Retired, Rewired Reviewed by Bill Dalton



Toko Buku2017


As Bali’s population of resident Westerners ages, a whole genre of homegrown literature has emerged: The Bali Expat Memoir.

Often self-published, these books are written by restaurateurs, musicologists, impresarios, home birthers, art collectors,   tourism pioneers, etc. Cat Wheeler stands in the top rank of these contemporary Bali-based writers, taking her place among other women who have shared the same rapture for the island as Anais Nin, Jane Belo, Vicki Baum, Anna Mathews and Katharane Mershon from earlier times.

Retired, Rewired is the story of long-time resident Wheeler’s journey to proud and exuberant elderhood in Ubud. Wheeler is perhaps best known for her popular Greenspeak column in the Bali Advertiser under the pen name ‘Ibu Kat.’   She is also the author of Bali Daze (2009), a collection of her   experiences living in Ubud for more than 16 years. This new book of captivating and informative stories are addenda to that earlier book in which she settles into her adopted country, builds houses, engages local help, networks with neighbors and deals with the personalities of outlandish pets and random wildlife living all around her.

Since 2002, Wheeler lived in a small banjar near Pura Dalem Puri in the southern Ubud suburb of Tebesaya, spending most days barefoot in a sarong and seldom venturing south of Mas. In a sense the book is an elegy to Ubud’s passage through successive throes of change from a dusty little country village, which she first visited in 1969, to the still delightfully comatose town in 1992 on her second visit to the slow, sweet and sleepy Ubud of 18 years ago when she finally took up permanent residence. She has since lived through the 2002 terrorist bombing when this cultural capital of Bali became a bankrupt ghost town, its world’s discovery beginning around 2010, right up until recent times when traffic jams, hordes of tourists and astronomical real estate prices foretold an irreversible tipping point to come.

The book is required reading for anyone ever considering any kind of semi-rural farming enterprise on Bali. In her visceral connection with the human community and sharp observations of the natural world and life cycles happening around her, the book is not unlike a farmer’s almanac, a careful journal of gardening, outdoor pastimes, raising poultry and dogs, huddling under wild tropical storms, the loss of a beloved avocado tree and other arcana and general information that would be useful or amusing to other Asian-based homesteaders as for that matter any expat of all ages living in the tropics.

Wheeler’s most intimate friends are animals; at least it is animals which she chooses to write about with the most enthusiasm and perspicacity. Twelve chapters out of 39 are about pets and denizens of her house and property. Ibu Cat seems to have an especial fondness for our feathered friends, but her affinity towards animals also extends to the lowliest of creatures, taking note of the behavior of snails, the antics of pet turtles, harmless but terrifying spiders and the mating habits of Muscovy ducks. There are also anecdotes about rescued street dogs, a capsule discourse of Bali’s pig culture, the history of the Bali Heritage Dog, everything you ever need to know about Tokay lizards as well as the astounding amount of work, worry and planning night and day that it takes to breed chicks and raise laying hens.

Although Retired, Rewired is literary narrative and the very first sentence asserts that the book isn’t about the nuts and bolts of living in Bali as a retiree, every episode gives more texture, nuance and atmosphere than any guidebook could ever aspire to. Even with all its light-hearted bantering, there’s an abundance of rock-hard advice and practical information buried in the text: tips on designing open and closed spaces, bathrooms and bedrooms; house-building; renovating old buildings; tropical landscaping; where you can get your Persian carpet professionally cleaned; the procedures, paperwork, documents required for the burial or repatriation of foreigners dying in Bali.

Whole chapters are in themselves real life cautionary tales that illustrate the richness and peculiarity of daily life in Bali and the unpredictability and strangeness of social interactions between Westerners and Balinese. The Lighter Side of Urban Development, for example, is a hilarious tale of building projects that sprang to life outside Wheeler’s gate that typify the organic and haphazard manner in which projects are started, delayed, changed and at last finished while the whole neighborhood is thrown into chaos. “Bali is not a culture that plans ahead,” she wryly posits.

Other topics concern themselves with healthcare and  societal issues useful for gerontologists or anyone involved in geriatric home care. With their natural warmth, friendliness and compassion, the Balinese are well-suited to care for people of advanced years and for anyone with disabilities and diseases. One chapter addresses the big issues of taking care of aging expats, their even more aged parents as well as funeral arrangements for both.

We learn that taking care of old people is not for sissies but an ongoing sitcom with an aging cast, unforeseen script and unknown duration. Losing the Plot in Paradise tells of an Alzheimer patient’s care through the eyes his wife and caretakers. For 14 years five Balinese bathed the patient, gave him meds, kept him company, cooked for him, fed him, took him on drives to the beach, strolls in the rice fields and to the gym so that he was able to remain in Bali instead of being placed in some institution back home.

Ubud The One Trick Pony reminds us all of the painful lesson learned from the 2002 Bali Bombing – the startling fact that the island’s economy is almost totally dependent on tourism. All sectors – travel, construction, retail, restaurants, hotels – are connected to this highly vulnerable industry that results in cultural erosion, lack of diversity, a poor work ethic, a high turnover of the labor force and a chronic lack of qualified skilled workers. One bomb or natural disaster could bring the whole economy to a standstill.

Bring on the Dancing Girls reflects on the new face of old age in Bali in which the silver-haired Wheeler and her ilk are indelible fixtures – active, vital, healthy, full of piss and vinegar and fully intending to remain on the island to the end. In this eccentric community there’s no such thing as old and it’s never too late to try something new. Though not following routines that are as orderly, safe and  predictable as those found in the West, Bali’s independent old cusses in their ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s jog, build houses, take yoga and dance classes, stay engaged with iPads and smartphones and remain intellectually sharp.

A romantic contemporary biography of life in Bali as an older person, Retired, Rewired is written in fluid, witty colorful and unaffected prose. Wheeler does not judge but is relentlessly optimistic and philosophical no matter how disrupting or inconveniencing the circumstance. Her temperament and voice are even and steady, never stooping to rancor. Sadness and resignation perhaps, but not rancor or complaint.

Above all else, this upbeat series of mirthful and thoughtful life sketches gives elderly foreign expat retirees the confidence and daring to spend their final days in Bali, in what the author calls The Last Lap. The book is an insider’s perspective of what to expect and what is physically in store for all of us in the years to come. The writer herself is preparing for the day when she will be moving from independent living. At age 65, and boldly reckoning to live another 30 years, the lease on Wheeler’s Last House will expire in 2045. But she’s not going anywhere. In spite of Bali’s woefully undeveloped          infrastructure, lousy internet connections, bouts with dengue fever, pit vipers slithering into her bathroom and blackouts that plunge the whole island into darkness, there’s no place else she would rather be.



Extraordinary Encounters — an Interview with Dr Christopher Laursen

by Dr Christopher Laursen,  Historian of Religion
in my own words | extraordinary experiences
Spiritual Housekeeping
January 22, 2013


 Extraordinarium features personal experiences of the extraordinary as a way to explore their diversity and to broaden the conversation about how such experiences impact people’s lives. Publications such as Fate and Fortean Times have featured such personal experiences over the decades as a way of giving experients a voice, and part of Extraordinarium’s mandate is to do the same – to ensure that those who have extraordinary experiences have a forum in which they can share them first-hand, in their own words. From there, critical inquiry and respectful discussion can follow. 

Foreword by  Dr Laursen
Cat Wheeler has been living on Bali since 2000.  A Canadian expatriate  raised in Vancouver, she is a writer, social activist and Reiki Master.  Her book Bali Daze  is a lively series of brief anecdotes about living there, building her own house, adjusting to the way of being on the island and setting the scene for the nuances of Hindu-Balinese culture which is truly unlike any other in the world. 
I  had tea with Cat one cool, rainy season afternoon at her shady home in Ubud which is situated on the edge of a ravine – the place where an alternate dimension exists, where the Orang Sungei – the River People — live.  She writes in her book, “The River People are generally friendly and sociable, but have been known to become angry when people throw rubbish down the riverbanks.  Then they will drag the polluter down, sometimes to his death.”  One of her dogs, Kasey, had met such an unfortunate fate in the gorge beside her home.  Afterward, Cat recalled to me, she would dream of him and record these dreams – to find out that her housekeeper Wayan Manis had shared the same dream. 
Cat shared several extraordinary incidents that she experienced over the past 30 years, both in Singapore – where she lived in the 1990s – and since moving to Bali.  Here, she shares six of these moments.  What I find striking about them is the variety of experiences.  Encounters with sword-wielding apparitions, shoe-throwing energies, things going mysteriously missing, a moment of transoceanic synchronicity that led to a friendship, and possessed schoolgirls. 

The Haunted Rowhouses

In Singapore I lived in one of a row of old houses that had been built by the British as officers’ quarters.  After Independence the street had gone downhill and they were used as drug den — prostitutes, gangs, very  rough trade — for about 30 years.   Just before I moved in they’d been all been  renovated and gentrified, but they were still inhabited  with spirits.    
My friend Donna moved into a house two doors down from me but she was often on the road working,  leaving  the house empty.  One night had dinner at my house with some friends.  Donna went home  but very soon she was back, her eyes like saucers, and told us there was something weird going on in her bedroom
Four of us went to her house:  myself,  Donna, Nicole and Jenny, who is very psychic and intuitive.  She and I learned Reiki together and had been doing very interesting experimental work together for several years at that time.  So we all went next door and up the stairs, opened the door to Donna’s bedroom, walked in, and there was a WHOOSH of cold energy.  Whenever I’m in the presence of something like that, my left side feels chilled, so I knew there was a presence.  Nicole and Donna ran out and huddled together half way down the stairs.  Then Jenny entered the bedroom and immediately doubled over and started howling.  I put my hands on her shoulders to try and keep her grounded, very aware of an energy in the room.   
After a little while, I thought, Enough of this.  So I opened all of the doors to the verandah and said, “Okay, that’s enough!  You don’t belong here! Out you go!”  I started jumping up and down and making loud noises.  I had no techniques at that time.  There was a kind of sound and a blast of energy went out the bedroom door.  Donna and Nicole said they felt it pass them on the stairs as a cold wind, then it was gone.  This was my first experience, a long time ago.   I phoned a few people and asked how to clear spaces but no one could help me, so I had to create my own  technique.  And because this kind of thing is all about intention, it worked. 
After that I started to get calls from neighbours.  There were a lot of old energies from that period of gangsters, drugs and prostitutes – a lot of really sad, stuck, lost spirits hanging around.  Sometimes I’d wake up in the night feeling as if someone heavy had sat on the side of my bed, and I’d have to get up and clear the bedroom.  
I had a big upstairs room where my Reiki Master would teach when she was in Singapore. I apprenticed with her for 18 months before I became a teacher myself, mostly at my house.  One evening after a workshop when the students had left, several of us were unwinding over dinner downstairs. Suddenly there were two loud bangs overhead and I went up to check it out.  My Japanese roommate kept her shoes in a bookshelf at one end of the long narrow hall.  Something had taken her shoes and thrown them down to the other end of the hall. 
So we all had to go upstairs, open up the doors and windows and clear it.  It took some time, I guess because we hadn’t cleared the room where we’d been raising energy for two or three days and it had really built up.  Finally we felt it was gone and went and finished dinner.  Donna returned home and immediately discovered that it had moved to her house!  In one way or another, we got quite a bit of practice in that neighbourhood.
I call it spiritual housekeeping.  If you’re in a space that’s dirty, you have to clean it!  It’s not dangerous.  The energies are not usually angry or malevolent.  They’re just sad and stuck.  But I always protect myself well first as standard operating procedure.

The Dinner Guest

I live on a very highly charged piece of land, according to the Balinese.  I’ve had a couple of Balians – shamans – visit me here, walk around, come back and say, Not many people could live here.  The River people live in the  deep ravine to the east, my .  fence forming a boundary between my garden and an altogether separate dimension where Balinese people generally do not venture.  
It’s a very lively piece of land. The dogs sometimes just stand and stare at one corner where the jungle crawls up from the river to shade the edge of the garden.  There are certainly spirits in the ravine.   Once I had a dinner party  with eight people around the table.  I sat with my back to the forest,  chatting to a friend who was sitting beside me.  She happened to look past me [to the forest] and said, Oh my God!  I whipped around and just caught the edge of a huge face rising up out of the dark jungle on the other side of the wall; the face was perhaps three metres high.  Just as I was trying to focus on it, it pixelated and just dissolved away.  Colleen and I were the only people who saw it.  Perhaps it  wanted to join the party.
Because this is such a highly charged piece of land and because of the work I do, I put up a physical barrier, a boundary wall which very clearly separates my side/your side.  I’ve asked that it be respected. It’s not unseldom that things happen on the other side, but th River People do honour our agreement and stay out of  my house and garden.

Dismembered Warriors

One of the strangest things that ever happened to me took place before I moved here, about 25 years ago.  I went with a friend to Candidasa in August, the cremation season.  We stayed in a little place near the se and our room had an ylang ylang (grass) roof.  I’m allergic to grass roofs and I asked the staff to make up a bed on the bale (a roofed wooden platform) in the walled garden, so I could sleep outside.
The Balinese consider it absolutely mad and terribly dangerous to sleep outside, because of all the spiritual activity. They themselves sleep in closed-up rooms, usually with the windows tightly shut.  That night before I went to bed, I laid symbols and intention all around the bale; it just seemed like a good idea.  All around – at the beach, in the mountains, in the distance and not so far away – there was chanting, gamelan music, there was drumming, all kinds of death ceremony rituals going on in the night.  There was a hum of energy in the air and I had a hard time falling asleep.  I opened my eyes at one point thinking, What’s going on here?  It’s so lively.  
I sat up.  Coming at me out of each of the three walls of the garden were these apparitions: faces, masks, swords, severed hands.  They’d fly out of the walls right up to the edge of the bale.  And then they’d disappear, pixilate, where I’d laid the symbols and protection.  It was like watching a  movie.  After quite a while I wished it would stop so I could rest, but only when it began to get light did the action stop.  I was exhausted but intrigued.  

The Possessed Schoolgirls

One day there was a possession in the school across the street.  I heard people screaming and running and the school loudspeaker ordering everyone to go home, quickly.  My Balinese staff told me I should go help.  I asked whether it appropriate for a  foreigner to do that and they told me it was.   So I put protection around myself,  climbed the steps of the school against a tide of hysterical teenagers and teachers running out, and started to hold the space for a girl who was possessed.  
I’d never seen this phenomenon before and  I looked it up on the Internet afterwards.  It seems to be not uncommon with teenagers of a certain age in many countries. There were two girls — one was catatonic and the other I can only describe as crazed, enraged, demonically possessed.   I sat and held space for the catatonic one.  Her friend, to her credit, was bravely cradling her.  The other girl was possessed by a dark entity, she was full of ferocious energy.  If she’d had a knife in her hand, she would have attacked  everyone in sight.  She would rage for a while  then periodically collapse and huddle, shivering and exhausted, behind the school temple before the demon rose again. 
My housekeeper Wayan Manis came and joined me after a while, which was very brave for a Balinese.  We probably stayed there for an hour, until finally someone sent a car around and they took the girls away.  I asked for holy water and the principal, who was also a priest, sprinkled it over Wayan and me.  The teachers told the girls to take a month off, go see a Balian and do what needs to be done.  But a week later, the girls insisted on coming back to school and the same thing happened again.

Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die…

About 20 years ago I was thinking about moving to Bali from Singapore.  I came here with several friends and we stayed on the south coast.  Early one morning four of us went walking by the calm sea, about three metres from the waterline.  Suddenly a big rogue wave came up, two metres tall – a wall of water – and hit us like a train.  My three friends were swept up a surge channel.  I was luckily thrown into a breakwater because I can’t swim.   It was a very traumatic experience. We were all banged up, there was a lot of mud and blood, but no one was seriously hurt.  
Maybe ten years after this event, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a woman in Argentina.  She wrote, You’re going to think I’m absolutely mad.  I study dreams and last night I  dreamt of a bay in a tropical area; a boat was rocking and the waves were high.  There was a feeling of danger, but a voice said very clearly, “Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die.”   I Googled Catherine Wheeler and your name came up.  You must think I’m crazy. Does it make any sense to you?
I wrote back to say yes, it made perfect sense in its own strange way!  She’d dreamed about an event that happened to me a decade or so before; a very immediate dream with my name very clearly stated, so she was able to find me.    We became friends.  She’s a journalist and has featured me in a couple of articles in the Argentinean women’s magazine she writes for.

Dealing with Dark Forces

Ibu Kat has encountered many things living in Asia.  But, as she shows in the following experience, she’s empowered herself to maintain control of the spaces she occupies.  It’s a skill that she’s developed over decades using the practice of Reiki and intention. 
My first house in Bali was also by a river, and there was a very dark energy around it.  It was a horrible house!  Things were constantly disappearing.  I’d be alone in the compound with the front gate locked.  I’d put a hammer on the table, go answer the phone, come back and the hammer would be gone.  Things like that were constantly happening.  Items would be gone, never, ever to reappear, which I found very annoying. 
Then one night, my puppy disappeared.  He was on a long chain on an overhead line because the fence had not yet been finished and the house was near a busy road.  I went to the gate to see off a visitor and was gone for maybe 30 seconds.  When I got back to the house the dog was gone.  The chain was gone.  There hadn’t been a sound.  I was absolutely furious by this time.    I stood on the porch and shouted, “Alright, that’s enough!  This is my space, not your space.  This has got to stop!  I’m really fed up with this.   Go!  And send back my puppy!” 
Then I went and sat in my office and huffed.  Two minutes later there was the sound of a rattling chain and the wet, muddy little puppy ran in to sit at my feet.  Where had he been? How had he disappeared in utter silence trailing that long noisy chain?  He was pretty spooked and very glad to see me.
That was a big lesson for me.  I learned that here in Bali  you must have very strong, clear boundaries.  Sometimes, the spirits are malevolent here.  There’s a lot of black magic being thrown around out there by the Balinese; it can be dangerous.  I protect myself against it.  
Be fearless.  Fearlessness is different than courage, it’s a state of being.  You get there after being frightened a lot; you eventually work your way past it.  Bali is an energy vortex.  There’s always something going on.  Keep your balance.  And don’t be afraid. There really is nothing to fear except fear itself.
May your path be joyful.

Choosing a Reiki Teacher

When I wanted to learn Reiki in 1994, there were few teachers around. My own Reiki education was poor and I particularly missed having a more experienced practitioner to guide me when I had questions.

On an energetic level, I believe that we have a lifelong bond with our Reiki Master, and our Master has a lifelong responsibility to mentor her/his students.  So it’s an important relationship, and deserves some careful consideration when choosing a teacher.


Reiki is an endless path; just when you think you’re beginning to  understand it, a whole new dimension will open up.  Look for a teacher whose practice has been long and deep and who acknowledges that s/he is still learning.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions before committing to a teacher. How long has s/he been teaching? How many students has s/he taught? Will s/he address your specific needs as a student?  Will s/he mentor you afterwards?

Certification is difficult because there’s so little standardisation throughout the practice.  A teacher who’s taken the trouble to become certified will have met requirements for multiple case studies, submitted their training outlines, certificates and lineage and signed agreements regarding ethics and practice.

Class Size

Look for small classes.The fewer the students, the more individual attention you’ll receive.  People learn Reiki for a variety of reasons — to bring balance to their own lives, to practice on friends and family who may be ill or to start the path to a professional practice. Ideally your teacher will know your Reiki goals and focus her training accordingly.

What Kind of Reiki?

There’s a bewildering variety of Reiki ‘brands’ out there now.  All of them originated with Usui Reiki, brought to the west in the middle of the last century by Hawayo Takata, who founded the first western teaching lineage.  In the mid-1990s Reiki began to drift from the original Usui system as practitioners  incorporated practices from China, Tibet, India and elsewhere which were not part of the original practice.

Training Material and Follow-up Support

Learning Reiki can be an intense experience, and by the end of the class students often feel spacey and unfocused.  Questions tend to come up later, after the attunement and the course information has been integrated. Teachers should provide a manual with the information relevant to the level of training which students can refer to later.  But it’s often weeks or months afterwards, when the student begins to practice, that specific questions will rise.  A Reiki teacher should be happy to address these, no matter how much time has passed since the training.


Perhaps the most important element in choosing a teacher is your intuition.  Be guided by your gut feeling/inner wisdom.  Does this Reiki Master have balance, wisdom, knowledge and compassion?  Do you feel safe and comfortable with this person?  S/he may be a companion on your Reiki path for many years, so choose with care.

May your path be joyful.



reiki in bali

Bali is a magical place to learn Reiki.  The island has a strong ambient energy of its own, and sensitive people are quick to notice its impact.   It enhances our awareness and practice.

The culture here embraces magic in all its dimensions.  The unexplainable is accepted as part of daily life in Bali, so working with energy, intention and prayer is considered very natural.

The Balinese culture and religion continuously seek balance between light and darkness, good and evil, symbolised by their use of the black and white checked ‘poleng’ cloth.  I believe that Reiki is all about balance.  In this increasingly chaotic world we need tools to help us find and keep our balance.   As our Reiki practice deepens,  we find a place of balance where we maintain our calm no matter what’s happening around us.  Over time, we become a place of sanctuary where others may shelter.

I teach out of doors next to the jungle, which has its own energy.  My dogs, mellowed by years of Reiki, slumber nearby as we work.  Safe in my quiet garden we can release the rational mind and enter the deeper states of consciousness.  As the day passes, we weave the strands of the practice into an imaginary cape we can assume at will at any time and  place.  In a single day students acquire healing hands for a lifetime, and the ability to find and maintain balance going forward.