Life in Bali – Why do I Stay in Bali?

Life in Bali isn’t all that you would want; for some people it’s more, and for others it’s a string of one disappointment after another. The last post explained why I came here.  Why do I stay in Bali?

Once, years ago during my first attempt at retirement, I fell into just what I said that I wouldn’t – hanging out with expats, most of whom had one story of disappointment or another: older men with younger wives who found that their true love had a Balinese guy on the side, older women with younger men who found out the same thing, entrepreneurs who wanted to open the latest nightlife spot, guys who wanted to trade stocks on the internet for a living, the occasional lowlife who preyed on anyone who might come up with a buck or two. Why did I do this? Well, it tends to be our nature to want, at some point, to hang out with those who are like us.

singaraja harbor

singaraja harbor

Hmmm. What does that mean? We want to speak English or French or Spanish, we want someone who can connect with our stories, we want someone who understands our references and jokes and little pleasures and pains.

Moving between two cultures, as I had for many years, I wasn’t prepared (although I was sure that I was both by training and inclination) to live completely inside an Indonesian culture. “Going native” was how anthropologists used to put it, sniffing a bit and looking down their noses at the anthropologist who fell prey to the temptations of living locally on a full time basis. I was sure that I would never do this.

So, like so many others before me, I began hanging out with the local expat crowd. Of course, that included drinks before noon, a few mindless beach games, and a lot of gossip about whomever wasn’t at the bar or restaurant where we happened to meet that day.

I lasted all of six months before I crashed and burned and was looking for any way out of Bali. I found it when a job offer came out of the blue. It took me nine more years of wandering around the world before I was ready to get back to it.

The Balinese have this wonderful philosophy that centers on balance. I needed a little of that in my life which has moved wildly from one extreme to another.

So I wake up in the morning; the sunrise comes through my east windows and wakes me on those mornings when I’m not up before sunrise to wake my children and prepare them for another school day. On school days, I’m up at 5:30 when there is only a glimmer of purple on the eastern horizon. I climb down the steep stairs from the third floor to wake the children who are sleeping on the second floor; then I continue on to the first floor to wake the other children who are sleeping on the first floor.

As they queue up at the bathrooms for their morning ablutions, I gaze out at the sun slowing climbing up through the eastern sky – just a little glint of red now mixed in with the purple. The sounds of water running and mandiing being done.
My wife and I put out bowls of cereal, glasses of juice, plates of toasts for the children to choose from for breakfast. Like a lot of children around the world, there is always at least one who rises late, and still full from a late night snack sneaked from the refrigerator, doesn’t want breakfast. She can buy something to eat at one of the small warungs outside the school grounds.

My wife and I split the children up and drive them to school on our motorbikes. As I leave the kampung (neighborhood), I nod to the traffic cop on the corner. We weave our way through the Singaraja morning traffic as my daughter calls out to classmates, “Aku duluan.”

I return home and check email, then sweep and dust and mop the third floor while my wife makes breakfast for the two of us. We eat together and discuss what we have planned for the day. It’s rarely the same plan; she has her routines located in a lifetime of living in this small, poor neighborhood in North Bali, I have mine based on the internet and my writing. At some point in the day though, we manage to do something together despite our different schedules.

The children return home hot and sweaty and hungry. They’re fed by my wife while I ask about homework and how school went. The Mom and the Teacher-  we’ve lived these roles for so long that they fit like a comfortable skin that we wear on top of our core selves.

In the afternoon, everyone naps at some point. It’s a lovely point of living in the tropics for those of us who aren’t constrained by the rigors of everyday work. Later as the sun goes down, we all meet again for dinner and a little talk about the day. As we finish the dinner dishes, kids wander off to visit friends or finish up homework. I climb the stairs one more time to do some evening writing, my wife moves outside to chat with friends.

Why do I stay in Bali?

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~ by drbrucepk on September 1, 2008.

One Response to “Life in Bali – Why do I Stay in Bali?”

  1. Hi, You love it there. I was there in Ubud, only 2 times, and I love it there. Sooooo peaceful. I am considering extended stays and possibly relocating to Ubud.

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