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I will start by saying that the experience I had yesterday at the hospital was not expected. Earlier in the day my wife Shelly mentioned that on Facebook, she read that my builder’s daughter was in the hospital. Wayan (my builder) never mentioned the fact of his daughter’s ill health at the job site. Instead we were discussing the dimensions of a future gazebo that I want to build next to the pool and cafe.

At some point I said, is your daughter in the hospital? Wayan affirmed that in fact she was, and so I said, “Why aren’t you there?” He said, “I’m helping you.” I then quickly put an end to the meeting on the site and said I was going home to shower and then visit the hospital. Later he arranged for his other daughter’s boyfriend to drive us to the hospital so that we wouldn’t have to take our scooter and drive 45 minutes to Denpasar.

We arrived about an hour before Wayan did, and so we had time to learn a bit more about Wayan and his lovely family. The daughter in the hospital, Bintang, majored in English in college and so its a pleasure speaking with her. She told me that Wayan doesn’t have any real friends and that I am his first. On top of that, the entire family is very surprised that the friend (me) happens to be a bule’ (foreigner). When I brought up Wayan’s Banjar friends (a Balinese neighborhood association that’s important for every village on the island), Bintang was quick to position the Banjar members as associates and not close friends.

Having heard this, I was a bit taken aback. How is it possible that I would become close friends with someone from such a radically different background? I am halfway around the world from the USA and yet feel closer to Wayan and his family than I do with all of my American friends (except one).

Since we were all waiting for Wayan to appear I thought I’d tell of a prank I played on Wayan at the worksite. For the bathrooms, we chose doors with a “cloudy” sticker over the glass. This way light can pass into the bathrooms and it makes the entry to the bathrooms more approachable (in my opinion). But my wife was concerned that people’s privacy would be compromised. Her solution was to order another sticker to be placed on the other side of the glass, so that each window has two cloudy stickers. I said to Wayan, “Let’s test how one sticker looks.” Wayan agreed and then I went into the bathroom and promptly faked that I was pulling down my shorts. Wayan laughed at the time, and both the daughter and mother in the hospital thought it was hilarious.

Finally Wayan appeared with his youngest child, a boy about 14. He sat on the bed across from Bintang and had his arm around his son while his wife placed her two hands on his shoulders. At that moment I felt a sense of transcendence. I was in the middle of a very intimate family moment and yet welcomed and embraced by them.

What began as a building project has grown into something vastly more: a chance to have a fine and deep connection to a remarkable human being and his family. Thank you Wayan.

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