Okay so yet again, I’m not so great at this blogging thing. But better late than never, right? I’ve kind of decided to group blog posts by location since, well, it makes sense to group things and process them this way. Since we are pretty much in a place for a week or so, I think this will work. As we work, I have come to realize how much time and energy it takes to put my experiences and feelings into words that will effectively communicate everything, so even when we don’t have a lot of things going on after 7:00pm, i usually find myself deep in a book rather than typing out our days (hence the lateness of this post). For the past few days, we have been on Lombok, but that will come in the post after this one. This one is all about Bali and some of our experiences in our first stint on that beautiful island.
The day after we returned from Yogyakarta, we boarded the plane to Bali, arrived, and hopped in our cab and headed to Sanur where we would stay the night before the reseller in Bali, Jeroen, would pick us up the next day to head to the eastern part of the island. We got to see the beach (where I lost my phone) and stayed up until the 12:00am Netherlands vs. Mexico game began, and watched it in a bar FILLED with orange. Of course Ilhan and I were rooting for Mexico (shoutout to GSBF group Iluméxico), so it got a little awkward at times. After this relaxing night, we were ready to start working on this beautiful island.
Monday morning we headed to Sidemen, the village where we would be staying for the week. To give a little context, there are two main people in east Bali for Nazava. There is Jeroen, a who moved to Bali about a year ago to sell Nazava filters and Mangku, a native of eastern Bali. Jeroen is the main reseller, but the two work very closely to sell in the area. Anyways. In Java, the main religion is Islam, whereas in Bali, the main religion by far is Hinduism (different from Indian Hinduism, called Balinese Hinduism). We were told in advance that when we arrived on Monday, we would be going to Mangku’s village of Kebung for a ceremony that only occurs every hundred years (I forgot the name and need to ask Mangku, but it is something to do with the cleansing of a village or something of the sort). No work was to be done this day as we needed to settle in and the ceremony took up the majority of the people’s day and also blocked many of the roads in the area. Before the ceremony, we went to Mangku’s village where his daughter gave Ilhan and I traditional sarongs to wear, and honestly it made me really excited. We were about to see a traditional Hindu ceremony and community, why wouldn’t I be excited? However, this feeling of excitement changed as soon as we arrived. There were so many people there and I could speak to about 2 of them, and I knew nothing of what was going on or what anything meant. The number of quizzical stares that Ilhan, Jeroen, and I received were beyond innumerable. There were offerings all around us and alters, stages, and platforms constructed solely for this event, all covered in yellow and white cloth. It was something unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before and I’m going to be honest, I have never felt so out of place in my life. Here were these people involved in the third day of this huge religious ceremony for their village, and here I was just walking in appearing that I was there as though I just came to see the site. It honestly felt wrong to be there. But I couldn’t just leave, we were invited by Mangku and came with part of his family. Since I couldn’t communicate with anyone other than by timidly smiling, I don’t really know if people know why we were there, but I do hope those smiles put some people at ease. Eventually, I slowly began to embrace the fact that we were there to stay and tried to simply take in everything as much as I could. At one point, everyone began sitting down, and we learned that it was time to pray. I had never seen this before and it was such a beautiful ritual. People would (in unison) pray and then put flowers in their hair or ears, and then repeat. Afterward, people came around and those sitting and praying would take some to drink, some to put on the face and scalp, and then take rice from a bowl and stick it to their upper chest and forehead. We were given the water and rice as well and it was strange participating as I am not Hindu and I had no idea what it meant. However, I am glad that the whole experience happened, even if it was one of the most uncomfortable times of my life.
The next day, Ilhan and I hopped on a motorbike to get to Mangku’s house (I drove) and we were taken around a village with the village leader and his wife. The wife was a sort of agent for Nazava, so we followed her around and met a ton of Nazava customers and got a bunch of surveys in. The villages in Bali were unlike anything we had seen in Indonesia thus far. Whereas in Java, people generally lived in homes with their own space, the villages in Bali often consist of groups of homes where many families share one area of land but have many homes in it. These home-groups often have a small Hindu temple in the corner that is only for the families who live there. There are always offerings in the temple, in front of homes and stores, and sometimes just on the sidewalk. It’s incredible how tied into Hinduism each village tends to be. That afternoon, we learned how the sales process in Balinese villages often works. Jeroen and Mangku often go from village to village to the Kantor Desa, the village center (kind of like a City Hall), to meet with the Kepala Desa, the head of the village, in order to see if he would be interested in trying the filter and/or allow Jeroen and Mangku to make a presentation at the monthly village women’s meetings. If he was not in the Kantor Desa, we would ask around and make our way to his home. It’s an interesting strategy that we had never seen before, and it really seems to work. We visited one or two of these leaders who were pretty interested, and then headed back to our little home.
The next day was one for the books. Jeroen was ill, so Mangku was to take us around for the day. To start the day, we went up to this great temple at the top of a huge hill/miniature mountain. We drove motorbikes up with Mangku and a French couple who he invited (they didn’t know how to get there) and then climbed about 500 steps. It was absolutely incredible. On the way down I slipped on some moss and completely laid out on my back, but was fine. I should have really taken this as an omen for the day. Afterward, we stopped on our way down the hill to survey two of Mangku’s customers. At this point, it had started to pour down rain so Ilhan and I broke our our rain jackets and climbed on the bike for the ride down. We decided to stop at a little restaurant with a view of the valley below to have lunch. It was and incredibly calming and peaceful place. Afterward, as the rain continued to pour, we continued our journey downward following Mangku. As it was basically a mountain, the road was steep and wound a lot. I was pretty much riding the brakes through the whole way down. As we headed down a stretch, I started to notice something in the road. I processed that it was a fallen tree. I remembered seeing it on the way up and thinking “Man, someone should move this, it’s a hazard!”. And boy, was it. Since we were on the way down, it was now on our side of the road. There were no other cars or motorbikes on the road (did I mention it was POURING RAIN?) so I steered around the tree. I guess I didn’t steer quite far enough around the tree or simply underestimated the reach of the fallen giant, and our bike clipped the tree a little bit and Ilhan and I took a hard little tumble. Lying on the asphalt, I did a mental check of my body and realized “Woah. Hey. You’re okay?”. I had two decent scrapes on my knee where my pants tore, I bruise on my hip which I landed on, and some bruises/scrapes on my ankle, upon which the bike decided to rest; but other than this, I was unharmed. Ilhan was also A-okay as I pretty much broke her fall. We both got up and she walked down the hill to get Mangku who did not notice we fell at first, and I righted the bike which only suffered a small dent and broken mirrors ($20 to fix in total). Mangku rushed up, saw that I was hurt, and drove me straight to our hotel (on the crashed bike), which was about 5 minutes away. I got there and he showed the bike to the girl we borrowed it from, and she was a little shocked. I apologized profusely and Mangku went to go get Ilhan. I sat down on the step since Ilhan had the room key and thought about what happened and started to cry. This was the first time in Indonesia that I was alone. No Ilhan, no resellers, no one to talk to, and the crash hit me. I felt SO BAD for the girl whose bike we borrowed, so mad and embarrassed that the crash even happened, and so worried about what would happen next. Would those at home be mad at me? How much would the bike cost? Did I just make an absolute fool of myself? Will I be allowed to drive again? It was rough. Ilhan and Mangku came back to me crying on the porch and took me to our room where I used my handy-dandy first aid kit to clean and bandage my wounds (shoutout to Spencer and Keith on that First Aid training!). But the crying didn’t stop. For anything. I eventually realized everything would be fine and I wasn’t an idiot for wiping out on a motorbike because, truth be told, shit happens (Ilhan spoke on the phone with Lisa, our CEO, and she told her to tell me “welcome to Indonesia” and that I was a real Indonesian now). The tears from my eyes seemed to disagree. But then I realized I wasn’t crying about the accident anymore. I believe all of my pent-up frustrations from the trip thus far began to pour out in the form of Niagra falls on my face. It was endless. But afterward, it was incredible. I realized that every frustration I have had was just bottled up and needed to be freed, and finally it was. It was a very valuable lesson, and one that I am so happy to have learned. The motorbike mishap was not an ideal situation, but I would be lying if I said I wish it didn’t happen. (Side note/thought: Who does this? Actually though, I have has thought about this a lot. If someone told me two months ago I would be wiping out on a motorbike in the pouring rain in Bali, I would have laughed in their face and given them kudos for their expansive imagination. But here I sit, with my soon-to-be scar on my knee, as that girl who crashed a rented motorbike in Bali cried her eyes out and then rode it again but is totally fine and still having a great time. Who would have thunk?)
The rest of the week, we got a real taste for Nazava in east Bali. We went to countless Kantor Desa locations and met many a Kepala Desa. We went to visit customers wherever they were, which included many homes, shops, a tile factory and a local hotel. We went to a women’s meeting, known as an Ibu PKK and made a presentation there. We went to a beautiful beach for about 20 minutes on one of our drives hom. I got back on the motorbike two days after our crash and rode in the pouring rain on narrow roads and muddy roads riddled with too many potholes to count. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared when we got back on the bike, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t start out slow. But quoted people always say to do things that scare you and just get back on once you fall off, and these pieces of advice were not lost on me (which is probably why those people are quoted). Our hotel was beautiful and placed along a river and above a pond with an outdoor bathroom and shower. We got to relax after work every day and since we were so isolated from others, I managed to read two and half books, compile findings, write the novel that was my last blog post, reflect a bunch, and get a decent night’s sleep after each exhausting day. While the pace is extremely different than it is in the U.S. and we drove more hours than I care to count, it was a successful week for our project and for Nazava.
It was a great week (besides the fact that it rained the overwhelming majority of the time) and I was sad that it ended, but now we are in Lombok, and (big surprise here), it is yet again very different from both Java and Bali. Ilhan and I did not take a ton of pictures this week, but below are some that I thought were worth sharing. Until next time my friends, Hati Hati! (Take care!)
Sadus Tile Factory
Me and our ride two days post-fall
Presentation with Jeroen and Mangku at the Ibu PKK
Our little bungalow for the week
The view from our bungalow, where we got tea every morning