My first trip to Bali was in 1990. Most tourists gravitated to Kuta Beach for sea, sun, and fun. Being a pseudo-intellectual I opted for Ubud, an idyllic village of Legong dancers, ornate temples, and quiet evenings, where I rented a small house overlooking an idyllic stream.
My house servant served breakfast in the morning. I wrote on a Brother Electric Typewriter. There was no phone service with the outside world or TV.
At night I listened to the BBC World News and read tattered used books. Dragonflies buzzed through the room and the stars tolerated no earthly rival. I loved Ubud and stayed in the town for several months.
Nearing March 17th I mentioned to several westerners or ‘mistahs’ that we should have a St. Patrick’s Day. None of them shared my Hibernian roots, however my Balinese friends were enthused to celebrate being Irish by drinking beer.
"And we wear green."
My house servant Tuut shook his head.
“Can not wear green. This unlucky color.”
“Unlucky.” He had used the Bahasa word ‘blog’. I had never heard it before.
"Yes, my uncle he have green car and have many accidents.”
"Green is good luck in Ireland and Ireland is the European Bali."
"Ireland tidak Bali. No green and you not wear green too." Tuut was adamant about this edict, but said, "We drink beer and make music."
"That is good luck?"
"Drink beer always good luck. Especially if a 'mistah' paid for it."
I didn't argue with tradition and adjusted St. Patrick's Day in accordance with local customs.
On March 17th Tuut, his friend, and I drank beer at the Cafe Bali. They brought drums. I sang Irish songs and at sunset we marched down Monkey Forest Road with me singing BY THE RISING OF THE MOON.
Tuut said it was a sweet song.
“By the rising of the moon.” That was the only line that came to mind.
I made up the rest.
Other Balinese joined us. We trooped back to the Cafe Bali and switched to 'arak', a strong palm wine. It wasn't as strong as Jamison's Whiskey, but it was a good drink for the first St. Patrick's Day in Ubud and I told Tuut, "Maybe one day you will wear green."
"Maybe a long time away from today."
"But not as far as never. Semoga Beruntung."
I thought that meant good luck and replied, "Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!"
Everyone clinked beer glasses.
And I told myself that maybe one day I'll get the Balinese to wear green.
It's a color close to my heart.