The sense of balance that many people feel in Bali is one of the reasons that I would put above almost all others as a reason to be here. Despite the problems that affect Bali from all angles, the island is able to pull off an impressive balancing act that needs to be viewed from a few steps back to be truly appreciated.
I have found that in Bali things just have a way of working themselves out in the end, and just about all of the bad experiences are counteracted by the good ones.
This topic generally comes up when people are talking about bargaining
Many people that are new to Bali do not like to bargain for goods as they are not used to it and are uncomfortable with the concept. Also without an official pricing system, people can be overcharged for things. I am always quick to remind people though that for every time they have overpaid for something, it is likely that they have gotten a better deal for being able to bargain down an unofficial price.
While this article is not about bargaining or price in and of itself, it does serve as a good metaphor for the point I am trying to get across.
Driving around with my Balinese girlfriend
This past weekend on a trip to Karengasem I was driving around with my Balinese girlfriend looking to sample some local, Karengasem-style cooking. After going to two separate warungs and asking about price before eating we decided to not eat at either of them. They were raising the prices of their food in an obvious manner.
It was not a huge amount (only higher by about rp 5,000 in each place) but I am a firm believer in not paying for not using the services of someone who is not using honest business practices. I was also shocked at this happening to me twice in 20 minutes as I can’t remember the last 2 times it has happened to me all year in Denpasar. That is a story for another time though.
Freshly caught fish
As the sun was about to set and our real destination was the now not-so-well-kept-secret, White Sand Beach, we headed there without eating. We walked around and eventually settled on one of the beach warungs there and I ordered a beer while the sun went down. The friendly owner of the restaurant came over and talked to us about various things for a while before one of the local tour guides came by with a large, freshly caught fish. The owner of the restaurant asked if we wanted to take it home, but having nowhere to cook it, I suggested that we just cook it up right then and there and eat it.
After a half an hour or so of lighting coconut husks, chopping chilies, onions and garlic and fanning the flames while the fish was grilled, we had dinner. Slightly different than the way that they prepare a fish down south, we had the taste of Karengasem that we were looking for. We picked at the fish, shared a few more beers and laughed until it was so dark that we needed a flashlight to get out of the beach area that had no electricity. When we settled our bill the owner refused to accept any money for the fish and rice. We expected that to happen but it really stuck out in my mind after the previous experience before heading to the beach.
As you might have guessed, the moral of the story is that even though our original hunt for food resulted in people trying to apply the tourist price to us – it didn’t take long for Bali to right itself again. I have found that this happens almost 99% of the time although it might not seem that way when you are in an unfavorable situation. Looking back though it is often not hard to see where things turned themselves around, aligning the balance of things all over again.
As I said earlier, this is much larger than just a simple, pricing scenario but instead as life in Bali personified. The Balinese have a saying, “Rua Bineda” or “Due Berbeda” in Indonesian.
The literal translation is that 2 things are different, but the deeper meaning is that those 2 things often accompany each other to create the balance that keeps their world going smoothly. It is very similar to the Yin and Yang concept in Chinese culture in fact.
So while in theory, I could have paid a little bit more for the instant satisfaction of eating when I was hungry, waiting proved to be more valuable. Not only did I have the opportunity to make a new friend (which as we know is not hard to do in Bali), it prompted me to think deeper about way the way things work the way that they do. I can’t say that I see the same sort of balance in other places that I have been in the world, but maybe I just haven’t had that one experience to make me think back about it all introspectively.
What do you think, have you ever had an experience like this one in Bali?