Lastpass informs me that it’s been two weeks since I last logged into my WordPress dashboard, which is an eternity in blogland, so many apologies for my absence I have mainly been holed up working almost every waking hour. Along with reducing my sleeping hours to the minimum possible for normal daily functioning.
I’ve been pitching left, right and centre and managed to get myself some interesting blogging gigs, some of which may turn out to be long-term (I’m hoping). I’ve been travel blogging, tech blogging and even fashion blogging. Yes, me! A fashion blogger! Who would have thought it. Anyway it’s been a lot of fun in some ways (and starting to see hope of starting to dig into my debt mountain after being bailed out by my parents AGAIN is certainly a nice thing) but also a lot of work. A LOT of work when you have two toddlers to take care of anyway.
And all this work has got me thinking, in the moments when my brain is not fried from writing another article about cloud computing. Made has always been quite incredulous that I spend so much of my time freelancing. “So much work for so little money!” he says and yes, maybe, but I have to start somewhere and when I work out my actual hourly rate of billable hours it’s not amazing but not horribly terrible either.
But the thing is that here, the fact is quite clear that you never get rich working for somebody else. From the persuasive women selling sarongs on the beach to the little old granny selling nasi bungkus on the corner to the oversupply of drivers in Ubud – everyone makes their own fortune. Even doctors and lawyers usually work out of their own offices tacked onto the side of their family home.
I get most of my work done in the early morning and recently I’ve taken to tuning into a radio station from my hometown of Newcastle. Early morning here is late night in the uk and every night this radio station runs a chat show and call-in program. I used to listen to this when I was an insomniac in high school but haven’t tuned in for years – it’s kind of a cheesy cliche of life in the northeast of England. Anyway, whether it was nostalgia or homesickness that gave me the idea to listen in, it’s nice to hear the geordie accent that I haven’t heard for so long.
The first morning I tuned into this radio show was the day after the budget had been announced by the government. I am probably the least political person ever, but it’s clear even to me that the current government are not keen on giving money to people who need it. My sister in law was amazed when I told her that if we lived in the UK we would get money from the government every month (admittedly not much money!) just because we have children, but it seems like now maybe the welfare system will be on its last legs in another year or two.
Anyway, a lot of the people calling into this radio station were protesting about the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ – a new tax that penalises council tax dwellers if they have a spare bedroom in their property. There were a number of people on the edge of tears saying they were going to be made homeless because things were so tight they couldn’t afford this extra payment (for those not in the UK, council houses are offered to those with low incomes who would find it difficult to rent private properties). One guy who called in was in his late 50s and said he worked a 12 hour night shift as a security guard on minimum wage (£6.19 per hour, which makes my ‘low-paid’ freelance work seem pretty damn good). His wife worked all day in a supermarket – he came home at 5am, dropped his wife at work at 6am and they basically never saw each other. This had been their life for god knows how many years and they basically struggled every day just to earn enough money to survive.
I’m sitting in my little office in Bali listening to this and wondering what on earth is wrong with my home country. There is poverty here – REAL poverty. But in the middle ground – those who could never be considered rich but not ultra-poor either – those people are generally happy. Work comes pretty low on the list of priorities here. Family and religion is first, followed by community, neighbours etc. If there’s a big ceremony then work is just dropped. It can make things a little frustrating for the non-Balinese employers but I think it’s not a bad way to live.
Why work your fingers to the bone every day to live a life when you never even get to see your family and are probably too tired to do anything when you get home? Surely there is another way? Somehow here people always make do – if they need money then they can go out and sell something or come up with some kind of service and the money will come. Balinese people are entrepreneurial in spirit. They’re poor in a lot of cases but who has the better life?
I have a lot more to say on this matter but my thoughts are still kind of scattered and I need to get up in five hours so I’m calling it a night for now. As I’m working so much and my free time is so limited, the blog and other things that don’t make me money have dropped down the priorities list (yes I’m aware I’m contradicting myself here). But I’ve already upped my efficiency a lot and been experimenting with daily schedules this month. Things are starting to settle down and I’m hoping for an amazing May. Hope you stick around to see it with me