Thanks for the love and the memories

One last post before I wrap up the Bali blog. Although this is the end of my Bali volunteering experience, my connection to Bali and with the people I met there is far from over.

When I moved to Indonesia 18 months ago, I knew not one single person. In the 18 months gone by, I have been lucky enough to meet the most incredible, interesting, passionate, amazing people from many different places. During my last week in Bali, I spent time reflecting on the people that have really made my time in Bali so special.

Firstly, my crew, or Team A as we liked to call ourselves, of Erin, Ben and Jane were such a fabulous group of people to spend a month with in Yogyakarta at language school. They kept me grounded and sane. And they liked to drink Bintang and climb volcanos.

Team A: Jane, Erin, me, Ben

Secondly, on my arrival to Bali, fellow volunteers Di and Gary befriended me and took me under their wing. Their advice and friendship has been invaluable. Di also worked at the hospital and she was always there when I needed an ’emergency coffee break’ and a debrief. Not only were they my neighbours but they are good friends and we shared many dinners and laughs. Very special people.

Di & Gary

After I moved in to my house, my landlords Brooks and Nelly, and their staff and family, and also the people living in my street also became like my own family. Their young daughter Esrell was such a joy and I will miss her two-year old voice yelling out “Aunty” from the balcony next door.

Me and Esrell

Neighbours: Bikas, Lasri and their daughter Yiska

Uun and Siti, my fantastic housekeepers

Asih, who worked for my landlords, in the house next door

Along the way I also met other volunteers but three in particular (Liz, Sharon and Dane) have been fantastic friends.  Many Friday nights were spent playing pool in our local bar. Sharon and I shared our love of politics every Monday night watching Q&A over a take-away meal. For the last 6 months, Dane was also my housemate and my regular tennis partner. Unfortunately, our last game ended 6-4 to Dane, so currently he is the reigning champion. All of these three have been so inspiring, but also so supportive and most importantly, a lot of fun.

Sharon, Dane, me and Liz - a weekend in Amed

Me and Dane at the Bali International Women's Tennis Championships

And through mutual friends I had the pleasure of meeting Arum and Komang (Bobby). They are a beautiful couple. Very creative, intelligent and passionate about politics and the future of Indonesia. Their modern and progressive views on a democratic, non-corrupt Indonesia and the environment, child welfare and eduction were inspiring. They extended their hospitality to me on many occasions and have been great friends.

Bobby and Arum

The day before I flew out, I arranged a lunch to farewell all the people (outside the hospital) who had made my time in Bali so special. It was a great afternoon by the pool. Beers, lunch, sun and good conversation. Indonesia has been the trip of a life time but it has been the people I have met along the way who have really made it memorable.

Lunch

Alex, Michelle and Dane poolside

Said, Ignasia, Bobby, Jane and Arum soaking it up

Michelle and Ross and the kids Alby and Georgia

The lovely Dennis and Deb

To all my friends in Indonesia, this is not goodbye, just see you later.

Thanks for the love and the memories.

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Gone Fishing

The girls wanted to do something, just us, before I left Bali. We tossed around a few ideas….natural hot springs, picnic, the beach maybe??…. in the end they decided on….fishing!

Maya, Koming, Widya and Nining at Kertalanggu Park

So last Sunday morning we all met at a local family park where you can relax amongst the rice paddies, enjoy lunch and hire a fishing rod and some bait for a spot of fishing in the man-made ponds which are filled with various kinds of local fish. It was lovely to just spend some time with my favourite friends from the hospital and their families outside the hospital environment on a beautiful sunny day.

Fishing is a popular past time in Indonesia. I have to confess it’s not one of my favourite things to do here as the rivers and ponds are always very dirty looking and the fish do not look that appetising. However, they love it, particularly the Dad’s, who hogged the fishing rods for most of the day. The kids got to have a go occasionally but it was a busy day around the ponds and there were only two fishing rods left to hire by the time we arrived. The girls didn’t get to fish! I’m sure if I had asked, they would have happily handed over a rod, but I was content to just watch and take photos.

Fishing for a coke bottle?

Cik (Koming’s husband) was the first to catch a fish, a variety that I have never seen before, but none-the-less, it was fried to within an inch of its skeleton for our lunch.

Got one! First catch of the day!

The unlucky fish

After a few hours of fishing and only two fish caught, us girls resigned ourselves to the fact we would have to order more food. Two fish were just not enough for 9 adults and 10 kids.

After a big lunch of chicken, rice, water spinach and sambal sauces, we sat around talking and laughing then went for a walk around the rice paddies. It was a nice chance to farewell my friends and their husbands and kids as well as spend some unrushed time with them all.

Widya, Maya, Koming, Dr Margi and me

I’m going to miss them, but they will always remain in my heart. They have been a large part of the beautiful life that I have had the privilege of experiencing here in Bali. I will miss their craziness. This is the last photo I took that day and I think it sums up my two friends Koming and Maya perfectly.

This isn’t goodbye, it’s just ‘see you all later’.

Koming and Maya and their kids

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Up Up and Away

The Bali Kite Festival is an annual event held just north of Sanur beach at Padang Galak. During the dry season the wind picks up and enables the Balinese to enjoy one of their favourite national hobbies. It also has religious meaning as the intention of flying the kites is to send a message to the Hindu Gods to ask for good crops and harvests.

The kites are all hand-made and are flown competitively by teams from many villages. There are hundreds of teams, each representing their village with a flag and a team logo.

There are three types of traditional kites flown. The Bebean (fish-shaped), Janggan (bird-shaped) and Pecukan (leaf-shaped) giant kites. They are about 4 metres wide and 10 metres long and it takes about a team of 10 adults to fly them and they are transported to Padang Galak on the back of a truck.

Team Batubulan competing

The traditional Janggan kite has a large wide flowing cloth tail that can be up to 100 metres long. Red, black and white are the traditional colours used during the competition. There are many heats, followed by finals. Each team is judged on the best launch, best landing and the longest flying time. The Janggan kite has a head made out of a dragon or a bird. The kites have rubber strings attached to them (a hummer) which vibrate and make a loud noise during flight. The louder the better for the competitions.

Traditional Janggan kites

The Bebean kites are fish-shaped and quite unstable in the air. As a spectator it’s quite dangerous to be underneath in the competition zone, as they can come crashing down quite quickly. When flown well, they look beautiful, as they always move right-left-right as if they are swimming.

The launching of the Bebean kites is a crazy, chaotic, dangerous sight to behold. The kites launch very quickly and teams run in all directions to try and keep their kites airborne. Only older men and young boys are involved in kite flying. I’ve never seen a girl flying a kite here in Bali.

Hard work

A Janggan kite comes in for landing

Young boys watching their kite perform

The crowd was huge and the field, adjacent to the beach, very dry and dusty. There was probably around 6-10 thousand people there, I’m guessing. The size of these kites is only limited by the size of Bali’s roads. I’m sure if the roads were bigger here, these kites would undoubtedly be double the size. It’s truly a spectacle to see.

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Friendship

In 18 months I’ve become life long friends with three very special people in the hospital – Koming, Maya and Dr Margi.

Koming has the best sense of humour but is also a beautiful, kind,sensitive person. She’s also been one of the most enthusiastic radiographers here. She makes me laugh so much and can be very mischievous.

Me and Koming

Koming in Sumatra when we went on conference

Maya is super friendly, very smart and a hard working woman. She always has a smile and is also very enthusiastic. Koming and Maya grew up together, from the same village, so they are always laughing together. To be around them is always fun. They like to tease me a lot.

Me and Maya

Maya and baby "Madness"

Dr Margi is such a gorgeous person.  She has always included me in her family life and she has the biggest heart. She is very kind and extremely caring towards the patients and her staff and she has given me so much support over the past 18 months.

Me and Dr Margi

Dr Margi

Since I met Pipa, I’ve wanted to tell them all my happy news and share more of my life with them. In the past, I’d felt a little afraid about doing so. I wasn’t sure how they would react and what they would say, as our cultures are so completely different. It’s a sad truth that many Indonesians hide their sexuality for fear of community abandonment and parental disapproval. For so long, I had been putting off having this discussion with them.

Every time they would joke with me about finding me a nice Balinese man to marry so I could stay in Bali forever, I felt so bad inside about not being able to tell them the truth.

Last week, as I walked past the cafeteria, so too did Maya and Koming. They asked me to join them for a drink and as we ordered our coffees I summoned the courage to tell them my news. Firstly, I told them I was leaving a few weeks early. They were a little shocked and asked “Why?” and when I said that I had fallen in love they were both ecstatically excited and, of course, asking me lots of questions. I said I was not going back to Australia yet, but to Portugal and that I had fallen in love with….. a girl.

Their reaction was incredible and reduced me to tears. They were so sweet. They were so happy for me and for Pipa too. And it was out of genuine care and true friendship. My tears brought about tears of their own. They said that all they cared about was my happiness. I told them I had been a little afraid to tell them my news, due to our different religions and cultures, but they just shook their heads and said defiantly “We are modern Balinese women Angela. We know about these things, and it doesn’t matter to us.” I don’t think I could have loved them any more on that day.

Dr Margi and I were enjoying a delicious Balinese lunch in her home when I decided to tell her about Pipa. She reached across the table, and placed her hand on top of mine and said “I’m so happy for you Angie. You are such a special person and you deserve to be very happy. All I care about is your happiness. Good things happen to good people.” Again, super sensitive me, could not hold back the tears. We talked over lunch, through the tears, about all the things we had done together over the past 18 months and how we would always be friends.

Friendship surpasses race, religion, age, sexuality, gender, class and culture. It  doesn’t depend on our financial situation, our material possessions or our life circumstances. It’s part of our humanity.

I love them and I will miss them.

Me and Dr Margi at Christmas

My birthday lunch

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Happiness

As my time draws closer to the end here in Bali, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I always knew that this trip would change my life. I knew I was going to have challenges, new experiences, new cultures, new language and a lot of surprises. I knew I would learn a lot, mostly about myself.

Bali has certainly been the experience of a lifetime. The decision to get out of the basement and in to the sunshine has brought about only positivity and happiness. Six months ago I was contemplating going back to the basement but instead decided to extend my time here. The decision to stay longer has been the best decision of my life. When I resigned from the hospital in Melbourne, I had no idea what the next six months would bring, but I knew it was going to be amazing. Several job applications in Fiji, East Timor and India and several knock backs later, I found myself wondering what I was going to do next.

Then I met Filipa who noticed my message on a travel forum about Bali. She was due to arrive in two months time, from Portugal. Over those two months we wrote many emails and talked a lot on Skype and connected in a beautiful way. I was instantly hooked on her words, her honesty, her humour and her kindness. She’s beautiful inside and out.

She’s been gone 13 days now. We just spent the most incredible month together here in Bali. For those of you wondering why my blogging stopped, now you know. I always thought Bali would be an amazing place to fall in love. And we did.

Life is a funny beautiful thing.

I’m leaving for Lisbon in just over 4 weeks. I’ll be very sad to leave my beautiful island home and the friends I’ve made but I am incredibly excited about the future with Pipa, wherever that may lead us.

It’s a fairytale ending to the most amazing 18 months in Indonesia. This is the life I’ve been waiting for, the one from my dreams.

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Bali Going from Green to Grey

The beautiful little island of Bali receives over 2 million foreign visitors each year. The island is only 150km wide and about 110km long. It has a population of about 4 million people. It can definitely get crowded here and the traffic can be hell. But there are a lot of ecological and environmental problems that need urgently addressing if Bali is to remain a popular destination for tourists. Already the cracks are beginning to show. Kuta beach was closed a few months ago due to high levels of bacterial pollution due to waste being discharged in to the ocean. Reports say that the sea was a dark brown colour. People were emerging from the sea with skin rashes and the beach was closed for nearly a week due to health concerns.

Photos from a news report a few months ago

After the beach was officially closed, they carted away three huge truck loads of rubbish within a day just from Kuta Beach. A write up in a recent Time magazine quoted Bali as ‘holiday hell’. Hopefully high profile articles such as these will give the officials enough stress to start pulling their finger out. I must confess in 15 months, I have swum in the sea only once (not including trips to less populated places like Amed, Nusa Lembongan, the Bukit Peninsula and Pemuteran where the water is much cleaner). I’m afraid to say the main beaches of Sanur, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are not appealing.

A friend is involved in an organisation here called Bali Cantik Tanpa Plastik (Beautiful Bali Without Plastic or Plastic-free Bali) and they have been working since 2007. I think their job is as huge as the piles of plastic I see on a daily basis. Their aim is to prevent waste and reduce the use of plastic through public campaigns and education. Unfortunately, tourism is a big contributor to the 600 tons of plastic waste produced on the island everyday. No-one can drink water from the tap here, so everyone buys bottled water and that equates to a lot of discarded plastic.

Near to my house is a plastic depository centre. I’m not sure what happens to it from here, but I drive past it every day and I’m confronted by the enormity of it all. I presume it’s a recycling centre and I’m happy to see it here in large bags rather than in the sea and waterways… but…..

Plastic depository

It feels a little strange to be talking about Bali in a negative way, as I do love this place, but this is such a big issue and can not be ignored. There is little or no enforcement of laws which prohibit the illegal dumping of waste. Waterways are a continual dumping ground for waste as there is minimal infrastructure here for local communities to dispose of their waste correctly, or they simply cannot afford to, so they illegally dump it somewhere, anywhere.

Latest reports from an environmental blog trying to highlight the issues, quotes figures of 20,000 cubic metres of trash daily in Bali and 75% of that figure is dumped illegally on the roadsides and waterways. Public awareness is very low and attitudes to the environment have to change….and they must change soon otherwise Bali will gradually start to lose its charm.

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Bridging cultural differences with beer

I saw in a radiology magazine that an Australian company was coming to Bali to run a workshop on acute CT scanning and interpretation. I wrote to them and asked them if they would give us two free places on the course, and also let me tag along too, to help them. They generously agreed. The course was run over five days, for two hours every afternoon. Putu and Made, who work with the new CT scanner were chosen to go. I went along to make sure they turned up and also to help translate if needed and reduce their stress and shyness.

The course had about a dozen Australians in it, mainly junior doctors, who wanted to learn more about CT scan interpretation. It covered everything from anatomy, CT technique, pathology and diagnosis. It was slightly high level for us radiographers, but nonetheless, the guys enjoyed it a lot. It was held in a hotel in Nusa Dua. I was starting to lose steam by the 3rd day, with all the driving and concentrating, but Putu and Made just got more and more enthusiastic as the week went on.

Made & Putu at the CT workshop

It was a normal Australian-style workshop. The presenting Radiologist was very relaxed and informal. The first hour was theory and the second hour was interactive using laptops to interpret CT images. The combination of theory and interactive technology was a first for Putu and Made. They were impressed and loved using the laptops.

It was interesting to see things through their eyes. They commented on how all the people at the workshop wore shorts and t-shirts (some even came straight from the pool, hair still wet). Everyone called the Radiologist, Drew, by his first name, which they couldn’t quite get used to. They couldn’t quite do it, so they called him Dr Drew. One doctor participant sat with her legs up on the chair. They laughed at this. They didn’t understand all the colloquial language and all the Australian jokes. The hardest thing for them was when I made them turn their mobile phones to silent. In Indonesia, people will talk loudly on their mobile phone while someone is speaking, or answer it during a meeting. I explained to them that this wasn’t appropriate in the workshop. I think it nearly killed them. There was a lot of silent texting going on though.

On the last day, still with 30 minutes to go, Drew organised beers for everyone. So everyone sat around working on their laptops drinking beer. Made and Putu were amazed and asked if this was normal in Australia. I had to say that it was not really normal and was only because everyone was in Bali holiday mode.

Putu enjoying his Bintang at the workshop

This is the way to do a workshop in Bali

At times it was quite difficult theory, for all of us, but I was so proud of them. They stayed focused and interested. I was really impressed with the pathology they picked up. Both of them were very appreciative of the opportunity and the experience and i think learnt a lot.

It was also great for me to be able to spend some extra time, outside work, with them. They are both lovely guys, who both have young families. We laughed a lot but we also learnt together.

The end of a great week at the workshop

At the end of the workshop, they took me out for a simple Balinese dinner and a beer on the beach in Nusa Dua. We ordered tipat cantok as I had never tried it before. The rice is compressed, so it’s almost like eating potato, then on top are peanuts, bean sprouts and heaps of chilli peanut sauce. It was really delicious but hot! And they ordered a mild one for me. Our celebratory beer went down a treat!

Made

Putu

Beach side food stalls

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