Bali : post-travel reflection

A year ago, our family embarked on this journey around the world… I would leave again right now if it were possible to have flexibility with school. Our family will need a new project to replace this void. For now, back-to-school is keeping us busy!

In the meantime, I have this reflection text about Bali and Indonesia. I’m publishing it here now.


After living in Thailand, I thought I was ready for Bali. You know, the paradise island of “Occupation Double” and other horrible reality shows.

And it’s true, and totally false at the same time.

How to explain without sounding like a tour guide. I’ll go with my experiences!

Arrive at the airport, the smell of incense is everywhere.

Denpasar Airport is a bit ugly; we exit into the public area and immediately get harassed by hundreds of vendors and taxi drivers who want to give us a lift.

I ignore most of them, except for a last one who seems friendly by making a driving gesture. I show him the “Grab” app with the price he gives me to get to our “Villa,” and he agrees. We find his car and go. There’s no taxi meter, but he is a taxi driver, sometimes.

We make a stop at the ATM to get money (quite a story too), there are several ATMs for each bank, and most don’t accept foreign cards.

We pay a bit more than expected; finding the address is strange, there are not really street names. We eventually find it!

Other random thoughts:

The day of silence, awesome. No noise in the city. No motorcycles, except in the late afternoon, many people cheat and go to the beach anyway, by boat, etc.

Fishermen; they roam with their boat and follow schools of fish, they throw their large net into the water and then make a U by landing from the boat and head towards the beach. They pull their net… it takes several minutes, it’s heavy, and they thus capture thousands of fish. They separate the big ones from the small ones; there seems to be a tactical agreement with the locals, anyone can come with a bag and take fish for themselves. No rules about the size of the fish or putting them back in the sea if they are too small. It’s a free market.

Plastic pollution, incredible. Everywhere. Everywhere. The beach is flooded with waste coming from the mountain and the countryside. Just get close to a river, and you see plastic bottles, clothes slipping every second. It’s heartbreaking.

The gardener, super friendly, cleans the beach by digging into the sand and burying the waste, out of sight.

People know “the world” but cannot visit it. The school principal of the village was our driver. It was his second job to be the official driver of the Villa. He has never traveled outside of Indonesia. He went to Java once when he was young (he had a girlfriend there, of a different religion, so it couldn’t work), he stayed for 2 days. In short, people are “stuck.”

A bag of Doritos chips (imported) costs as much as signing up for garbage services for 5 months, three times a week. A total of $5. People don’t sign up because it’s too expensive. So, more pollution.

Durian really smells like a garbage bin. I thought it wouldn’t taste that bad, but it’s terrible. Regulations are mostly for tourists; locals themselves don’t mind.

If you want to visit anything, there’s always a “guide” to accompany you.

Everything is negotiable; you have to negotiate everything you buy, take, etc. It’s part of the “game.” It feels strange to negotiate things for $1 or $2, but it’s normal.

I ran several times in the area, took less-used trails; I sincerely believe the country has an excellent future if it remains stable. All the children would say hello and were very curious to see a foreigner. “Hello!!! Hello!!!”

Speaking of getting lost in the paths, it seemed safe on a human level (Balinese people are not very violent), but it’s rather in terms of road safety that one should be careful. (And some bugs!)

Black ants, when they decide to enter the house, they enter!

Having local employees (maid, cook, gardener, security) is cheaper than a night in a motel in the West.

There are all kinds of rituals that are done almost all the time. Religion is interesting to see. Each village has several small temples and sites.

The school principal explained to me how his reverse mortgage worked with his teaching diploma that the bank keeps in exchange for a loan. Confusing.

I asked two different people: “Who is the current American President?”

“Justin Trudeau.”

No, it’s “Biden.”

And who was before Biden?

“Obama!!!!”

And both explained an anecdote about Obama to me.

Bali was a time of relaxation, but time is flexible, given that I had a lot of time, I worked a lot.

People don’t wear shoes; it’s too much trouble since it can often rain, and you can walk directly in puddles. It’s better to wear sandals and take them off/put them back on when entering the house. You shouldn’t walk with shoes in houses, as in most places in Asia.

Families of 4 on their motorcycles, but that’s nothing new compared to Thailand.

People work 6 days a week, school also 6 days a week.

Adults tell me that children have a better life now. They can play, which they couldn’t do when they were young. Both drivers told me how they quickly learned to resell things to get money when they were young.


Conclusion?

We are connected (everyone has a cell phone and is on Facebook).

But we are only artificially connected.

Conventions, rituals, physical space, communication, language, property, conventions, and customs are so different. Being destabilized was the thing I appreciated the most while traveling.

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