Aussie Connections, and Single Expat Mothers

By Mark Ulyseas

For The Bali Times

What’s with Ubud? It draws the highest number of artists, writers and migratory culture vultures, many whom are pretenders to the arts. I meet a few of them at my favorite watering hole, slumped over a drink and often waxing eloquent about matters that have no relevance to the world of sanity. However, on this day when it is raining, small rivulets forming and racing downhill to Campuhan bridge, the knights of the square table actually utter words of wisdom with regard to matters of Oz: how the media there seems to be in a perpetual state of Bali bashing.

Example: a week or so ago they splashed the news about the death of a woman due to bird flu in Bali as if it was the plague. One inebriated, overflowing amphora suggested we run commercials depicting the entire population of Bali eating chicken with the slogan “One Flu over Oz.” As the surrealist painter Will says, “Australian Press? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” But on a more charitable note, it’s a great country. Seriously, I think there appears to be two sides to Australia: Its beautiful people, many whom are my friends, and the hysterical press. As Niki from Sydney says, “It’s the run-up to the elections; that’s why they do these funny things.”

I suggest we invite them to spend a few weeks traversing the island to meet other Aussies who have made Bali their home, ply them with arak and satay smothered in peanut sauce, culminating in sunset drinks at Ku De Ta and a midnight run on the bars in Kuta. Maybe after this delightful sojourn, they will view Bali like all other Aussies and make peace with The Morning of the Earth. This is what Jawaharlal Nehru called Bali. In fact, on August 15, Janet De Neefe of The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival said this when she called to wish me well on the 60th Independence of my country. It took an Aussie to remind me of my country’s umbilical-cord connection with Bali.

Speaking about cross-culture fertilization, what better example than this paradise? Bali probably has the largest concentration of expats from so many countries than any other island on the planet, with Ibiza coming a distant second. Quite a few expats shuttle between Ibiza and Bali. You can meet these lotus eaters in Ubud on any night at some of the popular eateries, or more likely at my watering hole. In the words of Graham, “Ibiza has body but Bali gives me soul.”

And while on the subject of globetrotting, I have been told that there are Balinese children who have not visited many parts of their island. Those in Ubud have never been to Blue Lagoon at Padang Bai; Children in Lovina yet to see Kuta; and Tabanan’s young folk who have never visited Amed. The list is endless. Methinks anyone reading this article who has the money, the will, should hire a bus, paint it in bright colors and drive the children around to see their island. What fun it would be for them. So what if they can’t go to Ibiza? At least they can see the bright lights of their own island. Individuals from each area could sponsor a child for these tours that would not cost much but would help the Balinese children enjoy and understand the world they are living in.

Every morning Dewi and Aima, the kids of my Balinese landlord, place offerings at their home temple opposite my room. Sometimes I play music a few decibels louder than usual and if perchance the girls pass by they do a little jig, smile and run away. It reminds me so much of the youngsters that I meet on Kuta beach. Straight off the tourist coaches, the Javanese kids race to the water’s edge and jump in regardless of their parents’ pleadings. Then, dripping with water, they pose with tourists and request to be photographed.

I can’t help but mention those single white mothers with their offspring of mixed parentage who seek shelter in Bali. I have had the honor of meeting a number of them. Their stories differ from each other but the central theme is common to all. It’s that intrinsic feeling we call love. For love they have had their children. For love they have come to Bali thinking it would absolve them from the past to live life anew amidst beauty, cheap food and low rents. Anna (name changed for obvious reasons) is a photographer from the other side of the pond. She arrived here sometime ago and gave birth to her daughter at a Denpasar hospital. She took to photography as a means to earn enough to support herself and her child. Years on, she is a much sought-after professional whose work graces many international magazines. Speaking to her the other day, I asked her “Why?”

“Bali has spirits that protect me and my child. For heaven sake, do you think I could live a life like this in New York? I came to Bali and was confronted with my demons. I’ve got over them. I speak Bahasa; I pray at the temple; and my Balinese boyfriend helps me with my work. Living in Bali is like living with an extended family. Everyone knows me here. What more can I ask for? Yes, this is my home.”

Gazing into her eyes, I saw Bali looking back at me. I wish I could find what she had discovered and uncovered. Oh well, the days are long and nights are even longer in this paradise. Maybe I will find it somewhere on the Prime Meridian between light and dark.

I wish all those strong and beautiful single expat mothers of Bali Godspeed. May you remain in Bali and make it an even more enchanting place.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

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