We have been living in Nyuh Kuning, Ubud for three weeks now and it’s starting to feel like home. Having a place where heart is, is an essential feeling to get over constant exhaustion we were suffering for our first month here. But not only that, we have to add all the previous stress closing a house, selling a business, trying to put our lives in 30kg suitcases, finding proper insurance, selling our car, motorcycle, booking flights, finding hotels… Its all really been adding up in the past 9 moths prior to settling here.
Since we finally found our long term house, Villa Jade, we have been doing tons of work in it to make it feel like at home. Those who know me, know how much of a perfectionist I am and can feel restless until I feel my environment at ease. We have gone to Selawesi in Denpasar to get fabric to make cushions, have gone on the 15 lamp hunt in Tegalalang, have been fighting three days in a row with electricians to hang them in the correct spot and height, have been buying kitchen supplies, bed covers, colorful pillows for the kids room and grocery shopping to fill up the heart of a home. Because a house is not necessarily a home, even though this house is pretty perfect itself.
We have also been moving furniture around to make it more ergonomic meeting up our necessities. But besides all described above, the home logistics also include an emotional part, like trying to understand why we don’t have any beautiful frangipani flowers in the top of our frangipani trees (the gardener picks them up daily to put in his offerings), where do we have to go to take our laundry to be washed, where do we get the extra 5L water bottle for the dispenser, how do we recharge our electricity credit “pulsa” (yes, here you run out of electricity and it means you ran out of credit and must go and buy more), where are the switches for certain garden lamps, why the hot water doesn’t work in the shower (because the installation is reversed)… We must have to accept the fact that these little daily inconveniences are part of the transition. Part of moving, part of the fun complications that an adventurer hast to deal with. The people we talk to and try to let off the steam, just answer with a smile saying: “Welcome to Bali”.
To solve all these matters and more, you can imagine how much of Google Translator we have been using (not even to trying to read out loud, but letting them read it themselves in Bahasa Indonesia). We try to ask questions to the handiest people we find, who is our staff, who also suddenly appear with no advice in your open home and thank god seem to know everything about our home. It’s a relief, yes, but it’s obviously some other thing we have to get used to: our home is everybody else’s too. As you might not know, expats can’t ever own a home here in Indonesia. The land is always owned by and Indonesian family, and you can have a lease on it for 20-30-40 years. So knowing that it will never really be yours, now you can understand the feeling we have in our keyless open home. The locals take great care of it because it is also theirs. All the people that are hired to work here like the “pembantu” (help with the home), the gardener and the pool man all come from our neighborhood in Nyuh Kuning. They come and go silently, do their thing, like pick up some fallen dry leaves from the garden, clean the pool or sweep the floor. Always on the days there is no ceremony, because if it happens to be one of those days, they simply don’t come since the compromise with the divine is always a bigger force, and we completely respect and admire those beliefs.
Also, since we got here our fourteen Japanese colored koi fish in our pond have been slowly dying, so we have been finding dead bodies floating in the water covered with a dozen of anxious tadpoles devouring it. The pool man, Wenda, offered me once to eat one for dinner bringing the dead body close to his mouth and offering me fish with his hands I think didn’t quite get lost in transaltion.
So adjusting to the living logistics here without being able to communicate properly can be a bit frustrating sometimes, but we understand that they are part of the experience and the growth. So even though I was going to do it anyway, I am eager now to start our Bahasa Indonesia lessons staring hopefully next week. Bahasa is a relatively easy language to learn, since for example the are no verbal tense a the plural of ibu (mother) is ibu ibu.
School has started and has been a positive experience for all of us. Green School is even better than we expected. It’s really much more than a school. Kids are disappointed that today is Independence day and there is no school. They tease each other by getting punished an not going to school the next day. They love it there! The first few days they were disoriented, and realized that the move was official when they didn’t see their familiar faces in the academic scenario, but after a few days, they started telling me stories about the classmates, the science class, the gong that brings everybody back to class after patio, the minute of silence everyday at 2pm…
Academically it’s not a closed rigid schedule, which is something that I love because it’s free and sort of goes with the flow. Simón has a group of three main teachers for 18 kids, being led by Finnish Pak Jukka who did a demonstration of his Air Guitar skills on the Friday Assembly, gaining our hearts and maximum admiration since he suffers from severe Parkinson’s. In science class, he actually touched animal skulls and bats in formaldehyde. León is happy with his beautiful class right with Pak Breet (who is always playing the guitar to welcome the kids in the morning) next to the huge crystal healing rock, the piled colored pneumatics playground and the bamboo made pirate boat. He was explaining me all about the lemongrass he has planted in the garden and brought home a book about bats from the Library, so I think he is feeling the urge to know more about Nature here.
But us parents are not being forgotten. We have been offered Orientation day, a farmer’s market every other Friday at school, in situ, visits to the town where Green School is, understanding what recycling Kembali (“come back”) does to the local community, we have had a special and very helpful event for new parents to understand how we were feeling here these first days. How our feeling exhausted and frustrated is obviously expected, how we would live emotional ups and downs (I cried already twice for almost no reason) and the most scary part: how Bali was eventually going to up a mirror in front of us and how he couldn’t escape from facing ourselves. Besides all the beauty, harmony and excitement this experience is providing us, we will not escape from pain and growth. I think that is what the passionate community of parents have in common. We all left our comfort zone, with all the good and the bad to it, but always for the quench of becoming the best version of ourselves. And also with a strong believe in having our kids live in a better world and get the best education possible. But we are all here looking for a job, trying to be part of the community, opening up, sharing our home stories, opening our hearts, showing our vulnerabilities cause you know we have all gone through quite a lot to be here…
But at the end of the day, when we are finally in bed with some time for ourselves to think or writte, we feel very proud of having made such a good decision of moving here. It just feels right even though it’s scary and overwhelming. The only thought that comes often to my mind is: How are ever going to put our kids back to a “normal” school? But then again, who are we kidding, we came for the kids, or did we really come for us?
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