By Hannah Black
My husband Ongky’s brother and cousin stumbled down to our house to collapse on our front porch in drunken giggles (and see if we had any more alcohol in our house). They were amusing, but also made me thank the heavens that I married the right brother.
Ongky is the youngest of three brothers and one sister and for some reason seems to be the broadest-minded and most adventurous of all.
His oldest brother Wayan is very warm and kind and is wonderful with our daughter Lola, but has no problem sitting around the house all day smoking and watching TV while his wife Kadek cooks, washes clothes, makes him coffee and sweeps under his feet.
The middle brother Soling is tall and almost painfully thin and walks around with a scowl on his face all day long. He is the one who collapsed on our porch giggling as drunkenness seems to be the only time the seriousness is released.
Soling lives with his wife’s family a few compounds down the road as there were no brothers in the family, and he has taken on the responsibility of the man of their house.
He is a hard worker but he also loves to drink and gamble, which is a drain on finances. His wife Bunga is round and jovial and completely the opposite of him, but is working in a spa in Abu Dhabi on a three-year contract.
I know my husband much better than the rest, but talking to my mother-in-law about her brood she has said exactly the same thing. She has told me many times that Ongky is her hardest worker and her most generous child, and she has no reason to be biased like I do.
So what is it that makes one child from exactly the same upbringing just that little bit different?
My husband’s life here in the compound fascinates me as much as my multicultural, multinational life fascinates him. He has lived in the same place for all of his 31 years whereas I have lived in two states in the US, the Isle of Man, London and had stints in various European cities.
Some people say the youngest sibling sometimes feels they have to do something different or grander to be noticed, but Ongky is the least likely person I know to do something to get noticed.
He is the most independent-minded person I have ever met, which is definitely saying something. He has no desire to attract praise or conform to what other people are doing.
So where does this come from? It baffles me how someone can grow up in such an environment with the same education, same religion and the same job and still be so unique.
I guess I’m getting into a nature/nurture type argument with myself here, but it’s definitely something to think about in a society like Bali.
Of course there is now a lot of outside influence on the island, but there is really little that touches the villages and the people I see around me tend to be unquestioning followers of tradition and religion.
It’s funny, though: The person I see Ongky is most like is his father. As a village priest you would have thought he would be unyielding in his ways, but in fact he is the most open of the whole family.
He has one of those infectious smiles that makes everyone around him smile (which Ongky has as well) and he is by far the most generous person I’ve ever met. He’s the type of person that would give you the sandals off his feet if he had nothing else.
He is incredibly industrious and is rarely seen doing nothing, although when I see him sitting in the evenings smoking a kretek (clove cigarette) he looks like the most contented person in the world. It’s not rare to see people working hard in the village, but it is equally rare to see them doing it with a huge smile plastered across their face.
I couldn’t really have asked for a better family to marry into and I thank my lucky stars for it. Actually, I thank my friend Dagmar who picked Ongky out for me from the village volleyball team, delivered him to my house and then conspicuously disappeared.
Thanks, Dags. You’re the best.