evident to me, a Cuban, as I see dancers in Havana dressed in Brazilian costumes entertaining a new wave of tourists with our famous rumbas.  The physical replies danced by Díaz to Barez’s music demonstrate the possibilities and the limits of an improvisation informed both by the individual’s quest and by powerful traditions.  Their work suggest to me that when words fail us, and their destiny is to do so, the body and its music can help us reconsider other options, help us perhaps to come back around to words and new narratives that might see us through.  In a moment of political uncertainty and economic turmoil, not only for Puerto Rico but for the world we live in, the value of our traditions and their inflection through our own experiences, indeed our own bodies, informs the urgent quest of these Puerto Rican dancers, musicians and writers, a quest valid in its own right and for what it might offer to others now and down the road.

Oscar J. Montero

Professor emeritus, Lehman College, City University of New York

NY NY May 15, 2016

Jim Looney: Science educator extraordinaire

I’m happy to share good this news, offered by Dr. Karen Zumbrunn. Karen – and Jim and Anna Looney -are good friends of mine at Princeton United Methodist church. Congratulations to all involved in this exciting project, and good luck in Wisconsin! 

looney london

For the second year in a row, the Science Olympiad team at West Windsor-Plainsboro North High School will represent New Jersey at the National Science Olympiad to be held May 19 to 21 at the University of Wisconsin-(Stout campus) in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

The team is coached by Dr. Jim Looney, who has taught in the West Windsor-Plainsboro system since 1999. He was recently named Teacher of the Year by his colleagues at WW-P North.

From a pool of 60-70 students two teams of 18 members each are selected. For the state competition each school can bring only one team to compete. For the nationals 15 members and 7 alternates are selected. During the year the teams went to invitational tournaments in CT, PA, NJ, NY and also prepared at the local public library and in each other’s homes.

The Science Olympiad has 25 events in all aspects of Science.  Some events are tests, such as Disease Detective, and Dynamic Planet. Other events, such as Forensics, Anatomy, Fossils, have a lab component. Still others require building a device, such as a Robot Arm or Protein Modeling. Participants can win individual medals; the team score is based on the total score from all events.

At the national tournament the WW-PN team will meet teams from all over the country and have challenges at a high level of competition. The Science Olympiad provides opportunities to develop leadership skills and learn the value of teamwork.

“As a coach, I am responsible for the tests, team selection, mentoring and organization” says Looney, but he credits physics teacher Regina Celin, biology teacher Holly Crochetiere, and chemistry teacher Kerry Pross, who are indispensable help in organizing, coaching and attending competitions. Looney acknowledges, “Coaching is such a time and labor-intensive job that it would be impossible to do all we do without their help” and assistance of other faculty as well as supportive parents. He himself brings extensive science experience in laboratory work in molecular biology in both commercial, medical  and academic contexts. He holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics from Columbia University.

Dr. Looney is active at Princeton United Methodist Church. For several years he went with church youth for an Appalachian service project. He has served  as president of the United Methodist Men’s Group. He is married to Dr. Anna Looney, an assistant professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. They have one child, Emily, a family physician who lives in the Pacific Northwest and is completing a fellowship in hospice and palliative care.

Science Olympiad team North

Bob Doll: Financial Entertainment vs Financial Education

Kudos to Karen L. Johnson CPA CGMA PMP for filling in for me to file this guest post. For more economic input, the Princeton Regional Chamber holds its economic and technical summit on Tuesday, March 8.   When he was still at BlackRock, Doll was the keynote speaker. 

bob doll A man of finance, family and faith spoke at the Princeton Chamber’s luncheon on March 3. Fresh from CNBC’s Squawk Box, Robert Doll, senior portfolio manager and chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management,  sees one factor in the purpose identified by some media:  financial entertainment and not financial education, in an environment where bad news sells. What was wrong with the market?  A fear funk.

What’s really the biggest risk to the market? That we will import deflation from the rest of the world. Doll suggests we keep in mind that the US is the most isolated economy in the world, 87% domestic, and we’re letting the tail, 13%, wag the dog.  Consider first some positive tailwinds for the US consumer, such as the biggest generation of jobs in history over the last five calendar years, with 89% full-time, along with average earning up 2.5%, to be 3% by the end of 2016.

Look too at corporate balance sheets, where debt has been paid down, and the powerful impact of oil going from $100/barrel down to $30.  As of now, we’re spending a third and saving two-thirds.  Add up those gas savings and it’s “Time for vacation, honey.”

Hand-wringers are citing the decline of manufacturing.  We had Cassandras when we moved from agriculture to manufacturing, just as we do now as the economy has moved from manufacturing to technology. And keep in mind our 2.4% growth, last year and this.

What about Washington? There’s the good, bad and the ugly. [my phrase, not his]  The Good: over about the last 7 years, the Federal deficit has collapsed from $1.4 trillion to $0.4 trillion.  The Bad: Corporate America has the highest marginal tax rate in the world.  The Ugly?

Is this choir director (Doll is listed as such on the website of Stone Hill Church) preaching to the choir? Hard to tell.  What’s sure — it was education and entertainment as he captivated the full house at the Forrestal Marriott.

He wasn’t a funny guy but he did have amusing parts – and he did have the undivided attention of the audience — which puts into question CNBC Squawk Box’s contention that being entertaining means you can’t also have an educational purpose.

So get rid of the fear funk. Don’t confuse the stock market and the economy.

karen johnson
Karen L. Johnson