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Meet the Maiden family living in the Umalas, Bali

So who am I talking to?

Profile: Belinda, Husband Carl, son Alex (14) and Jessica (12)

Originally from: Forrester’s Beach, NSW, Australia

Arrived in Bali: December 2016 but spent 2 ½ years before in Balikpapan, Indonesia.

Home in Bali is: Kerobokan

How long do you plan to stay?

Paid rent and school fees for a year and the plan is that if my husband’s business will take off then we will be here indefinitely and if it doesn’t then we will have to revaluate at the end of the year. I would like the kids to finish high school here.

What made you move to Bali?

Because it is cheap. We came from another Indonesia city called Balikpapan which was expensive and we came to Bali because we needed more social and educational opportunities for the kids. And we had gone so far as we could in Balikpapan with educational opportunities. There was the option where my husband could start his business here and we could go back to Australia as setting up this business in Australia would cost a lot more. It made sense to do it here and there are fewer restrictions.

What do you normally do back in Australia? 

My husband has always travelled a lot. For the 8 months before we moved to Balikpapan he was spending two weeks at home and two weeks in Balikpapan.

We live on Forrester’s beach on the New South Wales Central Coast, which is halfway between Sydney and Newcastle and the kids went to the local primary school and we used to go to the beach and walk our dogs.

What is a typical day here for you with your two children?

We are still finding our way around a bit and I find myself going to many places to get groceries for the week, however having said that I am loving Go Jek and if I haven’t got all the ingredients to make dinner it is just as quick or even quicker and cheap way to get food delivered.

Getting to the shops, getting to the gym, and getting kids around the place. The traffic is still a bit of shock to me, much worse than in Australia or Balikpapan and you cant schedule too many things in one day.

Tell us about your food experiences living here

I just cant believe the quantity of the quality of food here. I have been really impressed with the range of the fresh fruit and vegetables. The range of different cuisines available. Having gone to the Vietnamese place a few weeks ago and there is a Lebanese place we want to try. Food is good!

What do you think about the locals?

I like Indonesian people in general and I haven’t found the Balinese to be particularly different from the other Indonesians that we met. Very smiley, very friendly, I guess what I have noticed here (as opposed to Balikpapan) is there is always an angle, a bit of scam, a lot more bartering that needs to be done. I am very conscious say of my handbag much more so than Balikpapan. Feels much more like a big city and I keep hearing stories like phones or handbags being grabbed. Dealing with landlords and people at the markets, I think I know not to necessarily accept the first price and try and find things that is suitable for us and for them. I find the ‘bule tax’ is a lot higher here than Balikpapan.

I am looking forward to Nyepi and my husband’s father is coming to visit then and in order to prepare him for it, the kids and I did a bunch of research about what it is involved, what it is all about and what is expected of us and even in the lead up to it. Back in Balikpapan, Nyepi is a public holiday but everybody there is Muslim so it doesn’t mean anything at all.

What are you enjoying most whilst living here?

I am really enjoying the kids having a lot more social and extra-curricular opportunities as we were a little bit starved of those things in Balikpapan. I am enjoying even feeling a bit closer to home. It is a 6-hour flight from here to Sydney and if something happened I feel we could be home quickly and easily.

We definitely have more family time living here and the focus at the moment has been helping the kids get settled.

What have you least enjoyed so far?

The traffic! OMG! For example, we had to abort a mission into Denpasar yesterday because a truck had broken down in the middle of the street and we wouldn’t have enough time to get back to school.

What do you miss back home?

Family and friends. I always feel like a little bit like an interloper here, I always feel like I am not quite sure how foreigner’s presence is received. Do we help by bringing some money and some diversity and depending on the business, do we help by bringing some knowledge or are we taking advantage of things here. How is our presence seen? Sometimes I feel we are perhaps stepping on people’s toes.

Have you experienced any “culture shock’?

Definitely when we first got to Balikpapan. I can’t believe ingenuity of the Indonesian people and the sort of things they can manage to fit on a motorbike. If somebody said to me that I have a dinning room table and 17 chairs to move and cage of chickens, do you think you could take that somewhere, I would have to say no, it is not possible. But I have seen amazing things! Amazing things and I am looking forward to when my husband’s father comes out next week and to be able to see those things again through his eyes and we have seen some insane things. There are some guys that travel down the street at the end of our gang on a truck and I have seen them sitting on the front bumper bar of the truck and its going at a reasonable speed. My heart is in my mouth every time.

I remember the first time I walked into a traditional market in Balikpapan and the heat and sounds and the smells and the fish guts on the floor was all a bit of a culture shock. And I remember seeing a big rat sitting on top of the carrots and I screamed and the woman who had the stall just laughed and picked up the rat by its tail and flicked it across and then she wanted to sell me the carrots! Or the fact the street could be closed for a ceremony, for example it took me an hour to go to school the week before last because Jalan Kerobokan was closed for a ceremony and no matter what I said to the Police Officer about how I needed to get to my kids he wasn’t having a bar from it.

How has it been being part of an expat community?

In all honesty I haven’t found an expat community here. I think there are so many expats that we are a dime a dozen. There is nothing interesting about us. In Balikpapan the expat community was so small and if you saw Bule you would greet them and say hi, you must be new in town and how can I help you? We had a Balikpapan Women’s Association and we met once a month for a coffee morning and everybody was very focused on helping new people. There was so many organised activities so there was a book club, a craft group, biking group, tennis group and golfing group and all sorts of things.

I expected that here but when you turn up here and you think my goodness there are 39,000 people in the Bali Expat Facebook group, you cannot possibly have a group where all 39,000 of you meet up. So I felt a floundering fish.

What is the best thing you have done while you have lived here?

Moving was harder than expected it to be. We moved into a unfurnished place and trying to get it furnished has been insanely harder than we have anticipated. So most of our spare time has been trying to find ‘a dining room table, trying to find a chair’.

We have really enjoyed going to Sanur, I love it! We go early morning and walk on the beach before sunrise and be there for breakfast when they cafés open.

If you had to describe Bali in three words what would it be?

 Organic – Ceremonies – Sun

What tips do you have to those looking at making the move to Bali:

I still feel like I am at the stage where I can still use tips and I am not sure if I should be giving the tips!

I think it is very easy to move anywhere with expectations and I think that Bali is so much more and there are several views of Bali, for example you come here to meditate and gaze at your naval and do lots of yoga and eat goji berries and certainly you can do that. But it can be so much more than that too. Apart from the Australian tourist image of those tourist drinking too much there are a lot of nice people going along with their lives and so I would say fewer expectations.

Embrace all that is here and not be upset about some of things that aren’t here. I think there can be some negativity perhaps from people who have been gone from home for a long time and they can be negative about Indonesia, Indonesian’s, the quality and quantity of things or the availability of products or produce, many people are quite dismissive of really of whole chunks of Indonesia and Indonesian culture. I think you have to be embracing of it.

Some things work better here and some things work better at home and at the moment for us being here works.

Follow Belinda and her wonderful family on Instgram at belindamaiden

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