Green Acres – but for How Long?

By Hannah Black

Looking out into the jungle from my back porch this morning listening to buzz of chainsaws, I started worrying about the possibility that my private little space on this jam-packed island may not always be so exclusive.

With two villas already under construction only 300 meters down river, I dread the seemingly inevitable rumours of someone being keen on the land directly behind us.

My husband Ongky and I have discussed this problem and feel that the only way to keep the land safe is to buy it ourselves. So where will we find the money for this view-saving venture?

The land is owned by our neighbour Sri, an only child who was left a whole bunch of land by her father. She has sold bits of it and spilt some with other family members (who are now selling it off to people to build villas on), but the land directly behind her compound and ours is currently home to only pigs and an incredible array of jungle creatures including monitor lizards, pythons and a lot of very noisy frogs.

Sri has every right to sell the land whenever she wants, but she also has a very good relationship with Ongky and we hope if she decided to sell, we would be the first people to know.

But, as with most things here in Bali, it’s not always as simple as that. I’ve told Ongky he has to talk to Sri (who he’s known his whole life) about the land, but there seem to be all kinds of rules of etiquette to broaching the subject.

In Bali making a purchase or a payment to someone is never talked about in a direct fashion. There is at least a quarter hour run-up until the actual subject is broached, and even then there is a bashful show of respectful beating around the bush.

This is all fine and dandy, but I would like to make it crystal clear that although I don’t have any money right now, I would find a way if it came to the land being sold to someone else.

The other problem is that in the past when word has gotten out that we were looking to buy land, we were bombarded with people from near and far offering to sell us plots.

Strangely, all etiquette goes out the window when there is a sizeable commission to be had.

Ongky and I are extremely lucky to live where we do. His oldest brother Wayan originally laid the foundations of the house, but he ran out of money and decided Ongky and I were more likely to be able to finish it, which we did.

The thing is, the land we live on is family land and the house is now part of it. We don’t own anything except the furnishings and appliances.

There are land deeds somewhere, hidden away, I’m sure, but it’s a bit scary sometimes to think how uninsured we are.

I don’t have to worry about ever having to move, unless our land disappears into the river, which seems like a possibility at times in the rainy season, but it would be nice to actually own something.

We also only have two bedrooms, which means our daughter Lola would have to share her room with any future siblings.

In a Balinese compound it’s rare for siblings to have their own rooms, but having shared with my older sister and also had my own room for roughly equal amounts of time, I know which I preferred.

Building another small house would be the next step, I guess. Wayan and his family of four could move into our house and the middle section of the compound would be cleared for the next round of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It’s all a bit like one of those picture-rearranging tile puzzles in a Balinese compound: with just one little space free, all the other pieces become mobile.

With the ever-increasing land prices, ever-decreasing amounts of land to buy and news laws on the cards for foreigners buying land, there is no time like the present to grab a piece of Bali, and the piece I would like is staring back at me from my porch.

Filed under: My Compound Life

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