The face of kindness

Written two days ago…

I’m sitting at the moment in a family house in Bangli, Bali. In the courtyard the grandmother of the house is folding strips of palm tree leaves for a Hindu ceremony tomorrow. Next to me is a four year old boy watching television and they’ve just fed me various kinds of Balinese food. The grandfather of the house was making jokes, with the few words of English that he knew. He wanted me to cook bananas Indonesian style… I showed them pictures of my family and of their daughter in law ‘Ketut’ while she was with me in the Netherlands in December (see ‘The world at my doorstep’). Ketut simply a given name that means she’s the fourth in line of the children. It doesn’t matter whether this person is male or female.

Ketut is known to me as Pande, which is her overall family name, so after arriving there was some confusion on both sides who I knew in the family – as they also have a Ketut, and why I had come. Pande isn’t staying in this house as this is actually her husband’s family. She thought it would be better that I would stay here as her house it is rather busy with more family members than normal for the ‘teethfiling’ ceremony that will take place tomorrow. The ceremony that has actually brought me here in Bali, as she really wanted me to come and see this after we had worked together in Jakarta.

Over the course of the afternoon I met quite a few members of the extended family. The easiest to understand is Devi who studies International Relations in Yogyakarta and wanting to practice English she translated quite a few things for me. Her parents are also here, her father being a watermelon farmer, her mother a midwife (delivering on average six babies a week), her sister who has married into this family (but I’m at loss as to who her husband is). Just now the mother of the four year old boy, Ilu walked in who owns a shop that sells food seven days a week, and she is setting up a shop as beautician as well. She only stops working when there is a ceremony, like the one tomorrow.

Chances are that tomorrow morning I’m not really sure who is who, but the ease with which they are trying to make me feel at home, I can only describe that as the face of kindness. After my arrival I wasn’t feeling to well and Pande told me to rest – she popped in for half an hour to see how I was doing, even though she was very busy with her ceremony preparations – and when I laid down my head I actually fell asleep within minutes. I woke up when somebody checked in on me to see on how I was doing (the grandmother of the house immediately gesturing whether I wanted to take a bath), like it was perfectly normal that a total stranger was lying there, but is now considered part of the family as I know their daughter-in-law.

Pande has asked me to do the photography at the ceremony. I’m honored, and I can only hope I can live up to her expectations as this is now already proven to be an unforgettable experience. Bali is being more than generous to me!

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