Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Mostly)

By Hannah Black
The Bali Times

SILAKARANG ~ There has been a lot of talk in the village of a villa project just downriver from my little house, but until a couple of days ago when I walked down to see the construction, I hadn’t thought much about it.

I’d heard talk about a “bule,” or foreigner, building a house and I knew it was close to mine, but until I saw it, I didn’t realize how close and how completely unlikely it is that it is a residential property. My husband, Ongky, naïvely commented that perhaps the numerous separate buildings were in a sort of detached Balinese compound style, but it is plainly a number of small villas and one or possibly even two swimming pools.

I’m not really sure why it made me a little angry and a little sad to see this construction site, perhaps because it’s so close to my house, but more likely because it’s yet another facility for tourists in a completely un-touristy area.

Maybe it’s the thought that with more tourists in the village I will have to deal with people slotting me into the all-encompassing “tamu” (guest) category so often used for white faces in the villages. Is it wrong to feel like I have earned my village stripes and deserve to be left out, being a tamu, especially in my home village?

It’s silly, I suppose, as I have only been living in the village for a little over two years and the families that have been here for four generations or more seem completely unbothered by the building work. It probably has a lot to do with the “not in my backyard” mentality I try not to have, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that way just a bit.

I can’t imagine how people born and raised in Bali feel about all the development going on around them. Older generations have watched rice paddies as far as their eyes could see turn into hotels, villas, restaurants, clubs, bars and parking lots. Although many of them probably wouldn’t say, it must be sad seeing such a lush, natural place turn into what sometimes feels like one big exhaust-fume-filled road.

For the Balinese, who are not big complainers and tend to see the bright side of life, the construction means prosperity coming to their village. The wealthy foreigners will need people to cater to their needs while staying in the villas and they may also buy the stone carvings of village craftsmen. I’m pretty sure most carvers are already sharpening their tools for the work that may come when the buildings are up and need beautifying.

Maybe I’m just jealous that I didn’t get to that lovely spot of land first. I have thought about building a couple of little villas myself, but being a bit short of spare change at the moment, all development plans have been put on hold.

The other thing that bothered me about the site were the shacks barely the size of a Toyota Kijang the workers were living in next to the construction. There were wives carrying around tiny babies, boiling water from the creek that runs behind my house, which I long ago dubbed “poo creek,” after catching my brother-in-law popping a squat over it that he swears was only for nostalgia.

I have to remind myself that building these numerous villas and hotels creates jobs for those who would be much worse off without them, but it still doesn’t really justify the conditions the workers are living in. Paying for rooms in a local boarding house would probably cost the developer little more than a haircut in the UK.

As this yo-yoing column may suggest, I haven’t really decided what I think about the construction yet. I definitely have a niggling uneasiness about it, but I suppose I’ll have to stop unnecessarily analyzing things I can’t change and pretend nothing untoward is going on, just like everyone else.

Filed under:
My Compound Life

Leave a Reply