My Perma-Vacation Home

SILAKARANG ~ It’s the run-up to Christmas and all my (non-Balinese) friends have started talking about trips back to home to see their families or trips they are going to take on their time off from work.

Although Christmas isn’t a big deal in my parents’ house on the Isle of Man, every year we do nothing for it in Bali I feel I’m missing out on something.

When I mentioned that it might be nice to go away somewhere, my husband, Ongky, suggested we have Christmas here in the compound and buy presents for all the kids. A very generous thought, I said, but it would probably cost about the price of plane tickets to the UK to buy pressies for all the small people around here.

For me it’s definitely not about the religious aspect of Christmas or even the present-giving and the food, but the time off from work that I really don’t want to waste.

Coming from the UK, where people start working towards and booking their two-week summer holidays a year in advance, I feel like I have to do something with my time off.

To stay at home and live my normal life would be somehow disappointing.

It’s a difficult thing for my husband and his family to understand because they don’t come from a culture of extended holidays, but I really would like to make the most of the time by getting away from Bali.

When someone goes away here, they very rarely leave the island unless to work on a cruise ship or in a hotel. So to them it seems almost a waste of money to go somewhere just to see things without earning money while you are there.

They also have a pretty rigid routine in the compound, as relaxed as it may seem, so they don’t have the flexibility to take time away from the house.

My mother- and father-in-law are especially tied to the village, as they have the additional responsibilities of being pemangku (priests).

Even if they had the money and wanted to go away, they have too many ceremonies and too much temple upkeep to allow more than a couple of days off.

For them, most holidays consist of a long drive to a family member’s house in Negara or Buleleng, a few hours talking and drinking coffee and a long drive home.

It’s funny actually, thinking about it. I get a similar reaction from friends of mine who don’t live here as I do from my family about holidays. After all, why would you need to go on holiday when you live in Bali?

Admittedly, it is a pleasure to stay in the house during long weekends, reading in the hammock and having gin and tonics on the deck at sunset, but it’s still home.

No matter where you live you have to get away sometimes and be on holiday from the norm.

Another problem with going away when you live in Bali is the closest “holiday destinations” – e.g. The Gili Islands in Lombok and Nusa Lembongan – tend to be packed full of the same people I see here every day.

English teachers and other expats tend to not have enough cash to go far; so they stay close to home and hang out with each other in familiar but different places.

I don’t necessarily want to go lay on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails – I’ll go down to Kuta if I need to do that – but it would just be nice to be somewhere I’m usually not.

So it seems like I better start thinking about booking something. I could take my little family on a city break to Yogyakarta or maybe a boat trip on the rivers in Kalimantan.

We could go see the Komodos or even find a cheap flight to Malaysia or Thailand.

There’s so much to see so close by, but it would also be so very easy to stay here in my little jungle house sipping gin and tonics and reading trashy novels and pretending I was having the most relaxing vacation of my life.

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My Compound Life

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