I have a slight feeling of contentment as I sit here and type because I have just successfully repacked my – I’m embarrassed to say it - three bags that I brought with me to Indonesia. During my 6 weeks here I have accumulated a decent amount of books, papers and one or two items of clothing and knick-knacks but it all went in...just call me Mary Poppins! It never fails to surprise me how much stuff can be squeezed into a little pocket or a discovered nook of an already full looking suitcase!
But I only feel slightly content as I can’t quite believe I am leaving Bali. I was just starting to settle in here, add things I want to do to my list, and woosh, its time to go! It has me wondering, what will Flores be like? The answer is; I have absolutely no idea. This realisation incites an anxious feeling in my stomach, and on further contemplation, Ive put it down to the fact I haven’t given myself enough time to think that I am leaving. I don’t yet leave for another 4 days, its not on my radar, there are things to do, people to see before I worry about all that!
Tomorrow I move into a hotel for a 2.5 day workshop with my and the other volunteers partner organisations. I will go to the office tomorrow for a final training session in which they will explain to us the agenda, but as yet I have no idea what the workshop will be about or what it could be. I think its a big ask of partner organisations to take time out to do this for a volunteer, so I’m curious to see what I will make of it. But for now I must remember, open mind, open mind, open mind, so I have no expectations and am doing my best to keep scepticism at bay, this is new to me so I am looking forward to learning.
On another level, I’m anxious about it. It will be conducted in two languages (the only question I have asked about it) and I will have my first chance to talk in Indonesia with colleagues. I feel as though I don’t have the right words to do this so I am a little worried about how I will come across. My admiration for my ex French colleagues has grown again...I always was and will continue to be impressed by anyone able to work in two languages.
So, to put things in perspective, I turn my attention to the volcano. 150 people have died, many of them being people who have tried to return into the danger zone from safe areas, in order to feed their cattle or get their dogs. I wonder about the government, I wonder about education and I wonder about how it seems to vary hugely even upon Bali, so what are other islands like? I mean, we watched the coverage of the Obama visit last night, and Asih told me the Indonesian president didn’t mention the volcano once! Incidentally, it was the first thing Obama did, although it was a flimsy, “America will do all they can to support” type line, but still, its this guys country!
Java is the second biggest island but the most populated, with over 100 million residents. The volcano has mostly affected rural villages, but it has started to impact a big city, Jogjakarta. Lots of people here have family there and its a real worry. One friend has a friend who has ash on his roof, so that makes it feel very real. People here are doingn fund raising events, and one of our teachers is auctioning off a print of a photo he took at a refugee camp in 1982 in order to raise some funds for it. I’m still trying to learn how things are here, and I’m seeing positives and negatives just like home.
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I made a new friend in the last week, a man chest deep in water, down a 60cm x 40cm hole in the ground, which he dug with a spade, during a daily 9 hour shift. I was cycling down the road to school and saw some holes by the side of the road. After passing may be 4 of them, curiosity got the better of me so I stopped to chat with a guy who seemed to welcome the break and find my broken Bahasa Indonesia amusing.
He told me that they were putting in pipes for telecoms. I counted 30 of these holes, all along my street, and then next day, all but 2 were covered up and finished with. At home this would be done with diggers, and probably take a good week (? ), but here it was so quick, with minimal road interference. They all had little wooden hand painted signs saying “take care ....” propped up against them, but other than that, the traffic was flying by as normal.
Yesterday, I was cycling along another street, when I got a wave from a hole and there he was again! I stopped to say hi and shake his hand, and he even went to wipe his hand to shake mine. This is the thing, even though we couldn’t speak well to each other, and even though he was standing in a hole, and I was squatting on the sidewalk, he made the situation feel comfortable and fun, not awkward or self conscious. So, this is how I want my relations to be going forward, fun, respectful and honest. If a man in a hole can do it, so can a man at a desk, cant he?!
I guess all this culture talk and awareness raising makes me wonder, how do you get a balance between respecting different cultures, and the extremes of putting on a front or just not caring? It is a delicate act and one that is important for being accepted but one that is easy to get wrong. I guess I just have to go back to reminding myself, one day at a time Gemma.
Another thing this man made me think about was the poverty here. There are people here with very little. I’ve seen old men, like hitting 70, pulling carts along the street or walking to work with a shovel in their hand. I’ve seen big open top trucks loaded up with young men ready for a hard day of labour. There are some people who try to sell papers, or toys on the road at traffic lights, along with disabled people who have just a bucket for coins. And Bali is wealthy compared to Flores!
I said I have a couple of new tops, well they are vintage new! The only place I felt I could afford clothes from. I don’t understand why clothes are so expensive here, don’t they make clothes here? Apparently in Ende its even more expensive. So, how do locals with even less of no money then I have get clothes?! I’m planning on getting things sent from home, because even then despite postage it is cheaper. It really doesn’t make sense, and is something I would like to try to understand better.
Flores. Yip, its just around the corner now! I am looking forward to settling into my new place, buying Tupperware, plates, linen and so on just so I can create a place I will call home to settle into. It is a bit like being in limbo at the moment, but I’ve been so well looked after, it will be quite an adjustment to go back to being independent!
I want to give a big thanks to Asih, my host mother. I will miss the fun and chaos of the kids, and the nice morning chats with Asih. Im sure we will keep in touch for years to come and I am already looking forward to being able to welcome them in Scotland one day in return.
I tried to take some pictures of Bali life, so I hope you enjoy them.
Local workers in a rice paddy...it was really hot!
My friend in the hole, he is standing on a ledge which he jumped down from after I took the pick so his head was level with the ground.
Some kids in a warung (cafe).
A shop selling grass baskets which are used everywhere in Bali for so many different things.
This is a typical sweeping brush and pan. The handle is short, like not even waist height.
A Bakso man (soup with noodles and meatballs) ... the Bali equivalent of an ice-cream van, they walk up and down the streets looking for hungry punters. These guys are usually from Java.
Nope, its not a dodgy brewery, but instead a dodgy gas station! Loads of racks like these are dotted around for scooters to nip up, get the funnel and load up on gas. It is absolut vodka bottles on the top row...which Ive never seen in a bar!
Fish at the morning market, no ice and hot weather so you have to go early! They are really fresh and tasty if you do!
This is the Balinese flower - they smell gorgeous!
...and they dont look real. I hope we get them in Flores because they make me feel really happeeeee!
Sarah Dee, especially for you, I tried my best to get some pics of animals, because you are right, they are very much a part of Bali life too! The only thing is they are quite camera shy so it was tricky! And my only rule was no photos of sad animals in cages...so that ruled out the beautiful fruitbat and sad monkey I've seen at places my friends were staying.
A mother hen and some chicks, just strolling around the street. Ive seen ducks too.
A cute kitten, (but not the pic of the tinest kittens in the whole world...I will try to get the photo from Paul and show you)
A typical Balinese dog, pretty butch and scruffy but not rabid and viscious as I first feared.
Next post from Ende!!! xx