Bali was never truly on my mind as an island where I would live. As I arrived in Bali for the first time about 5 years ago, I stepped out of the bus, when men started to yell at me to offer transport. With green face I yelled back at them, wanted to know where is the nearest toilet. Arrived to dark hole which appeared to be toilet just in time, my first Indonesian diarrhea started. Until now I used Bali mostly as a transition island travelling to the east, once as a short trip destination and once for a extended weekend party.
Now I’m based in South of Bali, Canggu. After hardcore seasonal work in Austria I’m now enjoying the company of beautiful people, windy motorbike rides, improving my writing skills, wondering about future and reasonably steering between steamed white rice and portions of bread.
I keep saying ‘Indonesian diet gives me headaches’. It goes so far that I’m getting into serious conversations about importing a cow from my village to make my own yogurt and cheese. Even though it could be said Bali is Indonesian Rome, when it comes to food offer. This hilarious remark was made by my friend, when I was informing her about Swiss raclettle cheese and Balkan specialities such as pleskavica, cevapcici and ajvar accessible here. It is indeed true much more western goods are available in Bali than in Java. But prices usually go up in the sky and while being on saving mode (to purchase white sandy beach and boat) I treat myself with those only occasionally.
Meanwhile I’m being extremely lucky to have home cooked Indonesian food at hand. In particular, delightful Javanese cuisine. I’m living in a kos, which could be described something as boarding house. Two tiny houses with two rooms and one large elongated building with 6 rooms. Each unit has a room, kitchen area and bathroom. All very humble, but enough. In the middle we have muddy yard, some banana trees with hidden temple, tiny stream of water, bunch of chickens and grumpy dogs passing by, searching for food in our trash bins – you can imagine the whole yard of trashes as consequence. A massive tamarind tree in the yard is what the kos is named after: kos pohon asam. Oh and we do have blooming orchids and snakes chilling around. The green ones with red tail, so neighbours decided to smash her head, as this is the only way to kill it utterly. This was first of two since I’m here. Rainy season makes them escape water, so they are paying us occasional visits. It is the only reason to raise an angry voice against children explaining them not to run in ‘snake area’.
Most of people living in our kos are Javanese, who came here in search of better life. If not Javanese, the other islands residents, who were also living in Java, but decided to try promised land of Bali. I decided not to invest into my own kitchen just yet and my Javanese neighbours generously offered to use theirs, moreover just to take anything what is there. I guess this is kinda commune life, which I would not be handling as good few years ago as I’m handling it now, fully aware of Indonesian ‘sharing is caring’ mentality. At first I always thought before going to the kitchen, but now I only think once, then just go there and serve myself. In case I cook, they all wonder why I cook so ‘plain’, even though I use the most precious species I brought from home and I would say the taste is superb. Oh well, cooking without chili will rarely (very rarely) pass the Indonesian taste. I miss my kitchen though, not having questions typo if my yogurt is sour or a girl missing her morning cartoon on TV, because watching me eating fresh sliced tomato it is so much more amusing. It’s not them, it’s just my western me and must have alone moments, being irritated when that is not possible when the urge occurs. No matter how demanding my western self can be, I mostly enjoy this time of morning cooking classes, mutual sharing and wondering. Is that not what is life all about? Mostly at least.
A peaceful bird singing (not always!) is a sign of just another beginning of the day in our gang, small alley where we are positioned. There are dark blue birds flying around here and there are those kept by a Javanese neighbours in the cages hanging from the ceiling all over kitchen. Captivated animals is not a thing I stand for, but it is common Javanese hobby, that they obviously bring along when they move. I’ve been told an appreciation of birds derives from admiration of bird watching, which is not always possible. An easy alternative are caged-birds which reminds the owner of the home village and creates ‘nice atmosphere for drinking coffee.’ They even attend bird singing competitions, where they can win fair amounts of money. Well, the only competition of our gang is the one between birds singing and dogs barking. Award: free early morning alarm clock. So here we gathered from different places to have a new episode of our life: to learn, to grow and to listen birds singing.