When I first decided to come to Bali, I was not sure what to expect. Friends and family talked to me about the pristine beaches and images of rice paddies from movies like Eat Pray Love that I would see, and how perfect and peaceful life there would be. And that’s all true; since coming to Bali I have visited beautiful beaches, seen the picture perfect rice paddies from the movies and settled into a peaceful, happy life here; but I have also learned that there is so much more to this small island in the Indian Ocean.
Coming to Bali, it is hard to not be affected by the culture that is present and visible in every aspect of life here, much of which stems from Balinese Hinduism. The Tri Hita Karana is the way the Balinese think about finding balance and harmony in their life – the relationship from human to human, the relationship from human to environment, and the relationship from human to spirit. In the end, it comes down to the fact that in Bali, time is not money; Time is Relationship. This mindset is what sets the stage for Bali to be the magical place it is, with the friendliest people. I have observed the Balinese welcoming attitudes towards everyone they meet. No matter where in the island you are, if you walk by a Balinese and smile at them, the will give you their biggest grin back – that is not something you get in most places in the US.
The Tri Hita Karana also helps foster a sense of community within the Balinese – if a Balinese needs something, they can rely on others in their community to help them, because here people work together, rather than in competition with one another. From what I have seen, the Balinese have their priorities straight – there is very rarely complaining, and as long as they and their family are safe, then everything is ok… being late to a meeting for example, is not something to get mad or stressed out about.
I have also learned about recognizing problems, acknowledging that they are present, and then finding creative ways to solve them from various people and organizations I have met since arriving in Bali. . A perfect example of this is the Reklamasi movement currently going on. The government is trying to build a new man-made island off of the coast of Bali, which will in turn change the coastline and the environmental landscape of Bali, and people are fighting back. ‘Reklamasi’ is a movement to take back the island and it is gaining traction quickly. Another example has to do with giving all children access to an education. Currently, there are young children from poor villages who are taken out of school because they need to work to help their families. There are multiple organizations working on this the one I am most familiar with is Anak Alam. To me, Anak Alam seems like the definition of a grassroots organization. They start by going to new villages for days at a time, to meet and talk to people to find the stem of the problem in that particular village. Whether it is lack of food/basic needs, or too far a distance from a school, Anak Alam then works to try to find creative/innovative solutions, for each village.
These are just a few select examples of the ways in which Balinese are fighting for what they think is right. I do not want to generalize a whole population, as of course there are exceptions to every rule/generalization, and after only three months here I am far from an expert on Balinese culture. That said, my experiences here have led me to believe that the Balinese are a crafty, friendly, and peaceful people, who I have, and will continue to, learn a lot from… And you could too 🙂