Sonja Elsegood is a teacher at the Indonesia Australia Language Foundation (IALF) in Denpasar, and has been living in Bali for four years with two of her four children, 14-year-old Bodhi and 9-year-old Jaya, in Sanur. The 50-year-old recently married Balinese native I Wayan Sadya. She shared her day with The Bali Times’ Arga Sagitarini.

I am a religious person. Before going to work, I make time to pray before the Buddha statue in my house, asking for his guidance for the day. I believe I work better by focusing my mind on spiritual thoughts, instead of just on money. Sometimes, though, I’m in a rush in the morning, and so I pray in the afternoon, after coming home from work.

I have four children from a previous marriage. Two are grown up and living in Australia. The other two, Bodhi and Jaya, are here so they can learn to speak a language other than English. I named them Bodhi and Jaya because of my Buddhist beliefs.

By 7:30am, I’m at my office on Jl. Sesetan in Denpasar, after a 30-minute drive from my house in Sanur. My work is all about teaching. When I don’t have classes to teach, I’m studying. The work keeps me so occupied that sometimes I don’t even have time to do other things. But even so, I enjoy what I do, especially teaching cross-culture to my students, in which I introduce them to Western culture, so they can learn to understand and adapt themselves nicely to it. In exchange, I also learn many things about their culture. It’s good knowledge and I feel lucky to have this opportunity.

Besides teaching about cross-culture, I also teach the English language to local people. My schedule is flexible, and if another teacher doesn’t turn up I’ll cover their classes for them; it’s not a problem for me. IALF Is a very professional institution and the students are enthusiastic about learning.

After being in Bali for a while, I now understand some differences between the West and East. The main difference that I see is in greeting someone: in the West, the greeting is by asking someone’s opinion about things around them, let’s say a painting, and in the East the greeting is a personal question – your name, where you are from, if you are married and have children. Some Westerners don’t feel comfortable about this.

Australian is not my original nationality. I’m Dutch by birth, and became Australian after my marriage to my first husband. In Australia I was working part time teaching Bahasa Indonesia in school. At other time I was busy taking care of the family, so I didn’t have enough time for trips or holidays. Before and after the divorce I had visited Bali, and after divorcing I started to think of working here. Then I had a chance to teach at IALF and moved here.

Because now I am working full time, I have less time to cook. So I hire someone to do the cooking and cleaning at the house. Strangely enough, this makes me an alien in my own kitchen. It feels like it’s not mine but my helper’s territory. This is very different compared to when I was in Australia, where I was always in the kitchen. I’m vegetarian, and so is my husband. I’ve been accustomed to fruits and vegetables for some time, and when I eat bread, somehow I don’t feel good. Right now I feel my lifestyle is much healthier.

I work eight hours at the school and get home at 4:30pm. I always work out at the gym, usually between 7 and 7:30pm. Afterwards I have dinner with the family, sharing our stories of the day. I go to bed early, at 9 or 10, because I’ll be busy the next day. Before going to bed, I read the children bedtime stories until they’re asleep, and as I have husband now, I spend some time talking with him.

It’s a bit strange being with someone after being alone for so long, but I’m happy to have someone to share my life with now. Wayan has given me a Balinese name, and he treats me like a Balinese girl. Nyoman Kertiasih is my Bali name, and although I don’t use it formally, I tell everyone that’s my name. I am the third child in my family and in Bali’s tradition the third child is named Nyoman or Komang.

I like being in Bali. For me, Bali is the center of spiritual things and has a very old religion as well as tradition. There are more things that I want to learn about religion, because I want to have a peaceful mind and be a better person before I die. Everybody has a good and bad side; I want to neutralize my bad side and be able to control it.

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