Back in January I received an email from Jeff who lived in Colorado (USA) that said “Help! I may have gotten a job in Bali and I have never been there before!” Fast forward to today and Jeff is settling in nicely as the new Principal of the Montessori School Bali. It was amazing for me to catch up with him in August as we toured his beautiful campus that he is now the Principal of for the next three years. He shared some wonderful stories already in his short time in Bali and I can’t wait to follow his journey both through this incredible job opportunity and expat life.
Meet: Jeff Waxman
Originally from: Denver, Colorado, USA
Arrived in Bali: June 2022
What experience did you have with Our Year in bali assisting your move to Bali?
It was terrific. Felt like someone understood the sheer panic of “OMG, can I move halfway around the world? Is this a terrible idea? What can I expect?”.
Simone listened and heard me and had thoughtful and balanced answers for everything I needed to know.
What made you move to Bali?
I was disenchanted with the political system in my country, burned out from COVID and looking to “unplug” and honestly, to reinvent myself… eating healthier, doing some yoga, being near the beach, exhaling and being surrounded by happy, grateful, heart-centred people.
Congratulations on the role! Please share your experience so far of the school, community and what you are looking forward to.
The school is lovely. The grounds are immaculately maintained by our grounds staff; it looks like a golf course. The architecture is really beautiful and the classrooms are a dream-come-true. (I am an aesthetic person so all of that is important to me.) But beyond all of that, the international vibe is so special. It’s my first experience working at an international school, and I have to say, not knowing if I will be doing a Zoom meeting with a family in the Netherlands, or touring a group of families in-person from Iceland, Australia and Italy is super exciting. Our teaching staff are from all over, (Italy, France, Australia, Turkey, Egypt and USA) as are the children. And then to ice the cake, we are an authentic Montessori School Bali, and I have been a trained Montessori teacher and then administrator for the last 25 years, so I am doing what I am passionate about!
I look forward to growing the school; we are looking to re-open our infant/toddler program in January 2023 and in the coming years as our current students (9-12) ages up, grow an adolescent (12-15) program as well.
Where is home in Bali and why did you decide to live there?
After a pretty exhausting search, I landed in Cemagi Beach near Seseh and Pererenan. Working in Canggu/Berawa, you are exposed to a lot of traffic and hub-bub, and I decided that when I go home, I want tranquility and peace. I got it in spades in Cemagi. The traffic consists of neighborhood dogs stepping out to cross the street. The roads are much quieter, the nights are full of crickets and frogs. I’m surrounded by rice paddies, and my front door is 400 meters from the beach. It has been a lovely place to land.
How long do you plan to stay?
My contract is for three years, so I am hoping that time slows down, and it isn’t over-before-I-know-it. And then, if the administration is pleased with my efforts and if I love it as much as I do already, who knows!?
(When I am ready, I hear there is a retirement KITAS… Simone, can you please explain!?) LOL
What are the biggest challenges you have found so far?
First, I would say making the leap from riding the back of the GoJek, to buying a bike and risking my life on the streets (and sidewalks!) of Bali. When I knew I was leaving the states, I sold my car and rented a Vespa for several weeks. I thought this would be excellent training for what was to come. Little did I know the streets of Denver are NOTHING like the roads in Bali. I was a bit in shock.
Last week, when heading out from work with a co-worker to test drive some used bikes, I ended up laying in a rice paddy, covered in muck (in my work clothes!) and had to laugh. I just thought: Welcome to Bali! And where else but here could this happen!?
Having been baptized, I am happy to say I found a great bike at a good price, and so far, no more tumbles.
Other than that, just the newness of absolutely everything. But I was looking for a huge life change, and I really dialled that right up!
What does your daily routine look like?
I wake up bright and early; when I first arrived and wasn’t yet working, I got to the beach just before sunrise and walked for 2 hours. That was pretty amazing, watching the sun come up every day, seeing dogs playing and people from all over. Now I am working full time, so I need to build a beach walk back in. Work life takes up a good chunk of my day. I LOVE getting on my bike and the feeling of heading out when the roads around my villa are still very quiet. Then I enter a bit of local traffic and join the “one being” as I like to think about the pack of drivers on the road; all of us moving in some sort of fuel-injected ballet in and out and all around trying to stay upright. It’s quiet the mindfulness activity. Not as much yoga as I hoped, but it’s on my radar. Work is awesome. And in the evening and weekends I am exploring all that Bali has to offer in sights – the beach, a new village I haven’t been to, restaurants, making friends, etc. I enjoyed a weekend in Nusa Penida. This weekend I am sneaking off to a waterfall with a hidden meditation cave that one of our parents told me about. I can’t tell you the name of it….
What is the best thing about living in Bali so far?
All about the people. I am lucky to live with locals, to work with locals, and I have already (after only 2 months this week!) begun to feel like a local. (as much as I can, coming from the US and having lived there for 55 years). It’s really been a “master reset” of epic proportions, which is exactly what I hoped for.
What advice do you have for other families making the move to Bali?
Bring an open mind. Be adventuresome. Know that it will be really different and be ready to celebrate the differences. Have a sense of humour, so that when a small lizard crawls up your living room wall, or something you have never heard before makes a loud noise just outside your window, or when you are pulling your scooter out of a muddy rice field (after your heart starts to slow down again), you can laugh and realise you are in another part of the world and welcome everything it has to offer!
Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked?
The energy in Bali is wonderful. It’s hard to put your finger on. I have felt it on the beach, I have experienced it in dealing with local people who have hearts that are amazing and huge. I go to a coffee shop where they welcome me every morning and thank me for coming and treat me so kindly and it feels real. Not put on, or something they got in their customer service training. The Balinese are happy and full of gratitude and spiritual and steeped in awe and reverence for their place in their world. I feel blessed to be living here, even after culture shock and leaving pretty much everything I knew behind me. In some ways, though I have never been to Bali, I feel as though I have come home.