A Change Has Come Over

By Hannah Black

It’s been a big week for visitors this week, and out of five, three were from the Isle of Man. This may not seem like a huge number, but four people (including myself) in Bali at one time from a place with a population of only 75,000 is practically a conference.

On Tuesday night I took the first batch of Manxies out to Dewa Warung, one of Ubud’s cheapest and most popular eateries for the budget traveller. The food is nothing to shout about, but you can have a meal and beer for around US$3 so who’s complaining?

We then went on to a bar where the boys, most of who were from my village, took a shine to the two girls I was with and had to be practically beaten off with sticks.

The boys seem to think I can have them married to a pretty foreign girl in a matter of minutes with a magical snap of my fingers. I’ve told them marriage to a western girl is not as easy as it may seem (just ask my husband Ongky) but they don’t seem to believe me.

After a late (10.30pm) night out I dragged myself into work the next morning fuelled by the happy thoughts that I would be seeing my father in a matter of hours.

He arrived safe and sound on Wednesday night, stepping out of the airport after an hour and a half in immigration to the smiling face of his granddaughter Lola an immediately took on “Bali mode.”

Life in the Isle of Man isn’t exactly stressful, but I’m told it’s been a tough winter and some bone-warming, vitamin D-rich sun is necessary for recovery.

We arrived back in the compound around 9.30pm, surprising the family with Kak Putih (white grandpa) who we hadn’t told anyone was coming.

Baskets of fruit were quickly presented and my dad and my in-laws smiled and laughed and nodded at each other.

The third arrivals were a friend from college and her boyfriend. I hadn’t seen her since around 2000, but we got along very well and had a lovely day catching up.

It’s still strange to see people so out of their usual surroundings and in mine but I’ve found that most are so relaxed and happy in Bali that it’s actually much easier to reconnect.

When I run into people in the Isle of Man it’s always a little awkward. Usually we’re heading in different directions, doing some shopping or with other people who aren’t acquainted; so to be in Bali on holiday with no schedule makes it much more unplanned and unhurried.

I also love to show people my favourite places and point them towards things they might not find in their guidebooks. I’m very proud to have been able to make a life for myself in Bali and love to share the peace and happiness that I’ve found here.

It’s also nice to be able to answer questions about Balinese society and religion as I’ve taken both on as my own.

People who knew me before my Bali life often see quite a change in me, and my lifestyle. They’re surprised when I show them my house and introduce them to the 20 other family members living in the compound.

Obviously this is something unheard of in the West, outside of religious cults, and can be a bit shocking for people who live nice cosy-apartment or semi-detached lives in the UK or the US.

I used to be quite tightly wound (especially after five years in London and New York), much more concerned with appearance and generally more stressed; so people often comment on how relaxed and happy I seem.

My dad understands it better than anyone now, having been here four times. We’re very similar in many ways and find it hard to make the transition from being busy to doing nothing, although we’re both trying our hardest to learn the art.

Both of us get low in the winter, love to bask in the sun and are energised in fresh air; so Bali definitely speeds up the relaxation process.

Having guests is rarely a burden. I enjoy talking late into the night about events and people from back home, and Ongky’s family love to join in and show off their Balinese hospitality.

There’s really nothing that compares to it.

Filed under: My Compound Life

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