Selamat datang! (“welcome” in indonesian bahasa).
Its been 3 weeks since we landed in Indonesia. Before arriving in Bali, my elder son Simón and me had a stop at Jakarta to give some emotional support to our dog Pancha, who had to spend a day at the Soekarno Hatta JKT Airport Quarantine before traveling by car for almost a week with a couple of lovely strangers from an authorized company to deliver highly controlled dogs in Bali (in 1998 there were 2 cases of rabies in dogs and ever since it is mainly forbidden to bring dogs in). She is not a regular dog, she is really shy, fragile and very scared of people, so I went over and over the steps she had to do to arrive to Bali as smoothly as possible. It was a real challenge for her and we felt very sorry that she had to go through all this, but at the end, the reward was big: she would soon be with her family and become part of the gang with the rest of the Bali dogs.
So after a very long trip and 3 stressful days in Jakarta in an airport hotel handling paperwork for our dog (with the 24h flight and jetlag at our back) we finally got together with Alex and León in Bali. We arrived at Casa Daniela (Villa Ba Jabula), in Seseh, where our beautiful and peaceful home was going to be for the first month before Green School school started. Perfect for recovery, serene Casa Daniela seemed to be the perfect place for everybody: 5 bungalows sharing a big garden and pool, rows of green rice fields surrounding us with views ending in the infinite Indic Ocean, a spiritual sense being right next door to a Pura (temple) and very close to fun Canggu, surfer town with a very interesting gastronomical offer.
Still dragging the exhausting from the trip, I felt mostly emotionally reckless: I don’t think I was ever at ease until Pancha arrived to us. If only I could make her understand she was coming to us!
But another of our main concerns was the fact that we didn’t have a home to live at for not only the next month, but for the next school year(s). So our main mission was to go for the hunt of our dreamt house in the middle of high season. I tried to get in touch with all real estate agents I had been speaking from Barcelona for the past months, and it seemed impossible to get a hold of any of them once we were here. Emails left unanswered, national ceremonies that interrupted communication, missed phone calls and a fee spontaneous drop ins into agencies with no luck… finally, somebody responded and after seeing houses for a whole week in areas that weren’t even our first choice (too far away from school), we became a bit worried. Other expat families we were in touch with had already compromised to homes from abroad or even had come in advance to find a home. We wanted to get a feel of it “in situ”, being conscious of how picky we can be with views, noises, feelings… to make a house feel our home.
What to do now? We took our car and desperatelly went to Ubud to look for “FOR RENT” signs. It was pouring rain, had no wifi at our phones yet and didn’t know what to do or where to go. We couldn’t see ahead because of the heavy rain and stopped at a local cafe and had a cup of coffee from Sulawesi and got connected to the internet to search for local agencies. We found one in the next block, contacted them, and then, in a minute, we got a response and somebody was going to come and meet us. And that somebody that showed up was a New Yorker all dressed in a black suit with a huge welcoming smile and introduced himself: it was the number one person I wanted to contact, who I had already had a Facetime call back home specialized in the Ubud area. We couldn’t believe our luck!
After a few days, we had a formal appointment to see the 4 houses that were available in the Nyuh Kuning area, exactly where I wanted to live, a clean and peaceful Banjar (community) South of Ubud where Indonesians and expats live at ease. Kids can walk safely, there is a big soccer field, tons of authentic yoga schools, Ayurvedic practices and there are monkeys everywhere by the fact that the main road ends at the entrance of the Sacred Monkey Forest.
And the last house we saw, was our dreamt one. With an only access to it from a 300m pedestrian path we arrive to Villa Jade, a spacious ground floor with an open living and kitchen, a second enclosed floor with our bedrooms, a third one for guests and a little mirador at the top with amazing views of the whole island on a clear day. We felt so lucky!
We made sure we loved the area before we signed the contract a few days later. We went to house, made a desired wish list of to do things for the owner, walked around, played in the soccer field, got lost in the Monkey Forest, went walking to Ubud… and started to get a feel of our new upcoming life. Yes, we were sure it was the right place for us, and were getting excited for our new life.
After we signed the contract a few days later, we could finally start enjoying the South Western coast of Bali where we were staying at. Our trips to Canggu were frequent, discovering the Indic Ocean waves, the surfers paradise, and the small restaurants with a tropical beachy feeling. Vibrant colors on the table, fresh vegetables and fruits were going to be our new simple pleasures.
We also did local day trips to Padang Padang and Bingin beach, to the Denpasar textile market to choose the fabric for our new sofas, we started going to the local markets, understanding currency, learning bahasa balinese (counting to ten, the colors, the local animals, the main greetings, and about 10 random words), learning what to buy in substitution to our local food in Spain (instead of lemons we bought limes, instead of morning O.J. we have watermelon juice, instead of spinach we bough green leaved bayam… ), we even went to the local Cemagi hairdresser to fight our first lice plague. So little by little we were understanding life here.
But the real challenge came when we had to drive for the first time without Agung (our lovely driver that came with a rental Toyota Avanza car): surviving the frenzy style of the no security space in between vehicles, driving in the other side (with all the car commands in the “wrong” side) and more over, understanding the non visible rules among all kind of vehicles (all sorts of transportation and motorcycles carrying from 4 unprotected people to 8 times its width with cleaning products or food portable stands).
When we slowly started to feel a bit more confident, Alex tried a cafe racer motorcycle a friend lent him and started to discover the island another way. We felt free when riding it to the closest beach, when going to change money, to get a local Sim card or to do any other small errands that any of us would hop on to back seat and feel the breeze on our face and the power under our bodies.
It gets dark early here around 6:30pm, so its important to wake at the crack of dawn and get the proper amount of day light. Today Alex and I had to go to Singapore for mandatory Visa paperwork and were driving to the airport before 7am with our Malamadre borrowed motorcycle. What an experience! Fathers taking their uniformed kids to school (even the two laced braids are part of the dress code for girls), beautifully colored dressed women seated sideways in the back of the motorcycles, roosters crossing the streets, yawning dogs standing up and walking lazy to more protected areas, the first cigarettes of the day…
But the best part and what is really making our experience warm and welcoming are the balinese people. Their philosophy to live happily, their warm heart, their wide healthy smile and their transparent sweet eyes. A winner combinations for our Bali adventure to be a success.
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