Smiles

I have a smallish pet-peeve. Ok, I have many, like most people I guess. This particular one has to do with passing people by on the street. It’s been my observation so far in Bali, that most non-locals walk past as if I’m/we’re invisible. We can be in some remote area, strolling down a quiet narrow street, the only souls around, in the middle of the day. None of us are carrying anything, or talking on the phone, or buried in a map, or rushing off to work. Yet, they stroll right by without even a hint of a glance, or nod, or slightest smile. Singles, couples, groups of people, it doesn’t matter, 98% will just walk on by.

This bugs me. It always has. But especially here in Bali, it is perplexing. It would feel more appropriate here to smile, or nod, or make some small gesture of acknowledgement that we are so lucky at this moment. What’s not to like about our apparent mutual circumstances? Something that says “Hey, you too! Can you believe this place/life/planet!?” My assumption is that we are on this island by choice, enjoying ourselves. But that’s not the vibe I get. So many “Bules” look a bit uptight, or are just too cool and beautiful to care (more on this some other time). I know, I know, Andy Rooney.

On the other hand, the Balinese people are the sweetest, most respectful, and nicest  people we’ve yet to come across anywhere. 98% of them, conversely, acknowledge you as you go past. On the main roads, or the remote quiet back streets, they smile, or nod, or say “Halo”, or “Good morning” at dusk. Most taxi drivers still offer a genuine smile after you turn down their offer -again. The checkers at the supermarket clasp their hands at their chest (ala Namaste) as they say goodbye, and seem to really connect for that instant. Old people, with leather faces -who’ve seen a lot of not-so-good changes in Bali due in large past to people just like us- emerge from their remote compounds as we stroll by and flash their toothless smiles, and wave their whisk brooms.

We haven’t seen any angry or rude Balinese: no mom’s admonishing unruly kids; nobody yelling at the car that is holding everyone up; no hostility or rudeness. The few examples of this that we’ve seen have all been from us Bules, some of whom haven’t taken the time to learn even the most basic Indonesian phrases.

Many of our favorite moments while exploring the remote villages are encounters with the children. Most are excited (and often surprised in the more remote villages) to see us come walking down the street (jalan-jalan). Many offer brave salutations in english, and like it when we speak to them in Indonesian. Their smiles are big and genuine, and the connections are nice. Teenagers too, and young adults, value connecting with us.

We really value connecting with them too.

-matt

may 19 too 008

 

matt iphone 5-17 Peliatan 027

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matt & Rita
    May 20, 2013 @ 04:24:47

    What a great post! We’re so glad that you have found such a happy place. Not an accident . . . we know you did a LOT of research.

    Reply

  2. Kristi Jacobson
    May 20, 2013 @ 06:30:22

    Wow – love the photo showing Jennifer’s relaxed and happy face! Thank you for keeping us posted; your writing is so inviting and engaging! Matt – I share that peeve and am sorry that the white folks (western peeps) are so strangely disconnected. Relieved to hear that you are having good connections with the Balinese! You (and Jen) are genuine, kind, friendly, humble and curious-to-learn all of which makes you ideal travelers! Much love!!!

    Reply

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