Our builder, Wayan, is a leader in his local village and twice a year hosts a Balinese ceremony.
(Photo: Wayan to my left, his partners, and the site foreman – in a striped shirt)
Wayan invited Shelly and I to a post-ceremony celebration of music, dance and Balinese cuisine at his home. It was a privilege to be a part of his extended family. Everyone was generously and genuinely willing to open their hearts to us.
The construction crew is an extended family, from Bali. They work seven days a week and camp out on the property in very modest conditions. They work incredibly hard and yet they do not complain. They do require time to go back to their villages for ceremonies of various types, but otherwise they work reliably and formidably.
Shelly and I decided that since phase one is complete and the concrete floor slabs are in place, we would treat the crew to food from the vendors at the beach. On Sundays the locals come to relax and there’s a half-dozen or so food vendors to keep the crowds happy.
In general the client (such as myself) doesn’t interact with the building crew. And I am naturally limited because the crew doesn’t speak English. The process for communication is that I talk to the builder (who can speak limited English), who then talks with the crew foreman, and from there the work gets done.
Shelly and I also bring food treats and old clothes to the crew every now and again, and I’m the type of client who likes to visit the building site daily, to see the progress and learn the details.
So treating the crew like regular folk and appreciating their contributions was something that we wanted to formally acknowledge at the beach gathering.
The heartwarming moment for me was when they told me to stop spending money on them. At that point I had spent about 300,000 rupiah ($20 USD) on bakso (meatball and noodle soup), grilled corn, martabak (veggie mini-pancakes), drinks, etc. The crew knew I wouldn’t say no if they kept eating and drinking. But they didn’t want to overdo it.
Ok I know I mentioned some excitement around the idea of getting the concrete slabs in place for the basement and living areas, but then the workers went off to another Balinese ceremony for three days (it was supposed to be two days).
I was warned that there was going to be plenty of ceremony breaks and for that reason many builders hire workers from Java. But my builder is Balinese and I really don’t mind it too much, since my confidence in my builder is very high. I know he wants to do an excellent job and so that keeps my spirits up.
We will have to push our excitement for the slabs into the near future (this coming week!). The main benefits of having slabs are: no mud around the structure itself, and secondly that the slab provides a flat and solid surface for the scaffolding (which enables the construction of floors and walls).
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.