Letter from Bali – XXII – The End (part 2 and final)
It is fitting that this final letter be written on this date,
For it was one year to this very day that we squeezed onto the plane,
And flew off east all white and pale on our little jungle soirée.
I had every intention to finish this post when we shook hands with the staff,
Exchanging hugs and passing out envelopes of bye bye bonus cash,
When we threw the green light to pillage and loot what we weren’t bringing back.
Events intrude and time runs out and blogs fall by the wayside,
School wraps up and farewell parties fill up the nights and weekends,
And before you know it your letter’s become a list of fading memories.
What matters in life is a question which every sentient being ponders,
At $50 per overweight kilo you figure it out in a hurry;
China Airlines does for philosophy what a lifetime of searching failed to.
So we bring the children, they can come, we’ve grown rather attached to the pair of them,
And we bring the paintings some of which are looking misplaced already.
But we say goodnight to the Bali moon that defies our attempts at wrapping,
And we say goodnight to the scooter bikes with the rule of law returning.
Goodnight too to the pregnant cat who failed her immigration testing,
And goodnight to the villa staff who earn far beneath the minimum wage here.
Goodnight to the bamboo school and the classrooms without boundaries,
That open to the jungle plants and nature’s creepy crawlies.
And goodnight to the mountain bike and the rice field morning riding,
Past farmers bent over tended pools of grain that nears the harvest.
Goodnight to the basketball hoop and three pointers from the orchids,
And goodnight to the swimming pool with its games of sharks and minnows.
Goodnight to the internet as fast as paint that’s drying,
And farewell to electric bills that would bankrupt smaller nations.
Goodnight to the toilet bowls just as I’d figured out the buggers,
And goodnight to the dodgy police with their smiles and hands extended.
Goodnight to the breaking waves and the surf that throws you over,
And goodnight to the Bintang beers and the gin cooked up in bathtubs.
Goodnight to making breakfast in your underwear outdoors,
And goodnight to counting gecko’s staring down on you at bedtime.
The suitcase at the final count contains life’s simpler pleasures,
Like socks and shirts and toothpaste tubes, and assorted piles of lego.
Air China will not get a dime for the cargo’s in our heads now;
Memories are what we take and friendships that were forged.
But as we wave goodbye to all and bounce on down the bypass,
We know not yet that Indonesia has left a mark upon us.
Only when we’re back again on a cold wet summer’s day here,
While I sit amidst the traffic piled to cross the River Fraser;
The ordered lines of fat and pale all trapped behind their windshields,
Faces slushing coffee back stare blankly into oblivion.
And now I know I’ve brought something I didn’t know I carried,
A parasite has taken hold and will live until I’m buried;
Worth and hope and art and fun are the things on which it’s feeding,
And if I fail to fill it up the beast will surely kill me.
So be careful what you wish for if you step outside your normal,
You just might find there’s more going on than the business plan allows for;
But if the urge to stir the pot appeals to your sensibility,
You could do worse than a year abroad on an island filled with sunshine.
Thank you for reading. Sharing has been half the fun. The antibiotics seem to be working.
Appendix 1 – Dollars and Sense (USD) for one year in Bali (correct at time of press).
The Green School – Private School Fees = $12,000 per annum x 2 kids (up front) = $24,000
Villa Splendido, Ubud, Bali (Resident rodents included at no extra charge. Comes with 54ft salt water private swimming pool and all the coconuts you can eat) = $2,000 per month. Entire year payable in full on first day (common practise) = $24,000.
Flights – $1500 return each = $6,000
Immigration and labyrinth navigation services – ‘Social’ visas x 2 plus ‘Kitas’ school visas x 2 = $4000?? Social visa requires exit of the country every 60 days or less or a $300 fixer fee while Kitas is free to stay but requires an exit/reentry permit every time you leave the country (i.e. every 60 days! – are you following?) Note: It is cheapest to lock the children in their room in Bali while you go overseas without them, renewing your own visa in the process and having a jolly good time to boot.
Staff – Obligatory under contract with the villa – Head housekeeper (x1) plus gardener (x1) plus security (x2 – never sighted in past eleven months nor needed) plus pool guy (x1). Non obligatory driver with car (x 1) – total staff cost (including car rental) = $750 per month paid monthly plus pay bonus three times a year on ceremony day (x2) plus departure (x1) of one extra month each time = 15 months pay a year = $11,000 approx. (ceremony money not payable on the car etc., according to divination of spirit’s intentions)
Transportation – Scooter rental = $50 per month + gas approx. $6/month. Car rental included in staff cost. You pay for gasoline, varies according to use… approx. $100 per month + big trips (Petrol is 50 cents per litre – government fixed). There is no car or motorcycle insurance. You pay for accidents or fines in cash out of pocket at the site. $2000 a year total for domestic transportation.
Cell phones are almost free.
Electricity for two air conditioners and a pool pump is nearly $4000 a year (go figure – not included in house rental cost).
Western food and alcohol is more expensive than supermarkets in the west. Rice and noodles are cheap.
Since by day one in your new house you have paid almost $60,000 already (school, flights, visas, house rental), and you are committed to another $10,000 in staff , you are ‘pot committed’ to $70,000 before you’ve had your first beer. Enjoy your year! The Indonesian government forces you to leave every two months so travel opportunities (and costs) are plentiful. You should get change out of $100,000 before considering your loss of earnings (all visas prohibit paid employment in the country).
225 million Indonesians get by on $7 a day.
Over and out.