Ani was in hysterics. Her laughter was infectious and soon enough I was in a fit of giggles also. We were being dressed up in Balinese ceremonial clothing and Rory in particular was the reason for such joyous commotion. You see Rory always confuses the Balinese people due to his long hair. “Boy or Girl”, is a common question we are often hurled as we walk past street sellers and taxi drivers. This is because in Bali boys of school age must have short hair in order to be able to attend school. So boys, such as Rory, with long hair are not a common occurrence and yet here he was with his beautiful face and long hair, looking almost feminine to this family wearing the boys costume
reserved for special ceremonies only. It was a rare site to be seem for them and had our friend doubled over with tears of laughter streaming down her face.
Our family had been invited to spend the afternoon at Ani and Ketut’s (our Balinese friends) house and we weren’t quite sure what to expect. They picked us up and we drove for about 20 minutes to their village which was near Ubud. When we pulled up we were surprised to see many single story buildings within this complex that our friends called home. We later found out that this is because they live on the same site as their mother-in-law and two of Ketut’s siblings who also live with their respective families. So in total four small family units lived on this complex and each had their own house and kitchen but shared the outdoor space and temple on their site.
I find the traditions of the Balinese culture fascinating particularly when it comes to who they live with and their roles within their family depending on when they were born. For example Ketut was the youngest child in his family and therefore it had become his responsibility to look after his parents into their old age. This meant that his wife And also took on this role and she explained to us with a mixture of pride and pleasure that it was her sole responsibility to ensure that her mother-in-law never had to worry and was always happy. The way the information was relayed made the tradition sounds so completely natural and beautiful that it had me questioning our own, almost selfish in comparison, Western traditions.
Whilst there, we sat on the steps outside of Ani and Ketut’s abode and were presented with all kinds of fruit plates as well as some traditional Balinese sweet treats. We walked around the complex, were introduced to all of the family members and were then given the ceremonial costumes to put on and photographs in for ‘good memory’ of Ani and Ketut’s place. Not only that but we were lucky enough to walk around the area surrounding the family complex and play games with the local children. Ricky and the boys introduced them to the game of Rugby and then I played a game of knuckle bones with pebbles from the footpath while the boys tried their hand at it with the smaller children. Full disclosure here… I used to be the knuckle bone queen back in my school days but playing in such a rugged and simple way with rocks for ‘knuckle bones’ whilst scraping my real knuckles along the pavement to pick up the remaining stones proved a bit too primitive for me and I was beaten in style by Ani’s 12 year old daughter.
We had a marvellous afternoon with Ketut, Ani and their family and left with full bellies and smiling faces. The perks of travelling can be numerous but connecting with families from other cultures and backgrounds and getting to experience a part of their lives is a truly humbling, enlightening and ultimately gratifying experience. And one that I hope to repeat often during this journey.