Castoffs on Castaway Island

A full-sized pool table appeared in the compound during the night one day last week. No one seemed to notice except me, and when I pointed it out, there was quite a bit of shrugging of shoulders and wonderment at my surprised reaction to it.

It’s not that new things don’t appear in the compound often; it’s just that a pool table is so far the biggest.

I found out later that someone from Tabanan had given the pool table to my husband Ongky’s youngest cousin Komang, because it was broken. It’s now hanging out in the driveway of the compound under a tarp – and will most likely stay there a long, long time.

Sometimes it seems like Bali is in an infinite cycle of reusing, regifting and recycling (apart from the obvious plastic and packaging burning in every gutter). Nothing of any possible use, whether that means now or in three years’ time, is ever thrown away.

This of course is a great thing, unless you have to look at piles of broken stuff.

There has been an unusable DVD player under the kitchen counter for about two years (Ongky, if you’re reading this, it is in fact a very unsubtle hint).

I once tried to throw away the packaging Styrofoam from a TV we had just bought. Family members from all sides of the compound seemed to run cartoon style to stop me before I did the unthinkable and scrapped something that had only been used once.

I have absolutely no idea what it was used for, or if it was ever used, but I had fun pondering the possibilities.

One thing I’m still having trouble getting my head round after five years in Bali is the ease with which people lend out their belongings. I’ve never been anywhere else where friends and family hand over clothes, bags, shoes and anything else they own with such unconcern.

Countless times I’ve asked Ongky why I saw a guy down the road wearing the hat I gave him, or when he’s planning to give back the shorts he borrowed from our neighbour four months ago.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some horrible stingy person, but if I lend someone something, I usually want to be assured it’s coming back at some point. I also try to hurry things back to people when I’ve borrowed them, because I worry it might be needed.

Once in a while I have a clear-out of my closet and give my sister-in-law and niece first pick at the spoils. They are about half the size of me but are so great at resizing and sewing that they can use just about everything. They have inspired me to get more clothes fixed and adjusted at a tailor, but I like being able to hand on clothes as well.

My ever-growing daughter Lola also seems to have a massive excess of clothes from friends and family, and it’s great to be able to hand down her clothes as well.

Another thing that seems to be endlessly passed around are phones. My brother-in-law is currently using a lovely pink Motorola that I passed on to my husband about a year ago.

In turn my sister-in-law Kadek got her first phone, which she very rarely uses and is less inclined to answer, but she likes to have it.

Phones are also fixed and resold at most of the mobile phone shops that line every road in Bali – so when you’re done with a phone there is always someone willing to recycle it.

The Balinese are so fantastic at recycling certain things that it makes me wonder why we can’t sort out the rubbish situation on the island.

It’s a huge and complex issue, I know, but we must be able to take the basics of recycling and apply them to plastic bags, wrappers and other packaging.

I must go and brainstorm … think I’m giving myself ideas.

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My Compound Life

One Response to “Castoffs on Castaway Island”

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