Bali: a culture of MacGyvers

It seems extremely odd that my Balinese builder would reference the TV show character MacGyver when discussing our hole-digging contractor.

(Photo of MacGyver courtesy of Wikipedia)

I mean the guy is as far from an Indonesian hero as possible on the surface, but perhaps because of his Swiss Army Knife, his duct tape and paper clips, MacGyver’s ingenuity elevated him into a universal male idol.

The contractor that the builder and I were referencing is this guy (next to the man in the white shirt);

He built his digging machine by hand so that holes could be dug 5-6 meters deep for steel and concrete, supporting the above-ground columns that will secure the structure. The photo below is of a steel frame getting ready to be lowered into one of the 46 holes the contactor dug for us:

The effort is muddy and physically demanding, but every day the contractor pressed on, digging 2-3 holes a day.

To build his contraption the contractor essentially took a large portable engine and attached a gear system to a custom-made blade and pipe, supporting it on either side with steel posts. The mud would cake up and the blade had to be cleaned regularly:

My builder and I calculated that after 25 jobs or so his investment was fully recovered.

In Bali only tall buildings need holes dug deep into the ground. Typical one-story villas don’t require more than a meter or so of hand-digging for the foundation. I imagine if all villas required deeper holes then a commercial hole digger would be made available for contractors. And if course you can buy an auger machine from a first-world country, but the price point makes it impossible.

The solution is a MacGyver!


Joyful Bali Breezes

The windy season starts in July and continues until September / October here in Bali. Especially along the beaches, and primarily in the afternoon, the breezes are gifts that keep on giving.

If you’re Balinese, it certainly doesn’t mean chilling out at a sandy, overpriced bar. If you have the time, it means grabbing your friends and setting a kite skywards.

On this particular day, a kite festival was taking place at Munggu Beach, just west of Pererenan Beach.

We hit the tail-end of the festival, just as a team was leaving the scene:

They were kind enough to let us take a team photo.

I love the community spirit involved in getting kits afloat: coordination, artistic skill, strength, and best of all, the shared poetry of flight.

Here is a list of kite festivals, as well as more details about kite creation and the traditions of kite flying in Bali.

As I previously wrote, the

Balinese are an island culture, but one of their many unique qualities is that spiritually they look to volcanos (skyward), instead of the sea. It’s not that they don’t like the sea. It’s just that the volcanos represent spiritual elevation and a home for their gods and ancestors.

From this point of view, flying kites is an ideal activity for the people of Bali.

And as a tourist, its an easier way to interact with Balinese culture than attending religious or dance ceremonies. I highly recommend it.


Is Bali like a year-round Mardi Gras Festival?

There are two major trends at work behind this idea: the first is that the Balinese have many, many ceremonies — and parading and wearing special clothing is part of their rituals.

Secondly, both the Balinese and a large number of visitors get married in Bali. And while we know what Western bridal clothing looks like, the Balinese kind-a own the wedding look:

I mean, wow! Between the ceremonies and weddings you may start to think that perhaps Bali truly has non-stop, year-round pageantry.


The Balinese & their Kites

The Balinese are an island culture, but one of their many unique qualities is that spiritually they look to volcanos (skyward), instead of the sea. It’s not that they don’t like the sea. It’s just that the volcanos represent spiritual elevation and a home for their gods and ancestors.

It would be interesting to determine how many island cultures take to the sky spiritually, versus the sea. My theory is that the creation of terraced rice fields enabled the Balinese to cultivate their rice at higher altitudes than other island-based, rice-oriented cultures.

Had they cultivated rice only at the lower altitudes they’d be closer to the sea and might have included aspects of the sea into their spiritually. But that’s not the case. They remain an animistic and Hindu culture and Mount Agung and the other volcanos remain critically important to the world view of the Balinese people.

Kites represent a very real mode of play with the sky and the wind and the spirits above.


A moment at the beach

On Sundays there’s quite a few food vendors at Pantai Pererenan, but the corn guy is an everyday staple (mostly), along with the combi cafe VW van.

And now, here is your moment of zen: