October 19, 2009

Lessons in life in Bali...

We are now staying in Lovina, Bali on the north shore of the island. We left the island of Nusa Lembongan on Sunday morning via ferry and then caught a three hour shuttle bus up here. We passed through Ubud (where Eat, Pray, Love is currently being filmed) and drove through some incredible rice paddy fields and over the islands mountains. We saw loads of adorable monkeys with moustaches hanging out on the side of the road.

We have been eating supper at a local warung (basically the Balinese word for food joint) and we befriended the most wonderful women working there. We’ve been talking to a lot of locals lately about their lives here. Sadly, all of these women have some very unfortunate stories to tell about their lives. All have been in extremely unhealthy relationships with both Balinese men and foreigners – where their husbands beat them, cheated on them, didn’t allow them to work or left them because they gave birth to a girl instead of a boy…but they had the strength of get a divorce or leave their partner…which by the way is strongly frowned upon in this extremely family-oriented society. One woman told me that she wants to come back in her next life (belief in the Hindu religion) as a Westerner. They dream of sending their children abroad to Singapore or Australia to get an education. When we talked to one of the women about where we had previously been on the island, she had no idea where that was…imagine living on a small island for fifty odd years and not knowing where a town a few hours away was or that it even existed. Most people in SE Asia never leave their villages. One lady married a man from Scotland and when she left the island to visit his country for the first time, everyone in her family wanted to go to the airport, not to see her off but just to see the airport and what it looked like!

We’ve been asked many times how long we needed to save money to travel around the world…when we told them two years, they couldn’t understand that because they have been working for thirty years and they have never gone anywhere else. Most restaurants, hotels and bars in Bali are owned by foreigners…but the entire staff is Balinese. And so, the vicious circle continues…these people work for pennies their whole lives and foreigners reap the benefits. These people are so hard working. They have nothing and they don’t complain about it. We’ve seen the same thing across Asia…everyone wants to see the world or go to another part of their own country…but they can’t because they live day to day on their scrawny wages, their government won’t give them a passport or a visa costs so much that they can only dream about visiting another place. If Surya (our friend in Nepal) is granted a passport and visa…we plan to pay for him to visit Canada. That is a dream of ours these days…but in the meantime we’ll continue to discuss life with some incredible Balinese women.