Shell Game

There’s been a lot of moving parts since my last post, which was a long time ago.

Hovering about us this past Summer was the decision of what to do when our year lease expired at the end of August. We could extend it if we wanted, and there was a strong pull to do that. But there was an equally strong pull to let it go and move somewhere else.

We’d lived in the lush, hilly village of Penestanan for 15 months by Summer’s end, in 2 different homes, the second one for a year. We’d made friends with neighbors and several of the local villagers. And our home was great for large parties, of which there were a few. But ultimately we chose to shake things up and try living in a smaller, less westernized village, and one that would better challenge our Indonesian language skills.

The search was lengthy and a bit exhausting, made more complicated by several kittens we were fostering (they too iso a shell), two of them with special needs. I wrote up a discription of the housing that we wanted (in Indonesian) and offered a $ reward to the person who could lead us to it, and passed copies out and about. I enjoyed the Indo conversations I had with many people in this effort. We saw a couple dozen places for rent, covering a large radius in all directions around Ubud. Many aspects to our quest were interestng. We explored other villages more closely than before and saw a variety of available places, including an astounding 3-level villa hovering alongside the lush, plunging river, all unimaginable from the front street.

Each place had its reason(s) why we didn’t take them, though a few were tempting. Ultimately we decided to first choose the village we wanted to live in and to just focus our efforts there. We chose Nyuh Kuning. We’d spent time there before and really liked its energy. For starters its clean and tidy, due to its rare trash and recycling program. It’s also small and contained. It’s primarily laid out like a backwards “h”. In the middle where the 2 roads meet is the soccer field, sacred banyan tree, roundabout, central temple and grade school. At this point the long road has 2 different regions: south are the living compounds where we searched; north has the increasing number of restaurants; tourist shops; and spas (already over-developed). At the very top is the Monkey Forest, and a narrow motorbike trail that winds and dips and snakes its scenic shaded, and spooky way through to the other side (with many monkeys strewn along side or sitting atop the fences and rooftops, seemingly ready to pounce!), emerging into the heart of Ubud and its busyness. So close yet so far.

Our friend Sabine had recently moved to Nyuh Kuning, and loved it, and helped us focus there. We looked at several more places, and some were tempting, but not quite right despite the ticking clock. Finally we found an interesting and affordable place, in a good location. But then, an hour later we found another! We preferred the first, but the management situation and long term prospects were a bit unclear and felt shaky. The second option was located inside a family compound, which was an intriguing idea to us. It had a private inner wall and gate, a colorful, lush jungle yard, a second-level bedroom with a lovely terrace overlooking a jungle canopy and rooftops, and an inner courtyard with open kitchen and adjoining nooks. And it was good for cats.

However, this place would not be available until November. In the meantime, the smaller house next door was available: one L-shaped room with loft, and a separate kitchen next door. Too small for us ordinarily, except that I was soon to go to San Francisco for several weeks, and so we figured it would work out well enough as a short term option. I first had to meet with the man of the compound, Bapak Agus. His wife Ibu Wayan had grown up in this compound. Her father is still a widely respected priest. Wayan had no brothers, so when she and Bapak married, he moved into her compound rather than the usual other way around. Now he ran things and made the decisions. I was told that he was not easy to please about potential tenants, and so I did my best to smile and speak in his language. We liked each other, and I brought Jennifer back the following day for all of us to meet and discuss the details. It went well, and Ibu Wayan brought us a type of sweet home-made gel-like delicacy wrapped in banana leaves to seal the deal.

The end of August came. Our withdrawel from the rice fields and hilly vistas of Penestanan was bittersweet. Several loaded trips down the 100 Campuan steps later, we were packed up and off we went. Typically, we lived among boxes of stuff at first, only unpacking what we’d need for 2 months. As hoped, we enjoyed the authentic feel of Nyuh Kuning right away. On walks around the block, or up to the Monkey Forest and back, we routinely come across locals who want to learn about us, and engage us in conversation. We slowly began to learn about the small businesses that are available to us instead of the larger, western-oriented ones from before. This pays off in many ways, including economic. For starters, this has allowed us to each have our own motorbike -and the freedom that comes with it. Being away from the rice fields also means no more snakes or monitor lizards. Instead, we hear a neighbor’s unique breed of “laughing” rooster. It’s really funny. Think of the beginning to the early 1960’s song “Wipeout” and you’ll get the idea.

By mid-September, it was time for me to go back to a former shell. I hadn’t been home to America since we first arrived in Bali 18 months earlier. It was time to revisit San Francisco.



























2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kathysarconi
    Nov 23, 2014 @ 03:32:22

    Your new place looks wonderful! It sounds like this move has been a nice change. Is that Jingga in one of the photos?


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