One Day – Wayan Werda

Wayan Werda
The six-monthly, days-long Galungan festival, which falls on November 29 and 30 and trumps good over evil, in Bali, where homes are decked out with towering, colorful bamboo poles known as penjor, are Wayan Werda’s favorite times of the year – not only as he’s one of the island’s majority Hindu faithful, but because it’s a time when he makes his money, as orders flow in and he sets about making the elaborate offerings-bearing structures. The 48-year-old father of two shared his day with The Bali Times’ Indra Prayogi

Compared to some people, my day starts extremely early, at 5am or even before. I’ll wake and ask myself why I can’t sleep any longer than this, even though I often go to bed late at night, sometimes around midnight. But there’s nothing I can do about it; I suppose I’m just programmed this way, and I’ve gotten used to it.
So with both eyes fully open, I start my day with gentle exercises. At my age you have to keep nimble or you have trouble with your back – even walking of stretching is good. After that I’ll go to a warung (foodstall) and have coffee and godoh (fried banana) and chat with the people there
When I get back home, my staff are waking up – they live at my house, and I also provide their meals – and making coffee to get themselves started. There are some students who also help make the penjor, when they’ve finished school, and they get some money for it.
I’m grateful that my parents taught me how to make penjor. When I was young they used to ask me to make things like canang (offerings), which is a girl’s job really, not a boy’s; but nonetheless, they said I had to learn how to do it, and I did. My mother said, “It will come in useful some day,” and it has. My parents were right.
When I finished high school, I got a job as a teller at a local bank in Denpasar; but in 1992 it went bankrupt and I had to find another job, and I worked at casually various villas and hotels for a while, doing maintenance, and making penjor. And then in 1998, the Asian financial crisis struck and the price of the maintenance materials rose and I stopped the villa and hotel work and focused solely on penjor. A friend asked me to make some for a trade exhibition in Denpasar, and after that the business started to take off as more people got to know me.
My wife and I have two children: Wayan, who’s 24 and working as a waiter at a hotel in Kuta, and our daughter Kadek Meliani – she’s 19 and has just graduated in one of college in Denpasar and is helping out with the business. I feel lucky that I have children that respect their parents. In Bali, if you have a son and daughter, your life is perfect; you don’t need anything else. You just have to make sure they have the right education.
Penjor is a long, tapered bamboo pole that’s placed in front of houses and complete with coconut leaves as decoration. They measure three until 10 meters, sometimes more. In Balinese Hinduism, it’s a symbol of the dominance of the good spirit (Dharma) over the bad spirit (A Dharma) and also thanks God for providing rice and fruit so we can survive. During Bali’s biggest ceremony, Galungan, you’ll see lots of penjor on the streets and all the areas look beautiful. These days, penjor is not just used for our religion, though – they’re also used for weddings, hotels and artistic performances. The price varies, from Rp300,000 (US$32.69) to Rp2.5 million, depending on how big and complete they are. We can make up to six a day; if one is really big, it can take three days to finish.
There’s no fixed time for lunch, sometimes midday, other times 3pm, if there’s lots to do. I eat anything, including pork, and I have to have rice. I’ve had Western food, but my palate is not used to it so I don’t like it that much. Right now there are so many orders for penjor that’s there’s barely any time to stop and eat.
In the afternoons I take a rented van and make deliveries, but only in the Kuta area. Outside of there, customers have to pick up themselves. I buy the bamboo in northern Bali, as the quality is better and it doesn’t break so easily and lasts longer. I don’t want to disappoint my customers. I used to use coconut leaves but I’ve changed to palm leaves; coconut leaves only last five days, while palm lasts three months without fading.
At evening time I tell my staff to rest and we have dinner together. It’s nice that we all get on well and are close, and there’s no bad feelings. We like to sit around and chat and joke around. Later, I like to relax by watching television, but lately there’s been so much to do that there’s been no time. I’ve had to stop taking orders two weeks up to Galungan – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to finish on time. It’s not unusual now to see me working until midnight.
My life is good – there’s no pressure – and each night before I fall asleep, I thank God for giving me a way to live.

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