Letters from Bali: To Gozo from Abroad
18 April 2019
Nina and the Janoschka Family,
Hello from Bali! It has been a long-time dream to reach this Indonesian paradise and I’m finally here. By the time you receive this, I may be well gone but by then I will have stayed for a month which I consider myself very lucky. Unfortunately, visa rules prevent me from staying any longer and, trust me, I’ve learned my lesson about visa restrictions.
I’m currently sitting in my guesthouse room which is less than comfortable. Often it’s hard to find western comfort in Asia – especially when you’re a backpacker on a budget — but I’m making do. I remember when I used to be able to make a bed out of anything and get a good night’s rest anywhere.
In the Greek islands two years ago I was sleeping on the streets for the hell of it because I wanted the experience. Those days seem to have passed as I spend more time searching and assuring I’ll be in a comfortable space while traveling.
The guesthouse is a five-minute walk to Kuta Beach (which is why I’m dealing with the less-than-stellar accommodation) where I have seen the biggest waves I’ve ever witnessed. In surfing, they call the big waves where the top curls over “pipes”. You may have known already.
I could watch surfers for hours on end. Matter of fact, I often have since been here. I love imagining what they are talking about while sitting on their boards in groups of two or three facing the horizon. They are probably just discussing which sets to catch.
Who knows, maybe they are just (pardon my language) shooting the shit (it’s an American phrase for hanging out and talking nonsense with friends). I bet surf chat is the best chitchat in the world.
I walked the beach at sunset this evening like I’ve done most evenings. The southeast coast of Bali has a shoreline with miles and miles – ehm, I mean – kilometers and kilometers of beachfront. You can never tell which beach you are walking on at any given moment. It reminds me of walking through tiny cities in Malta and not knowing where one city boundary begins and the other ends.
I walked up on a football game being played in the sand. The kids, not more than fourteen or fifteen-years-old, were all smiles and horseplay. They stuck sticks in the sand to resemble goalposts and were all about giving their opponents an ear full in the local language (Javanese).
Playing with them, too, was just one tourist who looked about my age (clearly older than the kids) who for some reason seemed Irish. He didn’t know the kids and couldn’t speak their language. They couldn’t speak his. However, the man had the widest grin on his face the entire time; the same grin the kids had on. He may have even had more fun than them.
He would laugh when the kids laughed, holler when the kids hollered, and despite the language gap, still speak to the kids in English as they spoke to him in Javanese. It was a beautiful thing to see and it was clear the man could feel like a kid again – if only for that moment.
I think it’s important we all give ourselves a chance to feel like that. I appreciated the moment even more than the ensuing sunset. Football has a peculiar way of melding cultures and communication across the world and that may be the most remarkable thing about it.
I was happy for the Irish man and even happier for the kids. Though Bali is one of the more developed parts of Asia I’ve been to, there is still a blatant division between the western standard of living and Asian standard. Children are the most affected by this low standard of living across the continent.
I’ve seen a lot of sad faces in children of Asia which gets increasingly more difficult to witness. Whenever I get to see them living life as I would as a child, I’m more than happy to take a moment and enjoy.
I’ve been living in Borneo for three months now. I came to Bali on a ‘visa run’ (leaving the country in order to get re-stamped and extend my stay). I will return for another three months and I have a flight back to Kansas City in late July – shh, don’t tell Mom, it’s going to be a surprise!
‘Nina and the Janoschka Family’ sounds like the name of my next favorite band or something. It has a mid-Nineties alternative ring to it.
I hope all is well in your Gozitan paradise. Whenever I think back to my trips to Gozo, my memories are pretty much completely saturated by your beautiful home and my time spent in it with such lovely people. What a gorgeous place on an incredible island. You should feel so happy about that Gozo home.
Nina, I’m so happy to see your latest endeavor, “Growing Gozo”, but I am hardly surprised at the same time. Such a thoughtful use of your current situation and time – a classic Nina idea 😉
I particularly like the ‘no waste’ policy as I’ve gotten to the point where my daily life and the amount of waste I’m producing is getting frustrating. Asia does not put a lot of care into how they package products or serve food. I’m hoping to see lots of tips and information on how I could start cutting down.
I noticed your August time frame of which you will take a step back and re-evaluate the project, but I’m convinced this idea will wake up the Maltesers and you will be forced to keep shedding awareness as you do. Good on you.
We have to catch up soon. I want to know what your next moves are. Who knows, maybe you will stay in Gozo forever and I wouldn’t blame you!
Also by the time you will have received this, the immigration office in Malta will have come up with a decision about my appeal to shorten my depravity from Europe. I’ll surely keep you up-to-date on that by way of instant communication and not a letter which takes a month to navigate the Indian Ocean. Cross your fingers for me!
Take care, guys, and don’t be such strangers,