Just moved… To Bali! #tbt
While recently scanning my Word files, I uncovered this gem, a relic of my life from thirteen years ago when my husband, my oldest (and at the time, only) daughter, and I quit life as we knew it. We sold our cars, rented out our home, and found people to love our cats. We quit our memberships to various clubs, gyms, groups, and affiliations. I quit my job, and then lay awake for the next eight weeks unable to think of anything but that. (I quit my job, how are you? I am no longer employed, cute shirt! I just resigned from my career, can you pass some pickles and a few extra napkins?)
It has been a wild ride since then. Note to self – Always be as brave as the brave person you were thirteen years ago. It has been a journey well worth living.
Here we are… in Bali! We arrived six weeks ago and have had quite the experience already. Mia is loving her new tropical lifestyle even more than Ed or myself, which is really saying something. She gets to swim and play at the beach every day while snacking on delicious fruits we’ve never seen before. What could be more fun than that when you’re 1.5?
Ed and I have signed up for lessons in Bahasa Indonesia (Apa Kabar? = How are things? Baik baik = Fine, thanks.) We are meeting new friends and learning about this incredible culture so foreign from our own. Ed is working a lot and I am waking up every day and not working, for the first time since I was 14. You could say a lot has changed in our lives.
From this first of many newsletters, I will try to convey how different our life is here. My mom was here for the first five weeks to help us with the move and adjustment to the many unknowns. Thanks for all your help, Lulu!
Our first month here was spent looking for a home to rent. Yes, it took a whole month and on the last day of the month, right before relocating to a tent on the beach, we found our home. The whole process was painful. One reason it is painful is that you need to pay for at least one year of rent, up front, in cash, and there are no guarantees. So if you sign the dotted line on a place that sinks into a swamp or disintegrates the next day (and trust me, with some of the places we saw, these are both distinct possibilities), you’re completely out of luck. And, while you can get a yummy lunch here for less than a dollar, the rent for a home with doors that close, and windows, and AC, is more than we budgeted for, but oh well… as long as it doesn’t sink…
The new pad is in Sanur Beach, very quiet, and about 100 steps to the water, or 300 steps if you are Mia. It has four bedrooms and four and a half baths (just waiting for guests to fill them!) It has a pool and five ponds, complete with fish, frogs, lily pads, and many other lovely green things. We had to construct a fence for all of these amazing water features, and since the fences aren’t done because any project like this will take forever here, Mia has already fallen into a large, deep pond, headfirst. She and her teddy were promptly fished out by Ed. She now hollers, “FELL!” every time she walks by this particular pond, about 400 times a day.
All Balinese homes have many water features and most have “open” living styles, meaning you walk onto the property through a gargantuan gate, then over many ponds via a bridge or floating walkway of some sort, and then voila! You are in your living room, with no doors and no walls, just a floor and a ceiling, and maybe some rattan shades to pull down when the rain is blowing in sideways. All bedrooms have doors and locks, but they are often in their own separate bungalows. Kitchens are typically SUPER GROSS and definitely in their own super gross little bungalow or else way back in the darkest, dampest corner of your home. Because you don’t cook in Bali unless you are paid to do so. Because cooking is for cooks! If you are tall and non-local (You would all be tall here), you might not even know there is a place in your home where food is prepared, except for the fragrant morsels that appear in front of you at the hours you designate.
The bathrooms are often also “open style”, so if you take a shower and it is raining, you may as well turn off the faucet, because it is redundant. The toilet may or may not have a wall or a door to enclose it, but the sink will usually have some type of roof. These bathrooms are lovely, with a burbling brook or something else exotic and fabulous in them. The homes we have seen by and large are stunningly beautiful. However, with a very active 18 month old, are they liveable? Not so much. These homes are designed for people with older kids or no kids. (Almost everyone who lives here as an expat and has older kids puts them in boarding school. The local International School has eight high schoolers.) This is why our house hunt in the most beautiful place in the world with some of the most astounding architectural masterpiece homes was long and painful.
The home we finally found has a gate, several lovely ponds (soon to be fenced), and a really cool ceiling made from woven rice plants. It is called alang alang and not surprisingly, it often leaks. This is unfortunate because in Bali, it often rains. The home also has large glass doors that act as walls which we can pull shut and lock. It was the only home we saw with a large and somewhat user friendly kitchen. The bedrooms, while separate, are all connected to the living area of the house. The bathrooms are mostly covered except for a gap in the walls near the ceiling to let in the frogs, birds, and other chirping creatures that look a lot like iguanas, but larger. These animal noises freaked me out at first, but now, I think I might like them. It’s amazing the things that grow on you (like moss… more on that later…)
A lot of you have asked me to describe a typical day. Thing is, I’m not sure what a typical day looks like, or if there ever will be such a thing. I can’t imagine a day when I won’t feel like this is all new and foreign. With that in mind, I will now describe one day for you.
This was last Friday. Ed had just left for a four day business trip. Mia and I went to the beach on the other end of Sanur at 5pm to meet a new friend for dinner. My new friend’s name is Louise, and she is Danish. She brought her daughter, whose name I still can’t understand or say. I believe it starts with an M.
I had finally secured Mia in the car on the way to the beach. I was locking the gate, aka front door, when, Pop! Off came the gate handle, with lock. Uh oh. I’d heard about the petty theft problems here.
I ran next door, leaving Mia with the driver. (We have to have a driver because Ed needs to get to the office every day and we want him to live.) Hey! I spotted John, our gardener, heading out, on his way home. Stop, John! Please! Can you fix this lock? I beg him. He could not, but with a few kicks and jiggles he tied our gate shut with a piece of green string he found on the ground and promised to watch the gate for a few hours. At least, I think that’s what he said…
We still headed to the beach where my new friend was sitting, surrounded easily by seven stray dogs, half of them pregnant. Apparently, the dogs live at this particular restaurant and casually growl at most patrons. How do they like small children that stick fingers in their eyes and say POKE! POKE! while doing it? I didn’t want to find out so I chased Mia during the entire dinner. My new friend chain smoked while laughing and chastising me, Why didn’t you bring your maid to chase your child? She asked. My maid? I waited for her to laugh. She didn’t.
After our attempted dinner, we went home and untied our lock. I put Mia to bed and sat down to rest. Knock knock. Who could be at the gate? It was my new best friend, Desiree, who lives next door. She is sixteen and comes over every day after school to hang out and chat me up. I don’t know why she does this, but she has been very helpful in explaining how things operate around here. I like her for it and feed her desserty things whenever she comes. She speaks perfect Indonesian, along with six other languages, she has told me in English, casually, in between boy talk. She is originally from Africa. Her parents both died, one from Hepatitis, the other from AIDS. Our neighbor adopted her and now she comes over to pop chocolates and talk about this one guy, I think he has a crush on me. I was feeling sad-happy for this adorable teenager as we chatted on my couch, when BAM, the power went out. The entire house was pitch black. I couldn’t see my hand as I waved it directly in front of my face. Oh boy.
Luck was with us because Desiree has cat-like sight. She ran to find John the gardener. I wouldn’t have been able to communicate with him at all since he knows not one word of English and sign language isn’t effective in the dark and my flashlights still haven’t arrived from the US. I couldn’t leave to find him myself since there was a sleeping child in the house. At least, I hoped she was sleeping and not wandering about…
Desiree communicated with John, John pulled a green string move and poof! The lights came back on. John left, again, and we settled back on the couch. I then looked to my right and there, next to the dining room table, sat a ginormous green frog. I have frog fear, and surprisingly, so does Desiree, which kicked my fear up a notch to full-blown panic. Are we in a part of the world where these things are poisonous? I’m too petrified to ask. Off she ran to grab John again, who came and caught said frog, even though at one point in the chase it hopped four feet off the ground, almost landing in my purse. (Sidebar- when I told Desiree’s mom this story she said, “Yes, that is why I always zip my purse shut.” I waited for her to laugh. She didn’t.) Mr. Green String saved us again.
I then heard thunder outside and thought, our power may blow again. How awkward is it to ask John, via a teenage translator, to spend the night with me? I cursed myself for forgetting, yet again, to buy a flashlight. Desiree had tired of me by this point (Teenagers are like this). She departed and I went to bed.
The next morning, I called Ed to relay the story of last night’s escapade when somehow (How? How?), I leaned over a bucket of water and dropped my phone into it. There went my only line of communication and all of my phone numbers. The driver took me directly to the cell phone store, which is a lot like a cell phone store in the US, except you could fry an egg on the floor because there is no AC. Sweat poured from my pores as I sat in the waiting room for two hours waiting for someone to help me. When they finally called my number, one of the forty employees blew on my phone for fifteen minutes until it dried, then replaced the chip. It worked! He charged me four dollars. I waited for him to laugh. He didn’t.
I went home. Once home, I noticed that the thousands of tiny tadpoles in my ponds had transformed into thousands of itty bitty teeny tiny baby black frogs, about the size of house flies. Frogs freak me out but these little guys are kind of cute, actually.
It is difficult to adjust to a new place, especially one so different from where we are from. Some moments are frustrating, but most of the time I walk around with a ridiculous grin on my face, because this experience, this has been the best thing we have ever done. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s different, and it’s exciting, and this feeling, let’s call it euphoria, is typical of how I feel during most moments of any one of our not-so-typical days.