Worlds Apart


I’m warning you now that this is going to be one of those rambling stream of consciousness type posts, so if you’d rather just skip knowing what my mind goes through at midnight on a Tuesday, go right ahead.

Tomorrow is Galungan and as usual has been preceded by weeks of preparations and stress about lack of money and why I’m not helping and what’s going to happen when Made’s mother is too old to do all the ceremonial stuff. It’s very sad but the longer I’m here, the less I enjoy anything to do with Balinese Hinduism. I think in essence, it is a very beautiful religion and makes a lot of sense but I find myself turning away more and more each day. In fact I realise now that I pretty much hate Galungan due to all the stress and subsequent arguments it causes, which is a real shame as it is supposed to be the biggest celebration on the Balinese calendar.

The fact is that Galungan and other big ceremonies may seem colourful and exciting to visitors but for the Balinese, or rather the Balinese women, they are a LOT of work. Work on top of taking care of the children, looking after the home and doing their normal paid work. Made’s mother has been preparing offerings for months and once Galungan and Kuningan are over, it will just be onto getting ready for the next ceremony.

I think the idea behind doing offerings to show your thanks for everything the world has given you is a great one. The simple daily offerings can be a joy to do. However backbreaking work for weeks on end and families getting into debt just so they can make a load of offerings for some big ceremony that will be thrown away or eaten at the end of the day – why?

Sometimes I feel like the longer I’m here, the less I understand and I don’t even try to understand anymore. I’m used to the fact that Made will be moody and quick-tempered in the weeks running up to a big ceremony. I’m used to walking on eggshells until it’s over with and we can go back to normal, that is until the next ceremony.

Stress, stress and more stress. Stress about his mother working so hard with no support, stress about having no money, stress about me being on my computer all the time trying to make money. We go round and round in circles and get nowhere.

There is so much that I want to do. I have about a million business ideas and about an hour a day to put them into practice. And of course I use that time in exchange for money so we can keep limping along until the next month. I don’t want this blog to just be pictures – I have a million words dying to get out (if you couldn’t tell by what you’ve read so far) but there just isn’t any time to sit down and write when I should be doing something else. I want to draw but in my free time I work and feel guilty that I’m working and not weaving palm leaves or studying the Hindu vedas or something.

I never really realised how hard it would be being in a multicultural relationship before we got married. After having kids, things only get harder because while you may be willing to compromise when it comes to yourself, everyone just wants the best for their children. When you have conflicting ideas about what is best, of course it is bound to lead to arguments.

I’m trying to pick my battles and be less obsessed over the things that don’t really matter. I no longer glare and slam doors when I see my in-laws chasing Maya around with a bowl of rice – I just sigh, hand them a spoon and let them get on with it. But some things just seem to wind me up more and more and I don’t even know if it’s really a cultural thing or just me disagreeing with them.

For example, I hate the way they lie to Maya. I hate how they will say they’ll take her swimming or to see the monkeys when really they just want to say anything that will get her dressed and out of the door. I hate how they just give children whatever they want if there’s the slightest hint of a tantrum. I’m not harsh in my parenting style but I really don’t want to be raising little spoiled brats.

I’m not even really sure what my point is here but sometimes I feel like I’m an alien just landed on this planet and I look around and think “who ARE these people?”. Yesterday I cut a good 6 inches off my hair and I’m still waiting for someone to comment or even notice it. Is that normal? Maybe it’s not polite to comment on someone’s appearance here? But no because every time I go out, someone is sure to tell me that I’m getting too skinny. Maybe they’re just worried that I cut my hair off because I’m going slightly crazy and maybe that isn’t too far from the truth.

I do love my life here most of the time but wow, is it hard. I know I should be trying harder to fit in, to learn more, to do more but I have two small children crying for my attention, a mountain of credit card debt and not enough hours in the day. I’m so behind on everything at the moment, it’s not even funny. I feel like I’ve been working harder and harder these last few weeks and yet I’m getting less and less done. I can’t even stay on top of my project 365 photos.

Anyway I guess I should get some sleep so I can wake up too late (ie after 4am) and get glared at again and apologise silently for not being born the perfect Balinese housewife. But tomorrow is Galungan so maybe things will improve for a while until the next ceremony rolls around again. Such is life.

This post is brought to you by my rapidly degenerating grip on reality and the fact I’m up way after my normal bed time supposed to be catching up on work that is already 2 days late but I’m blogging instead. I rock.

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12 Responses to “Worlds Apart”

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  1. Love the honesty in this post! =)

  2. Mama, I don’t know how bad it is but lemme give you a virtual hugs and hope all will be well.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I totally agree, I love the honesty as well. I think many people out there think that those of us living in ‘paradise’ are living the dream. Sure, Bali is an amazing place, otherwise we wouldn’t live here right? But like anywhere in the world, Bali definitely has it’s downsides too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I hope that the stress levels drop after Galungan is over…..or well…maybe after Kuningan. 😉

  4. Alys says:

    Oh Rachel I know exactly how you feel! It’s really hard having two small children so close together in age and it’s even harder when you add cultural differences into the mix. Teguh and I are lucky in that we live in HK far away from everyone but we still get interfering in-laws from afar. We are going to Indo tomorrow (not Bali sadly!) for Azlan’s christening and I’m dreading it…days of ceremonies, being told off for doing the wrong thing, people feeding my kids junk and then giving me unsolicited advice on how to raise them etc. I’ve been there and I know how tough it is. Have you ever thought of moving somewhere a big further from the family? It might cause a bit of trouble in the beginning but if it helps your relationships with everyone/your sanity it might be worth looking into? Can’t really offer any more advice but just know I’m with you all the way, like I said, I’ve been there, and it sucks. PM me anytime if you want to talk/vent. Hope things improve xxx

  5. Maya and Isa's Mum says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I have been enjoying reading your blog for the past two months, but this post really hit home for me. I, too, am married here in Bali and sometimes feel like I am suffocating under the weight of family, ceremonies and debt. Thank you so much for your candidness and honesty. We are blessed to be living on this magical island, but it isn’t always easy! xxxx

  6. I never realised the work that went into all the ceremonies. I had no idea how time consuming all the prep is, and how that limits the ability of women to tame on other roles. I’d be super interested to hear more about the specifics involved. Sounds intense.
    I tell you, I can imagine how hard it would be to navigate parenting across cultures here. I only get a taste of it with our lovely Indonesian nanny who is super accommodating of my strange ways, but I still get side eyes, and unsolicited advice, and mild scoldings and stuff. And the funny thing is that I’ve kind of taken on some Indonesian practices (l don’t chase my girl around with rice, but I have been known to walk after with soup, or bowls of pasta or whatever and I kind of want to punch myself in the face for that!)
    Anyway, I admire you! Sounds tough. You’re doing a great job, though.

  7. Rachel says:

    Thanks! I normally try to keep negativity off my blog but this less of a rant and more of a small window into my mind. I do feel better just for getting it written down 🙂

  8. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the virtual hugs, it’s appreciated 🙂

  9. Rachel says:

    Thanks steph 🙂 i’m definitely glad that you’re here for me to rant to as well or things would be a whole lot worse :p

  10. Rachel says:

    Thanks Alys 🙂 Good luck for your trip. Hope it all goes as well as can be expected! I’m not sure about moving away. I have thought about it and even Made has suggested it but we’d always have to come back eventually. Anyway, while I do love whining about the inlaws, they’re pretty good to me and they do help out with the kids and a lot of other stuff. The problems won’t go away even if we’re living somewhere else.

  11. Rachel says:

    Hi, I’m always happy to hear from people in the same situation. Thanks for reading my blog and your support 🙂

  12. Rachel says:

    it is SO much work, you wouldn’t believe it until you experience it yourself. I don’t do half of it – not even close! It’s really tough being a woman in Bali – I do have another blog post in the works about this :p
    I totally know what you’re talking about wanting to punch yourself in the face, haha!