Growing Pains

While I was away from Bali, Jennifer moved us into the house next door. We were still in Bapak and Ibu’s lovely family compound, but now in a 2-story house with a lush, private yard and entrance. There was much about our new home to enjoy and feel thankful about, but I felt right away that it wasn’t the long-term home that we sorta hoped for. Although I’d been inside this house 2-3 times before, it was artfully decorated, lived in, and vibrant back then, and we didn’t see the red flags and shortcomings. Now, I was acutely aware of how steep and tricky the stairs down to the bathroom were at 3:00 a.m. And just how low those beautifully carved door overhangs were. And how the patio is broken into several slightly different elevations. We banged our heads, hips, and elbows and stubbed our toes often in the months ahead.

Still, it was an excellent deal and location. We loved the views and sounds from our terrace and bedroom upstairs. Downstairs, the inner courtyard was a big draw to the house. It was sandwiched between 2 raised living spaces and a sizable, open kitchen. When the weather was lovely all was beautiful in the courtyard. Beautiful blossoms hung overhead; happy cats slept and lept about the rooftop tiles; and varied birds darted and sang. But when it rained, it was altogether different. The splattering and drizzle drifted too far into the other spaces, drenching parts, and creating a dirty and slippery situation. Same with the front terrace and half-open bathroom. We learned this as the torrential rainy season hit us.

As with the temporary house we’d just moved from, we needed to (deep) clean this home ourselves. Lets just say that the Balinese define that concept differently than we do. Besides the clearing of cobwebs, glass cleaning, sweeping, and usual quantities of elbow grease required, there were areas with serious mold problems. So we spent a lot of time sanding, priming, and painting many walls. Then there were the fixtures. First the shower faucet broke, followed quickly by the toilet, then sink, and finally kitchen faucets! In Indonesia, it’s the responsibility of the tenants to pay for these repairs and parts. The bad news is that -as with many products in Bali, faucets are made cheaply. The good news is that they’re sold cheaply too. I enjoyed the painting and home improvement phase. I was making many visits to the related shops nearby, which rarely have foreign visitors. Some of the staff like to practice their english with me. A tiny woman in the paint department poked my chest, smiled and said “nipple!”.

We are happy to be in Nyuh Kuning, but miss the rice fields of Penestanan, and even the snakes and monitor lizards that come with them. This Nyuh Kuning home has more ants and cockroaches. If you accidentally drop a piece of something, or don’t do the dishes, or leave out a jar, or if the cats leave half a baby gecko or butterfly on the ground overnight, there will quickly evolve a dense cluster of ants around the prey, with a line of hundreds (or thousands) more coming and going. Their trail will stretch along varied intersecting edges of the courtyard and eventually withdraw up a post or into a crevice 30 feet away. (Ants continue to really wow me with their cooperative and organizational skills. Usually, each ant touches noses briefly with every single passerby ant!).

We mostly let the ants, spiders, bugs and critters be, but with 2 exceptions. We don’t tolerate cockroaches. They’re fairly big here, and can populate quickly. Jen’s the hunter, and I’m the undertaker. The other insect not to feel sympathy for is the mosquito. We take several minutes every night to look for “mozzies” (as the Balinese call them) inside our bed net before going to sleep. There’s been an outbreak this year of Dengue Fever in Bali. We’ve been spared, but know of many who’ve come down with it this year, including neighbors.

One morning at the crack of dawn we heard a low, loud, powerful rumbling, coming slowly up our street. We were groggy, but something significant was happening. A 747? Locomotive? Both? A glance out our 2nd story bedroom window was erie and menacing. Off in the distance crept a wave of thick grey gas, slowly but surely coming our way, from along the ground, up through the trees and over the rooftops, blanketing absolutely everything. A fumigation truck, crawling the streets of our village, was spewing both sides with a heavy insecticide, leaving only grey in its wake. We had never seen this before, and there had been no advanced warning. Within 20 minutes everything looked back to normal -but poison lingered.

On this particular morning all our bags were packed and we were ready to go, as they say. We were heading to a new destination -which is always exciting. This time it was Sri Lanka, the tear-drop shaped island-nation off the southeast coast of India. A short few hours later, as we landed there and taxied towards the gate, two crew members walked up and back the aisles spraying all the passengers -first high and then low- with a gas insecticide.






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