The monsoon in Bali is a great re-creator. Water falls in buckets from the sky, filling up rivers, irrigation systems, springs and rice fields. What were once yellowing, drooping vegetation – suffering after months of heat – rise again, vibrant with green. And for people, especially busy ones with lots of things to do, the monsoon is the great re-creator… of plans and expectations.
I’ve learnt more than once during the monsoon that it pays to be patient, and fully embrace, as the Italians like to put it ‘Dolce far niente’ – the art of doing nothing. The rains come, and wherever you happen to find yourself is wherever you stay, for hours.
Yesterday I was on my way with Kriszta, Adam and Zsuzsi – all Hungarians – to the bamboo villages of Belega and Bona. The plan was to check out the handicrafts, and perhaps, find a teacher who could educate me in bamboo materials and construction.
Halfway through the rains started, and we pulled into Amaly Gallery – an antique store on the road to Mas – to wait out the shower. It soon became clear that the rains weren’t going to stop. It poured and poured and poured till the road flashed with brown water, and it seemed more appropriate to use motorboats instead of motorbikes on the tributary outside. There was no going to the villages – I’d have to find my bamboo master another day.
We began browsing the large warehouse that held the stores’ items – it was like getting stuck in a museum of Indochina, with antiques from all over: gongs from Java, carved masks from Sulawesi, statues from Borneo – pots, handicrafts, furniture and more from every corner of this diverse country. Most of the collection was hundreds of years old and provided a fascinating insight into the country’s art and culture. We wandered through the collection for an hour, taking in as much of the historical vibe as we could. It was a great way to wait out the rains.
I struck up a conversation with the manager, Ketut. He was 38 with two beautiful daughters and a wife. He told me that the antiques were collected by his uncle during his many trips around Indonesia. Ketut, however hadn’t even been to Lombok – the next island along the archipelago – because, as he put it he needed to stay to “make money for his daughters”. Instead Indonesia came to him, via the artefacts, and for a few hours that day a bit of Hungary and Australia hung around too. We talked for some time, and I helped tuned his battered guitar (probably also an antique!) and met the rest of his family.
After some time, I began to feel quite hungry. It was still unseemly weather at this time, with little sight of abating. But I was peckish and a wet drive through the torrent for food seemed more and more worth it as the minutes passed by. I asked Ketut where the closest warung was.
Then out of nowhere, he replied: “Do you want my wife to fix you lunch?”
It was an act of great generosity. We were hardly more than strangers to him, yet he offered to cook and feed us. In ten minutes his wife whipped up some rice, chicken soup and a pork dish in the humble room below the shop where they live, ate and slept. And soon we were eating an authentic, home cooked Balinese meal, in the middle of this museum of beautiful Indonesian artefacts while nature put on a show outside.
It was a magical moment, totally unplanned. The monsoon had once again demonstrated its potential for re-creation: this time scuttling our best laid plans to propel us into the kind-hearted generosity of Ketut and his family, against the backdrop of centuries of Indonesian culture.