Bali: Local Peculiarities

One thing I am crazy about when traveling on my own is to ask people various questions. It is fantastic, you just need to ask and you get all answers and all different perspectives.

In Bali there is basically no public transport, the only way to move between places is to arrange with some local people to drive you here and there. For many households, this is indeed the main source of income. You just find some number from somewhere, call someone, give some vague directions and voila - you have a personal driver in minutes. In the beginning it is a little intimidating, I wonder if they are cheating me with the money, if they will kidnap me and I will never come back, if we will understand each other at all, but by day 2 only I am already experienced, having a few numbers "from somewhere" and skillfully arranging tariffs and prices. I even arrange some trips for some strangers in Serenity and I am having a lot of fun. 

I meet Johan at the airport, he picks me up and we quickly become friends as I bombard him with questions and by the time I am in Serenity I know his whole family history, plus his perspectives on the history of Bali. He is telling me how much he is in love with Bali and how he travelled places but "his soul can only be happy in Bali" and he is pointing at the banana and coconut trees, at the rice fields by the narrow road. Just as we are passing through the very narrow road, he is dying laughing telling me how every week some car falls from the road in the rice field and then the whole village comes to witness the men pulling it out from the mud (I almost get kind of excited by the thought that we could flip any minute and I will have to pull the bloody car from the mud after 24 hours of flying). But we are lucky today not to meet other cars so we make it successfully through the rice field.

Johan on the left :)
I meet Johan for a few other trips and I collect a whole encyclopedia on the colonization of Bali by the Dutch. He is being very positive about it looking from the perspective that the Dutch brought a lot about the infrastructure on the island and that they always invested a lot in education, wanting the population to be literate and able to contribute to the development of the island themselves. To be honest, I find it peculiar, but he is very sincere in his words. He is simply looking from the perspective that "it could have been much worse", which is the right attitude I guess.

He is telling me that women in Bali, though, have a horrible life. Due to inherent traditions the woman is considered inferior and I get few more proofs of that later. For example, there is this new trend in Bali that only young women work at gas stations, they are wearing extremely revealing clothes, very short skirts and deep neck lines - all that for the purpose of attracting customers. Therefore, the gas station with the sexiest staff gets the most clients, which I find particularly heart-breaking. Also, I learn from my host in Ubud that it is a great sadness when a girl is born in the family, because it is considered a "loss of resources" since the parents will be feeding her and when she gets married, she will leave them. Therefore, they try to marry her as early as possible not to waste on covering for her expenses. On the other hand, it is the tradition that the boy stays in the parents' house to take care of them. I saw no homeless people whatsoever in Bali and I guess that has to do with these deep family traditions. 

For that reason, the houses in Bali are built to serve the purpose of the whole family - each household owns a few buildings with a yard so that the young family, parents and grand parents can all live under the same roof and the young can take care of the old. Nowadays, many of these houses are a major airbnb resource, is telling me my host, as I am myself staying in one such huge family house. There are fountains, a lot of flowers, trees, bushes, a little temple, there is even a separate building where funerals are held, another for weddings and even a special place where...they take out their teeth (at home!) when they go bad, which they then make as an offering to their Hindu Gods.

Balinese people are great believers in spirits and have numerous rituals for calling the spirits to "penetrate" them. One of the most honorable rituals in local villages is, in the presence of a shaman, to make a young man go into trans through special singing and dancing, and get inhabited by the spirit of a wild pig - it is considered a symbol of great power and greatness of the mind - basically to subdue to the nature.

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