12 Jul CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE PART 3/4 – BALI
These lines were written in Bali. I had planned this trip far in advance before the Coronavirus rocked the world and decided that I would stick with my plans, unless my flight from Frankfurt got cancelled. I flew to Bali on March17th and on March 20th global entry stopped. I was ok risking to potentially having to quarantine for two weeks, but luckily that did not happen. You may call it coincidence, I call it fate.
It was important to me to get a break from media, opinions and advice. I deactivated my Instagram account once again and I left various Facebook groups. To protect and preserve my own energy, I had to turn my back on the (German) negativity and the constant fear surrounding me for the moment. I wanted time and tranquility to properly grasp my situation, to turn inwards, to reflect and observe. For me, this trip was worthwhile because I could experience the reactions to the virus in another affected country and culture first-hand. What was especially interesting was to witness how differently we as people, but also as nations, deal with unknown situations. The pandemic revealed our true faces.
For the first couple of weeks, I was the only guest of an Indonesian family in Ubud. They took great care of me and answered many cultural questions. The Coronavirus was of course a frequent topic of conversation there. Bali’s economy relies heavily and almost exclusively on tourism. The negative effects on the people there cannot be put into words, and yet I could experience a positivity there that was just as indescribable. Above all, I would like to know whether my presence as a tourist at this strange time was at all okay? Or whether it might’ve been disrespectful to the Indonesian people? They explained to me that as a human being you can be anywhere in the world and that nobody has an exclusive right to exist – as long as you play by the rules. In other words, always use hand sanitizer, avoid crowds, wear your mask, and stay calm. In this case, to be calm means not to panic. Panic, stress and fear weakens the immune system and this weakness in turn makes you a target.
Ketut, my host, like most other Balinese, meditates several times a day. He says that when you are at peace with yourself, have created and built a connection with yourself, and value a healthy diet, meaning fruit and vegetables, you have nothing to worry about. This statement confirms my opinion on the subject even more. This obviously does not mean that people here in Bali are carefree. Quite the contrary. But the Balinese deal with stress in a completely different way, which inspires me.
Talking to the locals, they revealed that they were worried about how things would look for their families in the future, whether the crime rate would rise again and how tourism will be in Bali. Yet, the people there do not fall victim to restlessness, because they know that this will not help. Ketut told me that fear is a foreign word for him and at that the end of the day it only creates more fear.
Almost all restaurants were closed or, as in Germany, only offered meals to go. The beaches have been cordoned off by police patrols. All Yoga and Energy-Healing-Studios, for which Ubud is very well known and popular for, were closed indefinitely. Live streamed online classes were the solution. It was so nice to see how creative some people and companies – no matter if on Bali, in Germany or in other countries around the world – are and what great ideas and solutions originated in the pandemic. People start to rethink and reevaluate which creates courage and above all is just wonderful to see.
In Indonesia, the lockdown was not yet in effect, but the government still appealed to all locals and tourists to stay at home and order or cook their food as much as possible. The tourism in Bali is so essential that you could find a few shops here and there that were open. From time to time, free Air Pollution face masks were distributed in the streets and in front of all shops, no matter if supermarket or restaurant, there were employees standing and greeting you politely with hand sanitizer.
If you have ever been to Bali, especially to Canggu and Ubud, you know how much traffic there is usually and how many tourists visit these beautiful places. It was amazing to see how quiet it was there.
When I talked to my other host Yudi, he revealed that he was even a bit happy about the situation: “It’s good for the environment. For the nature. You hear the birds chirping again and the air smells and tastes fresher and clearer. You can really feel that the earth is breathing again.”
also spent Nyepi here. Nyepi or Silent Day is the highest Hindu holiday in Bali and a common holiday in Indonesia. Its purpose is to celebrate the Balinese New Year. It is a day on which the Hindus purify their body, mind and soul with meditation and fasting. The Balinese therefore spend it in peace and quiet. This means that no one can leave their house, make noise, use electricity or fire. The internet is turned off all over Bali and the air traffic is shut down on that day. Since the Balinese follow a different calendar, Nyepi does not always take place on the same day. This year the holiday fell on March 25th. What was so special about it? Nyepi was extended to two days because of the Coronavirus and the traditional and impressive Ogoh-Ogoh parade, which always takes place the day before and reminded me of a German carnival parade, was postponed to August for the time being.
I also spoke with Wayan, who drove me from Canggu back to Ubud. At first, he didn’t understand my question about how he deals with Coronavirus and if he was worried. Not because he didn’t understand me, but because he thought that – apart from taking precautions – nothing could be done anyway. “It’s the way it is, and as long as you have a roof over your head and can provide your family with food, everything is fine. Then you can be happy and satisfied.” Positivity! That was my mantra on this trip.
You know how they say that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and that you always want to have what you don’t have? In Germany, there are no tropical temperatures and the nature does not compare to Bali. However, one does not want to be admitted to an Indonesian hospital, as the condition of the health system is more than critical. The hospitals do not have enough beds, there is a lack of staff and necessary medication. I met a young woman in Ubud who told me about a tourist from Russia who suffered a heart attack in a restaurant a few weeks prior. He died at the scene of the accident since the ambulance took over an hour to get there. His wife was with him the entire time and had to witness the terrible scenario. Why am I telling you this? Because we are very rarely aware of the lucky situation we are in and rarely grateful for the things that only we may take for granted…