I am embracing my island life with enthusiasm and attempted acceptance. However, what I have learnt in the last 9 months is that Bali is NOT paradise. Some days I want to throw in my sarong, leave all the beautiful flowers and rice fields behind and return home. But then this passes like all bad winds, thankfully for my family who love it here and have no second thoughts whatsoever.
One thing I’m developing for sure is patience. You cannot live on this Island and have little patience. You need LOTS & LOTS of it. Patience when driving, patience when doing daily chores, patience when working with local staff, patience just sitting in the heat, waiting for the wind gods to blow your way. I can do only one outside task a day. That is, if I’m lucky and I haven’t been held up in traffic. This is the way things role here. Not a bad thing, I guess, but I’ll probably have comatose at the end of my stay from all the patience I’ve developed/developing by living on this island.
Everywhere I go I have to tell locals I live here, I’m not a tourist. Learning the language is crucial for me. Slowly but surely. The other day I was buying a young coconut from a vendor on the street, something I do everyday. I’m quite comfortable asking for it in Bahasa. Instead of asking for kelapa muda – a young coconut. I asked for kepala muda. This vendor knows me quite well, I buy other fruit & vegetables from him now and again. He smiled slightly and said in English “want young head”. “What?” I asked. He laughed and said “kepala means head”. I was tempted to come back with a witty answer, but I didn’t have the Bahasa vocabulary!!!
Young coconuts in Bali ready to be harvested.
There are SO many tourists on this island who come for the euphoric experience of sitting by a pool, doing day trips to beautiful temples, watching a few sunset Balinese plays, indulging in the cuisine, hiking along the beautiful rice fields or the slopes of volcano’s, taking the occasional yoga class, relinquishing to many, many cheap massages and body treatments and then returning home. Tropical paradise, rightfully so for tourists.
A small beach, not well known but still filled with tourists.
Living here with kids and trying to earn an income is quite different. The hardest thing I find is surviving Bali roads. Bali roads are far from paradise. Driving lessons or testing for a license is not common among the vast majority of Balinese. You can buy a license from the police quite easily. It’s not uncommon to see children of 9 & 10 riding a motorbike with no helmet or papers. Add a very gracefully traditionally dressed Balinese woman riding a motorbike with one hand and holding a basket on her head with another, throw into this mix a young guy riding his bike while talking or texting, teenage girls on their bike, one steers and the other pulls a huge penjor ( penjors are tall, decorated bamboo poles, with curved upper ends, on which are attached elaborate offerings to the God’s. They are erected outside temples and family houses during certain ceremonies), an expat riding his bike with one dog in front and one behind, you get the picture, a recipe for disaster. All of this happening on very narrow roads.
Yet, there is no road rage here. I love it! (no road rage that is). You just learn to smile at an Ibu (literal translation is mother, but generally used for a woman who is older than you) while she comes close to hitting you, or a crazy Aussie bogan who has just got off the plane and does not have the slightest clue of the unwritten rules of the road. Yet jumps on a motorbike, surfboard in tow, heading to the beach.
But in the midst of all this chaos on the streets, I’ll see a Balinese woman gracefully carrying a tray with her offerings, wearing her traditional dress and walking towards a temple to make her offerings up to the Gods. If I can’t learn and practice patience when I see things like this, then I don’t belong here.
Another thing I love about living on this Island is the gesture of placing your right hand on your heart when you greet someone or say thank you. This gesture means you are saying “hello” or “thank you” from “your heart”. I’ve become so accustomed to doing this now that I do it even when I’m among expats, and then I feel quite foolish.
Despite the crazy traffic, the language barriers, the rainy season, the humidity that comes with the rain, the tropical infections/diseases – impetigo, dengue fever, mosquitoes, rabies, typhoid, it’s all hear on this tropical paradise, and we’ve had our share of some of these in the last 9 months! Paradise or not, I’ve decide to stay, at least for now.
Below are some pictures of all the fun things we have been up to in the last 9 months, on kids PD days, local holidays, March break etc. Life is good.
I will never get tired of Bali sunsets with my boys