Fine Food, Family and Friends

SILAKARANG ~ As the hostess of my husband’s birthday barbeque last weekend, I stopped to survey the scene and make sure everyone was having a good time. I looked out on our garden and was surprised to see how different the crowd was from the last party we threw.

Having begun a new job a few months back started off a series of small changes in my life, which has meant spending a lot of time away from the compound, my usual hangouts in Ubud and also a lot of people I would normally spend my free time with.

Like most young couples, my husband and I have also ended up spending more and more time with other couples with young children, especially mixed Indonesian and foreign couples like ourselves.

I also spend a lot more time with people who work full-time and are far more settled here than I am used to, which makes for a more sophisticated barbeque menu, including Greek salad, homemade hummus and a fantastic bread selection.

As for my husband Ongky’s friends, the usual suspects were all there for the free food and drink, of course, but they pretty much kept themselves busy with the barbeque and steady alcohol consumption.

In the compound it’s rare to see unknown people, and all the fresh faces are a topic of conversation for days afterwards.

The questions came thick and fast the next day: Who was the yellow-haired lady? How long has she been here? Was that her husband? Does she have any children?

I answer all the questions because I can imagine it’s exciting for everyone to have new people to gossip about after years of gossiping about the same people day in and day out.

The kids also love being able to talk about all the foreigners and the disgusting food they brought with them. It was hilarious to watch them daring each other to taste the hummus and then gag into the bushes (now they know how I feel about durian).

My 8-year-old niece Dara calls all her friends over to check everyone out and giggle at us doing odd foreigner things like decorating our dips with sliced-up tomatoes and lemons.

They are also getting impressively brave after a few months of extra English lessons and try out bits of English on us.

Perhaps a little out of curiosity and a little to do with her newfound love of Sprite, even my mother-in-law ventured down to the house during the party for the first time. She is still quite shy around my friends, but one nice thing about the new crowd is pretty much everyone speaks Indonesian and are confident enough to introduce themselves straight away.

It can be a bit awkward when people come round and are too shy or overwhelmed to even say hello to my family. I’ve often had to say hello and goodbye for friends and explain that they don’t speak much Bahasa.

I suppose it’s the nature of living in Bali as a foreigner that people come and go. It can be pretty depressing when you meet someone and get to know them, always keeping it in the back of your mind that they may leave.

Even people I’ve been friends with here for years aren’t necessarily going to be here forever, so I often feel wary about letting new people in. Saying that, sometimes a group of friends evolves and shifts so slowly it’s hard to see until you stand back from it like I did last week.

Being settled here and having my family and friends in the village makes a huge difference when having to say goodbye to people. When friends and acquaintances come and go, the people in the village stay exactly the same, which keeps me feeling settled and happy when I may otherwise be sad and homesick.

They are my rock here on this rock and make Bali home for me – so the least I can do to say thank you is keep the faces and the gossip fresh.

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My Compound Life

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