We have been in Bali for nearly seven months now. Things have settled, and we have learned how to navigate. We now know where to do our grocery shopping, how to avoid that ants take over our kitchen, where to eat out with the kids, where to go to the cinema, where to buy second hand books, where to go for amazing yoga, where to go cycling through the rice fields, how to avoid (too much) mould on our clothes during rainy season etc.
I no longer fear the barking street dogs (well, at least not as much, as when we first came here), I feel confident riding my motorbike, even with one or two kiddy-passengers, and even in heavy rainstorms and during dark hours, I have found a nourishing daily routine, which allows me to get in to my writing-mode, and my husband enjoys the co-working space at the Green School.
The Green School never ceases to amaze us with its incredible community-feeling, green and lush campus, and the many amazing electives that our oldest son can choose from (this semester he is working with e.g. combing art and fibonacci numbers and learning how to idea-generate and build his own business), as well as the kindergarten’s magical universe.
The kids are happy; they have made many good friends, and they feel familiar and comfortable in our house and neighbourhood.
In other words; this place is really starting to feel like home.
However, I have come to realise that what we left, when we moved from Copenhagen, was not only all the things we were fed up with there, but also all the things we loved.
We left the business of modern city-life, the feeling of never having enough time, the dark, long Danish winters, the kids hating to put on thick winter clothes and boots, yes. But we also left the comforts of the city, the lakes and the parks, the clean, beautiful streets, and our quaint neighbourhood with all its fantastic cafes, galleries and people.
The things we loved doing in Copenhagen cannot be done here; they must be replaced with other activities. Just like the food we loved eating is not possible to get or make in the same way here, and must therefore be replaced with alternatives. We are slowly finding those alternatives, but it takes time.
In Copenhagen we loved walking; long walks in the parks and on the pavements of the streets – here, there are no parks and no pavements. In Copenhagen we loved bicycling; we would put the kids in our cargo bike and be gone all day on the weekends; cycling through the different neighbourhoods and stopping at cafes (well, when the weather allowed for it) – here, we can’t cycle with the kids because the roads are not made for it. In Copenhagen we loved all the many amazing take-away food options we had within five minutes of walking – here, in the jungle, there is absolutely no take-away. In Copenhagen we loved the privacy of our big, old, beautiful apartment – here, we live in an open house; the living room and the kitchen have no walls. And, in Copenhagen we loved swimming at the harbour in the summer, and cycling home with wet hair and salty faces.
Of course we also loved meeting up with our wonderful friends, and being able to visit family on the weekends (actually, I would love a weekend at my parent’s house right now!), but, as I previously wrote, it was to be expected, so we are not looking for alternatives hereto. We just comfort ourselves with the thought of seeing them here or in the summer-holiday.
Here in Bali, we are loving so many new things, but we haven’t yet found alternatives to everything that we have left behind. We love being outside all the time. We love being close to nature. We love never being cold. We love the amazing fruits and vegetables that grow everywhere here. We love the pervasive scent of incense, and we have come to love the chaotic streets of our village and the local Warungs (little cafes). We love swimming in the swimming-pool every day (what a luxury!). And we love that at night, when it gets dark, all you hear in our house in the jungle is the cicadas and the wind blowing in the palm trees.
When we recently visited Singapore during our Christmas break, I had another glimpse of what I miss about our Copenhagen lifestyle. Well actually, this was probably more a realisation that not only have we moved to the other side of the planet, we have also replaced our city-life with jungle(or country)-life.
What happened was that an immense feeling of homeliness filled me up the minute I stepped through the door of the big, beautiful National Gallery (a place that I have never before visited). It reminded me of the national gallery in Copenhagen and of other big, amazing art museums in cities that I have previously lived in or visited. I felt nourished and inspired by the world class art. The feeling was so comforting that it almost brought tears to my eyes.
So what is homeliness? What does it mean to feel at home? Is homeliness only linked to familiarity; to being familiar and comfortable with one’s surroundings? To an extend it is, for sure. If you don’t feel like you “master” your surroundings, you don’t feel at home. But homeliness also concerns something more abstract or intangible. It is a feeling of connectedness to the stuff that really matters to you; to whatever it is that inspires you and makes you feel alive.
And, even though there isn’t a big, beautiful art museum here in Bali, there is something about our lifestyle here that feels so genuine and so natural to me that the accompanying sense of homeliness is more profound than knowing where to shop specific items or being familiar with weather-patterns or street signs. This feeling has something to do with simplifying things, and a lot to do with narrowing down life to its core essentials.
To be continued…