I must start writing before all the things that caught my attention as being strange when we arrived slowly start molding into normal life and lose its novelty… Like sweeping giant bat poop off the steps in the morning, or getting rabies shots after being bit by a monkey, or having one pee toilet and one poo toilet in the bathroom…
We figured it would be hard to find a good place to live in Bali by searching online, so I re-joined Facebook, after being out of the loop for the last 8 years, to be part of the Green School housing page. A week before we left I saw a posting for glamping 5 minutes from Green School, and jumped on it! They arranged for a car to pick us up at the airport and through the cacophony of a million people we saw a smiling face holding a sign with our name. We wedged our way through the ocean of bodies, and piled into a van driven by Nyoman.
As a side note - just by hearing his name we knew a little bit about Nyoman - that he was the third or the seventh, or possibly the 11th child in his family…Generally, Balinese people name their children depending on the order they are born, and the names are the same for both boys and girls. The firstborn is named Wayan, Putu or Gede, the second is named Made or Kadek, the third child goes by Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth is named Ketut. And if they keep having kids they just start over again!
Anyway, by the time we arrived at our bamboo house, it was dark. We were in the jungle, and there was no one around. The driver left. We were hungry. The mix of new noises was deafening - somewhere through the foliage a cock-fight was in full swing, we could hear temples and insects playing mystical music all around… We really were here - it was happening…
Luckily Balinese people are so unbelievably smiley and friendly that Steve had no problem getting a ride on a motorbike to the nearest Warung (a warung is a little restaurant, often family owned, serving cap cay, nasi goreng and other Indonesian specialties) where he picked up the first of many fried rice and noodles we were about to eat. The first night in our open bamboo house was interspersed by roosters clearly not knowing how to read the clock, dogs barking (scaring off evil spirits we were later told, so now I thankfully invite their barking at night) and temple sounds. Turns out we have 24 temples around our village and the Green School, so there is always something to be celebrated, remembered or prayed for.
The house is one of 5 in what is called the Bamboo Village - as people started trickling in after a few days we began to see how it all worked. We are 3 families staying in the village, 8 boarding school students and the family that takes care of the boarding students. In these 5 houses there are people from Japan, Brazil, America and Australia. The kids range in age from 3 to 16 and they all roam the village like feral children - we usually have somewhere between 0 and 5 kids in our house at one time.
We had thought we would glamp for a few weeks while looking around - and quite quickly we thought we found a house in the Green Village. This is like the bamboo village on steroids… The buildings are like nothing I had ever seen - just like our house everything is built out of bamboo but these houses are 3 story works of art. Different colored bamboo creates everything from circular doors to winding staircases and furniture worthy of a spot in the MOMA. Not to forget flushing toilets and hot water EVERY DAY!
This fell through and we did not get that house - however, it turns out we love where we are. We only have the 6 months, and in the Bamboo Village we are really getting the experience we are looking for. It would be easy to live in a villa with a staff and a wall keeping reality out, and maybe if we were staying longer we would go down that route as most long term expats do. But as for now, we feel alive and connected and happy in our zero-privacy semi-commune where we do not even have to get into a car to be part of the Green School community.
As for the school - where do I start?! Walking to school in the mornings, after crossing the bamboo bridge to get over the river we pass the cow and her new calf, the pigs and the gardens. The classrooms pop up between the tropical leaves like little mushrooms - all open and built in the most creative of ways using bamboo and grass. They are nature - inside and out.
The rest of the school buildings are scattered around the heart of the school. There are four little warungs that serve locally grown and cooked foods, and they are owned and run by locals. This is where kids and parents hang out, work in the free wifi, drink coffee and fresh juices and enjoy organic foods. The kids get a card that we fill up with money and they choose between a western style and an Indonesian style lunch every day, and they can also buy whatever else is offered in the warungs- fruit, veggies, juices, veggie pies, yoghurt etc etc.
The Kul-Kul farm is located next to the school, it is a beautiful working farm with chickens, goats, ducks and two acres of food farming. Much of the food for the school comes from here and they experiment with ways to maximize yield while treading on the earth as gently as possible. Steve and I started volunteering there last week in the hopes of learning some things to bring home with us.
The overrunning feeling at the Green School is awareness of the earth and our place in it. The school has started an organization trying to ban plastic bags - direly needed in this part of the world. The trash situation here is absolutely appalling - I have no words to describe the amount of trash you see here everyday. The piles of plastic being burned on the side of the road make your eyes water and I finally understand the beloved face masks here in Asia. The traffic is unbelievable, we are learning when we can go out and where - if you go during the wrong time a trip that should take 25 minutes can drag on for 3 hours. The roads are narrow and I can only describe the road situation as organized chaos. Don’t do anything fast, don’t be polite and wait, don’t expect there to always be a right and a left on the road, and slowly inch into whatever you are doing and things should work out. And always smile.