I started blogging about life in Bali when I first came up here for work. I’ve moved a bit but always within Australia. Moving to another country is not easy, but it doesn’t need to be really hard either. Lots of people have moved to Bali before you and even if they don’t realise it, they all have some information that could help. And when you don’t necessarily speak the language or understand the rules, finding someone you know to help is priceless. And from my own experience, I spent hours on Bali blogs reading everything I could. My advice, if you expect things to go a little haywire, you will be fine. Let’s face it, you could move two streets away and still unpack boxes to find broken plates. And from personal experience, always good to double check the lid on your shampoo before you pack it in a suitcase with your clothes…
If I’m honest, mostly when things weren’t easy, it was because of me. Things I just didn’t understand. Like getting electricity to my house. I love my house. It’s peaceful and quiet – my little slice of heaven in the rice fields. That’s the view from my office window.
So I unpacked bags, moved furniture, shuffled things around to ‘make it mine’ and then thought “how do I start an account for electricity?”. So I rang PLN, Bali’s electricity provider, and said ” Hi, I need to open an account.” ” For what?” ” Electricity.” “No you don’t, you have power.” ” How do you know that?” ” Because you do.” ” Ok, well where do I pay my account?” ” At the little shop.” “But how will they know it’s for my house?” ” Give them your code.” Then my phone ran out of pulsa (credit) before I could ask where my code was. So off to a little shop I went, to buy more phone credit, never noticing a sign that said ‘Listrik’, let alone wondering what it meant.
Back to the house to make another call. I won’t go into details but essentially it involved the incredibly patient Balinese chap talking me through where the meter box is, where to find my house code, and what to ask for at the little shop…with the ‘Listrik’ sign, Listrik meaning electricity in Bahasa. It’s actually a very smart system. No accounts, just a code you type into your meter box. Simple.
I was telling The American how much of a rookie I was when I first moved here and he said you always will be. And he’s right. I think I could live here for the next 20 years and still learn something new weekly…daily sometimes. The thing to realise is that we’ve been given an incredible honour to live here and we need to respect it. And that includes taking on a more relaxed approach to things and enjoying the bits of Bali you weren’t expecting.
My house is set in rice fields and my neighbours all have chickens and roosters and one neighbour has hundreds of ducks and geese.
The yin and yang of this means I sometimes get the freshest eggs from the man across the street but I also have roosters having a party at all hours day and night. It took me a while but now I don’t even hear them. But if a plane flies overhead, I’d like to know who’s invading my airspace and quiet! When I lived in Sydney I got used to road and air traffic. Now I’m used to roosters. Acclimatising isn’t just about the weather.
Pembantu literally means help person and lots of people here have a pembantu. I’m one of them. My confession is that I wasn’t sure how I felt about having a house-keeper. After all it is usually just me and the dogs, with The American every fortnight and occasionally guests. And I like cleaning. So I just wasn’t sure I wanted a pembantu, even though her work came with the house. I’m hearing all my friends with kids saying ‘are you insane?!’ Two things changed how I felt about a pembantu. The American pointed out if I told her not to work at the house anymore, a family was without an income. That stopped me dead in my tracks. Then I got to know Wayan. On a work front, she is fabulous. She makes my life travelling between Bali and Lembongan and Perth possible, because she takes care of everything. Wayan is also fastidious about cleaning. Some days things in the kitchen are so beautifully lined up and arranged, I go out for dinner because I feel bad disturbing the plates.
On a personal front, Wayan has become my family here. I look forward to the days she is here so we can chat about what we’ve been doing. We joke together, although more often than not it’s us laughing at my use of the wrong words in Bahasa. I missed her when The American and I went to the US and when I got back, she cuddled the dogs and gave me a hug and then growled at me for going away for so long! Wayan stays at my house with her husband when I’m away. She spoils my dogs and I suspect they spend a lot of time curled up on the couch with her watching her favourite shows on TV. And Wayan makes sure my house is blessed and that I never miss out on the important ceremonies.
Just last week it was the ceremony where they bless metal. I was in Lembongan at the time but Wayan ensured my bicycle and Betty, The American’s motorbike, were blessed and appropriately covered in the floral offerings. I like that our modes of transport have the gods watching over them. I also happen to like how they both look covered in pretty flowers.