The People You Meet

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Let’s be honest, it hasn’t been easy to find the silver lining in every day during this pandemical circus. There are days when I despair as I look around Bali and see the changes; businesses closed, houses abandoned, families struggling to make ends meet. But the thing that gets me is the resilience of people here. They still smile and find time for laughs with friends and neighbours (socially distanced and masked of course). They still find ways to carry on and make the best of the situation. And one of these people is my friend Wayan.

I met Wayan while walking the streets feeding dogs. Wayan greets me every morning with a smile or a story and even better, sends me beautiful photos of her daughter with their rescue animals. Wayan’s English is perfect and chatting with her every morning has become a beautiful part of my daily life.

Wayan cleans the streets in Sanur. She is one of those amazing people in the green uniform who sweeps up the debris from storms and rubbish carelessly dumped. She works from 5.30am to 8.00am and occasionally longer if she needs to fill in for someone else. Then she goes home to make sure her kids are doing their online schooling, which is not always easy as her daughter Komang (9) is a passionate animal lover who enjoys being with her animals and her son Adit (16) is a talented fisherman and surfer….But Wayan is determined that they continue learning even though schools have been largely closed since the pandemic started.

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Wayan’s husband Ketut works night security but his salary has been reduced like so many. He finishes work around the time Wayan starts work and goes home to sleep. He then wakes at midday and goes fishing to catch their daily food, which they share with their rescue animals and friends.

They live in one room in an otherwise empty kos but they do have a garden in which they grow as much as they can to supplement the fish, including cassava, papaya, chilli and other herbs. This also means that their dog Bobo, two cats Cilli and Billi, the duck Duduk, and rescue squirrels Mercure and Moka, have space. I first encountered the squirrels snuggled in Komang’s pockets while she kept Wayan company as she cleaned the streets – the squirrels fell out of trees as babies as needed a new mama, Komang.

I asked Wayan how the pandemic has changed their lives. Wayan used to work at a large villa company and had a good salary and benefits, while Ketut was security and a boat driver. They lived in a different house, enjoyed going to ceremonies with family and friends, and felt positive about the future. All of that has changed.

The family now live on about $270 AUD per month, and considering their rent is $65 per month, that doesn’t leave a lot to spare.

When someone asks me what would make things better for me personally, I always say “I need to win lotto.” Fairly standard answer for many people I would think! I asked Wayan what would make life better for her and she replied that all she wants is to be able to pay Adit’s school fees because he is nearly finished high school and if she can’t pay the school fees, he doesn’t get the certificate to say he graduated. School fees including books and supplies are $17 per month, but add this to rent and food and living expenses…you can imagine their income doesn’t go far and school fees sometimes get left out.

The amazing thing for me about Wayan and her whole family, they laugh. Big smiles and laughter. Wayan always asks about the dogs I feed as she knows them also. Komang likes having her photo taken with her precious animal rescues, and Adit has the cheekiest smile I’ve ever seen! Despite how hard life must be, they find joy in something every day; and that perfectly sums up the resilience of this island.

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Written by The Travellist Team

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