I Love Bali: Ubud Community confidential
by Made Wijaya on 2014-04-10
A new Facebook group is gaining traction in the once sleepy hamlet of Ubud, now overrun with expat yoginis and villa people.
Like their confreres on the coast, the new Ubud expat feels empowered and speaks of “his/her community” and the need to teach the Balinese about electronic cigarettes and respecting the goddess in middle-aged white women’s breasts.
Unlike the coastal group, called Bali Expat or Expat Bali Crime Report (that’s a doozie), there is a subversive faction within Ubud Community (UC) Facebook dedicated to sending up the New Agers and Karmic-Kalifornian healers.
The subversives make hysterical satirical postings about ear wax readings and the imminent threat of Ubud footpaths being awash with veggie poo.
One Made Surya posted “ Wanted: poor bule to work in rice fields. Knowledge of Subak system and Bahasa Indonesia a plus.” He was attacked by right wing zealots for employing Balinese (ng’walek) humor. Jakartan goody-goodies suggested he look on the positive side. Ha!
Until recently, Ubud was home to a benign community of expats — artists, writers and Tjokaholiks — who knew their place and respected the local culture. Now the trend is to reeducate the locals with missionary zeal. The zealots talk of radicalized young Balinese (too much lawar?) meeting in the back rooms of the Circle K outlets to brag about the physical abuse of western women. Balinese contributors are ridiculed if they try to make light of the hysteria by using satirical postings to highlight the madness.
One faction wants to put up posters on Balinese temples to educate people about cultural awareness.
“Put up posters in your own country,” I screamed, in print, “the Balinese don’t need lessons in cultural awareness.”
“Excuse me for breathing you is not tell me what to do” came the reply (there is less debate on expat pages than there is punctuation).
UC complains of the change in the behavior of the once-welcoming Ubud Balinese.
As a concerned individual, I made a trip to check it out. I went via the Singapadu-Sayan road and turned off at Tebongkang. From then on it was bumper to bumper all the way to Peliatan. The Balinese and the expats all looked very pissed off in their sport utility vehicle (SUV), but who doesn’t in a traffic jam?
Every second Balinese motorbike rider was dressed like a father-for-rent — so what’s new? At the wedding I was invited to, the high priest from Padang Tegal looked straight through me (I was front row and genuflecting madly with a Peliatan palace groupie pin shining from my lapel — perhaps that was the problem). Palace aunties called me fat, as a compliment. Nothing seemed that different.
I asked my host about the rumored rift and he said that, yes, locals were sick of expats working as bartenders and even bricklayers in the Ubud area. His bride was dressed in the most fabulous Bridezilla confection, including a five-meter train of blood red mosquito net. Herald angels were barking.
I fled south after the crumbed prawns vowing never to return until Ubud gets some traffic cops and I get personal liability insurance.
Made Wijaya is a cultural observer and author of many books on Balinese architecture and culture.