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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Peripheral Vision

As I started my motorcycle for my morning ride to work, something compelled me to take a different route. I complied, driving slowly and enjoying the new scenery. I stopped as I passed an elderly man. He was diligently preparing his water buffaloes to till his rice paddy, but looked up and smiled widely at the sight of a foreigner.

We had a conversation that I've become quite used to:

Him: "Halo mistah!! Dare mana? Australi?" (Hello mistah!! Where are you from? Australia?)

Me: "Dare California, pak" (I'm from California, sir.)

Him: America, Bagus!! Obama yah?" (America, good!! Obama yah?)

Me: "Yaaah!." (Yaaah!)

Him: "Mau kau mana?" (Where are you going?)

Me: "Pergi bekerja." (I'm going to work.)

Him: "Ooohhh, tinggal di sini? Berapa lama tinggal di Bali? Bagus berbicara Bahasa Indonesian ya? (Ooohhh, you stay here? How long you stay here? You speak good Indonesian 

Me: "tidak bagus, hanya sedikit. Belajar. Tinggal di Bali dua tahun setangah, pak." (Not good, only little bit. I'm learning. I stay in Bali two and a half years, sir.)

Him: "Bagus yah?" (Good, yah?)

Me: "Yaaah!" (Yaaah!)

Still smiling broadly, he nodded and returned to his work. I watched quietly from the small dirt road as he finished hitching up his water buffaloes and began tilling. He slowly guided the buffaloes, traversing the paddy and grunting as if he was a buffalo himself. Each time he passed me, he glanced over and smiled. I smiled back.

I sat and watched him for 5-10 minutes, and wondered about his life. How many changes has he see over the past 50 years? I doubt this older man had ever thought about much else than taking care of his family and tending his rice paddy. I doubt he has ventured far or frequently from the small community he lives in, and he probably didn't meet a foreigner until the second half of his life.

Bali as a whole has seen massive changes over the past half a century. This is primarily due to a booming tourism industry. With large profits to be made, Bali has seen massive development and a huge population boom with people from all over Indonesia (and the world) trying to get a piece of the pie.

Here in northern Bali, life remains relatively traditional when compared to most areas on this small island. There are very few foreigners living here, and few that venture far from the few, more touristy destinations. Many of the locals here are rather intrigued at the sight of foreigners; in fact, I have met locals here that had never before seen a foreigner in their life!

Little experiences like my exchange with this older man keep me loving Bali. They keep me from falling into a mundane routine. It seems like everyone thinks living in Bali is like a page out of Eat, Pray, Love. It's not. In fact, my daily routine resembles probably sounds familiar to a lot of people (well, for the most part): Wake up at dawn, have a surf, eat breakfast, head to work, head home, eat dinner, and sleep (sometimes I can squeeze in an afternoon surf, somewhere between head home and eat dinner, if I'm lucky).

My advice: don't lose your metaphoric peripheral vision. Stay open to life's experiences and avoid the mundane, whether it's meeting new people or visiting new places.

It's refreshing that people here smile, say hello, and have time for a chat. In many countries, you can walk down the street and no one even makes eye contact with you. Still, it can get uncomfortable or annoying sometimes with the incessant questions and constant staring.

Then, I just remind myself that if I want to have unique experiences and keep my life exciting, I have to help others have them too.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely article! Thanks for showing how to keep loving a foreign place of residence.