Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Bali.


Day 6: The Swimming Hole

Posted in Bali on October 19, 2016

This morning was the usual program with a 7:30 pickup that happened around 8:30. It appears the only thing you can rely on here is the heat and humidity. Today was another hot one.

We conquered the rock pile only to have a small dump truck show up and drop off another load of rocks. Micel and her entourage, who we have dubbed Widhya Asih’s Angels, have figured out how to double our efforts on this project. For every wheelbarrow of sand or gravel we take to the work site, the girls reward us with, at times, a four-passenger ride on the return trip. Like a construction site version of the Partridge family, the journey includes a whole collection of songs from Balinese favorites to “head and shoulders knees and toes.”

The locals are making good progress of the stem wall along with our help here and there. We balance the work between cementing the wall in place and running sand and rock to the work site to keep the progress moving. The locals insist on us taking more frequent and longer breaks, but the heat is a far stronger motivator. The children had a better day today and are rewarded with a hike to the swimming hole after lunch. There was one requirement for the journey: ALL MUST WEAR SHOES! About half actually did. They spend 80% of time barefoot which has toughened their feet to the likeness of elephant’s skin.

Scorching hot pavement, gravel roads and overgrown trails are not given a second thought as we begin the journey. Our trek takes us down a blistering hot road and through the jungle to a county park that looks like is hasn’t seen a gardener for 10 years. The swimming hole consists of three cascading pools no more than three feet deep each. The drop from the first pool to the middle is too steep and shallow for even the Indonesian standards. They all rally at the middle pool and queue up for the slide down to the bottom. Slide meaning a slippery 60-degree waterfall face with the texture of an industrial washboard.

One after another, the children chatter down the face of the falls to land in the three-foot-deep pool below them. Timing is based on the 'move your butt or get run over' plan which seems to work out just fine. We have all noticed that in Bali, children are given far greater latitude with activities that most of us would consider far too dangerous for even an adult. A “CPS” agent would have a heart attack in the first five minutes of open play time at the orphanage. This week we have witnessed crafts with hatchets, spray paint indoors, a razor blade they can purchase as a toy, four children ages 8 to 11 on one scooter with no helmets and, best case, flip flops on some of their feet. Oh yeah and we have a construction site which they float in and out of most of the time barefoot.

Regardless of these hazards, the children here seem to be better prepared to judge and survive any environment than our own back home. As a matter of fact, the only people who have been making regular visits to the first aid kit this week are us. Perhaps we have much to learn from them as well. The time comes to return from the swimming hole, and the mass exodus packs up and heads back. Many children have captured crabs and other water creatures as new pets.

We are wiped from the work and fun of the day, but the night market awaits our visit tonight. We are taking Nenden and Lena along with us to help translate and make sure this isn’t our final meal. Nenden is the operations co-ordinator at the orphanage. She does all the books, co-ordination of activities, mixes cement, and is also seven months pregnant. We all enjoy her company and inquisitive nature; she is well educated by the standard here and seems to only want to learn more.

When we load into the van, our numbers are one more than available seats. Team leader Tommy decides to sit on the floor to make the numbers work. Nenden will not allow this for reasons we cannot begin to comprehend. Lena explains that she will refuse to ride with us if a man is forced to give up a seat for a woman (regardless of pregnancy.) A compromise is reached and Lena will occupy the floor for the ride to Negara.

A trip to the pool is planned, but Lena and Nenden only want one thing: a warm shower. The orphanage has no hot water whatsoever. Lena has gone months without a hot shower, and who knows if or when Nenden last had one herself. With all that out of the way we venture out to the night market in Negara. Negara is not a tourist known area of the island, and we soon become an attraction at the market.

Some of the taller members of the team have to navigate the low canopies of the vendor carts while others decide on a dinner of fried eggs or sated goat. Goat wins the decision and we all sit down in a smoke filled corner of the market. We found Guinness beer for sale, and despite it being warm, took the option as Bintang has only option so far. The meal for nine people was less than $10 USD, this included drinks. One of our best meals so far this trip, we are looking forward to what else we can discover on this island.

A quick trip through market reveals a collection of cheap knockoffs and a vendor pushing “make your skin white cream.” They didn’t quite spend as much effort selling it to us. The night was over and a new day awaited tomorrow. 

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