Rico’s Blog: UWRF 2009, Tuesday, Day -1
Blogs are slippery things. Part reportage, part personal journal, part literary masturbation. On the whole, they tend to veer wildly from vaguely useful to hugely specious. That fact alone should be enough to discourage most self-conscious types from blogging. Undertaking the task of blogging about a literary festival raises the stakes even further. Nonetheless, fortified by free cocktails and an unflagging willingness to be mocked mercilessly, I venture forth…
Today is labelled “-1” as we’re still one day out from The Event Itself. Yes, there were things happening, but this was not an official event day — at least not for the general public.
Today was all about getting things done. Getting participants picked up at the airport. Getting them booked into hotels. Getting press kits distributed. Getting our proverbial and literal acts together across a wide variety of channels. And, if that was the measure of our day, it was a success. People were picked up at the airport, checked into their hotels, given their press kits and in general stroked, soothed, encouraged and groomed for the literary onslaught that begins on the morrow.
For most of this day I was running about trying to cover last minute issues. Like many others, I needed to get into my hotel. I also needed to clear up press access for our team (we’re providing the social media coverage). Most of the day, however, was spent running around on a ridiculous little motorcycle (I am physically large) with a GPS, updating the online map of venues we’ve created for Festival visitors (see the link on the right column of this page). Bali is a wonderful place in general, but slightly less so on a motorcycle. Traffic patterns here tend toward the manic; just as you think things are smoothing out, chaos rears its head. Trying to spot venues as you simultaneously dodge children, dogs, potholes and other vehicles is really not my preferred way to spend a day in Ubud.
While the daylight hours were filled with a large measure of scurrying around, by sunset, things had calmed down dramatically. The writers and the members of the media gathered for the first official event of the Festival — a sunset cocktail party at the Four Seasons Sayan.
Reviews of the Four Seasons Sayan are often studded liberally with adjectives like “stunning,” “lush,” and “picturesque.” While all those terms can be fairly applied to the scene, by far and away the best description (to my mind at least) is “other worldly.” The hotel itself clings to the side of a river valley, like kudzu. The cocktail venue is reached by a short walk out a candle lined walkway; a walkway that takes you straight away from the valley wall. Each step takes you further out into the abyss. The walkway terminates on a circular plane filled with water and floating plants. The venue for the cocktail is a platform in the middle of this plane. Around the perimeter — air. It has a surreal feel. One feels suspended, exposed. As the design of the venue is undeniably modern, there is a tension in the juxtaposition with the living noisy forest at dusk.
Oddly, the cocktail started very slowly — something one does not normally expect when you combine the nouns “writers” and “media” with the phrase “free cocktails.” Nonetheless, it was very pleasant and well-attended. At the conclusion, everyone piled into vehicles and headed out for a dinner organized by the Festival. I took a pass on the dinner, choosing instead to dine alone at one of my favorite Ubud haunts, Terazo. Heaven knows there will be plenty of socializing over the course of the next few days. Afterwards I headed back to the hotel in hopes of getting a bit of work done and a reasonable amount of sleep…
Wednesday is the slowest day of the Festival. Things don’t really start to crank up until the evening, with the opening party and the night events. Thursday is a different matter altogether, with a scheduled crammed from early morning to late evening.
Over the next few days – time and spirit(s) permitting, I will add to this blog. We’ll also be posting photos from various daily events on our Facebook page, so drop by there to see the Galleries (sorry, but posting photos here and there is out of the question due to time constraints!). There’s a link to the Facebook page in the right column.
(Jo & Rico are covering the 2009 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival for various social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and this WordPress Blog.)