Nyanyian Pagi

(A GOOD MORNING SONG)

Grandchildren,
The Creator loans us this splendid day,
How shall we use this splendid gift?
Let us sing and dance,
Let us live and learn
and laugh and love.

Let us celebrate Creation and Creator
in everything we do
and in each other.

If this day is only a loan
let us make our lives a prayer
that settles the debt.

Surely,
Seeing how thriftily and wisely
we have spent this day,
Creator will bless our night
with easy sleep
and sweet-sweet dreams,
and loan us such a day
again tomorrow. 

Ubud, 11 – 96 

Hi, I’m Gungkak Bob, an American expat living in Bali. I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the U.S.A. in 1936.

For my first nine years I lived with my grandmother who taught me to believe in magic and grounded me in the pagan traditions of the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Earth Mother religions. Grandma also sent me off to study shamanism with local Native Americans. She filled my evenings with Fairy Tales, Celtic, Greek and Native American myths and lots and lots of poetry. I decided early on that I wanted to be a poet and a storyteller, too.

In 1984 I made a promise to the Earth Mother that I would be a grandfather to every child I met in the world who needed one. Ever since then my life has been grandchild rich. In 1989 while working for Greenpeace, I had a serious accident followed by a long illness. I moved to the mountains and Redwoods of Northern California where I had the good fortune to live in a cabin on a wild river for the next six years, studying, writing, and teaching kids a whole lot of different subjects. When people asked me if I had retired, I would tell them, “No, I have just become a professional grandfather.” I tutored a lot of kids. By the time I came to Bali in 1994, I had over two hundred children who called me Grandpa.

I came to Bali on a holiday because I wanted to study Balinese culture and magic. On my first day here, I was walking down Jalan Monkey Forest in Ubud wondering how I was going to meet the magical people. A man walked out of a warung and stopped me on the street. “You’re a balian,” he said. When I told him that I didn’t know that word, he said, “It’s Balinese for Shaman, I know the magic people you have come here to meet.” I followed him into the warung where a minute later a two-year-old Balinese girl astonished everyone by leaping into my lap and wrapping her arms around me. Her aunt said, “You have already started your Balinese family. We give you a Balinese name. You are Gungkak now.” When I discovered that Gungkak was High Balinese for Grandfather, I decided that I was home. I moved here permanently the next year and married a Balinese woman. The year after that we moved to her village of Banyualit in North Bali. I have been a volunteer English teacher in a Technical High School in Singaraja for the past ten years. I never expected to end up teaching English much less writing text books on English grammar and activities, but now I’ve got a couple of thousand kids who call me ‘Gungkak.’

I started collecting stories and learning the customs and traditions as soon as I got here. My books: GRANDFATHER STORIES, SIWA STORIES, TJALANORANG, DHARMA and THE IRON FENCE are all filled with Balinese folklore and Balinese Hindu myth. BLACK, BLACKER, BLACKEST has lots of Bali culture but the stories are my own. When my stepdaughter presented us with a granddaughter, Core, I started remembering and rewriting some of the stories my grandmother had told me. Moving those stories to Bali changed them a great deal and made them exciting to write. As I told one of my American granddaughters, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Love and Blessed Be

Gungkak Bob