Farewell to the Compound

Farewell to the Compound

By Hannah Black

The other day I woke up singing the 1980s super-hit The Final Countdown. Now I don’t like to overanalyse, but I think the fact that I’m leaving Bali for a big chunk of time in less than two weeks has something to do with my brain’s song of choice.

Right now I’m trying my hardest to ignore the fact that I’ll soon be jetting off across the world with my two and a half year old daughter Lola, to a cold, wet and windy climate.

Our compound life will be on hold for a while as we swap it for another style of terraced life on another little island 13,000 kilometres away.

My aim for the next week and a half is to spend as much time as possible with family and friends here because once we’re gone there isn’t a whole lot of contact.

The internet and cheaper and cheaper phone rates have kept me pretty close to my family back in the British Isles and the US, but once you’re away from Balinese family it’s not so easy to feel close.

In the past my husband and I have tried to call every week and on big ceremony days and as happy as family members are to hear from us, they aren’t used to long phone conversations.

They also stick to their routines day in and day out, so don’t have much news to tell us.

On the other hand, there are weeks and weeks’ worth of catch-up to do in the Isle of Man despite the weekly chats and near-daily emails from family there.

It’s a strange feeling to think that in a matter of days I’ll be drinking tap water, climbing up stairs in my parent’s four story house and looking out at the Irish sea.

I’ll also be speaking only English, which is going to be a huge change for my brain and even more so for Lola who is pretty much speaking fluent Balinese with some English thrown in.

My husband Ongky still hasn’t got his visa after eight tortuous weeks of waiting so it looks as if we’ll be leaving him and the Balinese language behind (for a while at least).

It’s going to be an interesting test of language and culture adjustment skills, but if there’s a best time to do it I guess it’s now.

I’m definitely having that “what the hell was I thinking?” feeling about leaving, especially this morning looking out the brilliant Balinese sunshine and listening to the lovely compound noises.

Life is going to be very different for a while is so many ways it’s hard to count them all.

I have to accept that some of the changes are going to be wonderful: long talks with my family, the chance to buy shoes and clothes that actually fit and a supermarket full of all the things I’ve missed.

And some are going to be very tough: no built-in friends and childcare for Lola in the form of cousins and family members, layering clothes in blustery weather and staying indoors a whole lot more.

I moved around and faced changes when I was younger and I feel that it made me a more flexible and rounded person, so hopefully it will do the same for Lola.

She’ll be able to spend time seeing how things are in other places, how other people live, and later when she’s older she’ll have the opportunity to choose her lifestyle according to experience, not with just a “grass is always greener” attitude.

It’s also a well-known fact that when you go away from somewhere for a while, you appreciate it that much more when you come back.

This is now me justifying my choice to leave for a while as it seems too painful right now to tear myself away from this beautiful morning, with sunshine and Ongky tidying the house while Lola and all her cousins play together.

Over the past year and a half I’ve learned a lot about my life in Bali and about myself just by writing weekly about everyday things.

Going with the flow and letting things work themselves out has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned: as anyone living in Bali, local and foreign, knows so well, patience really is a virtue. 

And with that I’ll say Selamat Tinggal and take care of Bali for me while I’m gone.

This is Hannah Black’s final My Compound Life column.


  1. Jenny says:

    Oh No …please dont go !!!!! I love reading your articles !!!! Have a safe and happy time & I look forward to your return to beautiful Bali

  2. Bette says:

    Thankyou for all of your interesting, entertaining stories of Bali and your family. Your column is my first read when I go to Bali Times. Thankyou for generously sharing your unique perspective. The stories help to enlighten others to the joys of Balinese culture. I am going to miss them so much and hope, on your return to Bali, you’ll be writing again. Kind Regards, Bette

  3. Leigh Parks says:

    Dear Hannah,
    My husband and I are from the United States and I recently had the chance to live in Ubud while my husband worked. I fell in love with Bali and her people. We have lived many places and have two grown children. Soon we will be back in the States to be near them. But I always meant to tell you how much it meant to me to read your column in the Bali Times. You helped me adjust and better understand the culture. Through your eyes, I came to understand better what I was seeing. I learned how to go more with the flow, and let things figure themselves out, as you said. Thank you and I hope you will return to Bali soon. KEEP WRITING!!!! Leigh Parks

  4. david phillips says:

    I followed youre every move weekly during your stay on that incredible island which seems years back, when are you going back ? my brother has lived on Bali for 37 years and i have been there at least 14 visits with my lovely wife and i love it , i can also relate to your experiences , i hope you are happy and have all your family with you and look forward to your return to the navel of the world to resume your stories good luck