Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meet my Balinese family

Family has a way of defying every level-headed attempt at delineating boundaries, establishing independence, and showing affection. It is with this bone-deep sense of belonging that I apply the term to my Balinese hosts. They've changed since I saw them four and a half years ago: both my teacher and his son have been widowed by sudden illness within the past seven months and they and the son's small children are relying on a sister-in-law to keep it together domestically.

I'm still getting my bearings on Day 3 in the village. There's passable internet at a couple of places, the Balinese can be cloyingly hospitable even as internet operators. I walked out of the cafe with a gifted salak fruit today. Yesterday I had supper very late because an aunt I somehow gave away my love of noodles and had a bowl in my hand before I'd known what I was being asked. After stopping briefly at her tailoring storefront, I saw the niece and another woman I didn't recognize carrying bucketfuls of dirt to the construction site (pictured) below. I wanted to help them, not least because I've had no exercise since leaving Bandung, but as they had just filled up their buckets and there were no extra containers, I followed them empty-handed.

I've mostly gotten my level back since the end of CELTA. Job hunting is a serious habit for me and I've had to remind myself not to get too discouraged when I meet dead ends. I have the rest of the month to get the full picture of options, including volunteering to teach and teaching theater improv and Classical music.

I'm glad to be here alone -- on my first trip I was always accompanied by a white guy who'd been here much longer and knew the languages better, so Balinese usually addressed him whereas now they either bother to try my Indonesian or they don't.

I can tell it's a long coming out process as most locals read me as male but some remember me from before. I actually pulled the legal document to get my teacher to start answering correctly when others ask about my gender. I figure he should know, since they have to register when they have a guest staying at their house and as far as Immigration knows, I'm male. Aside from that, it's no matter: the strange cultural practices Balinese're accustomed to witnessing from visitors far exceed transgender, and I know that's saying a lot. It really doesn't insult me the same way that the family sometimes makes mistakes about my gender. For example, they've suggested a compromise for traditional ceremonial clothing where I tie my sarong in the male way but don't wear the male headdress. I guess it'll be the ultimate sign of their acceptance when they put that on me...

The view from my balcony, left.

This is the sister-in-law who has been taking care of me at the house. Fortunately it seems some other family members, particularly the kids, also eat the abundant veggie food she makes for me. That's granddaughter #2, who is surprisingly calm and quiet. Unsurprisingly, she's completely adorable. Here's the proud grandpa, a quiet sweet man who enigmatically patted me on the ass last night:

This is the eldest son who got seriously ill after his wife passed away suddenly. He's still quite thin compared to how I rememeber him but now in better spirits. The big pictures are Bagawan Baba, explained to me by the young man to took me to prayer as a godfather of a minority of Bali Hindus.

This is the big cheese himself. Last night at women's gamelan I witnessed a cool moment when he paused for a few seconds while we practiced a repeating section, then taught an improvised counterpoint on 10-key jublag. When I expressed surprise about that and the 8-key jegog, he answered that it's traditional. (For the uninitiated, whenever I've noticed those instruments before, they had five keys each.)

Life in Munduk isn't the same without my teacher's wife, and life in the family compound is startlingly quiet without dance lessons by the son's wife and rehearsals in the (now under construction) sanggar.

1 comment:

  1. awesome to hear about the veggie-friendly food rubbing off on the young'uns. sounds like a deep movement in your overarching symphony... i am glad to be in touch with your path. wishing you well.... lady free