How has lockdown looked in an island paradise? Mum Rebecca, who calls Bali home, gives us a warts-and-all look at a week in her iso life.
Who would have thought a virus would send the entire world into hibernation mode? Certainly not me. For the past year, my family and I have settled into a free and relaxed life in Bali among the rice paddies and tropical vistas. And then suddenly and unexpectedly, along with the rest of the global population, we’ve had to press the pause button on a life we once knew. Enter: lockdown in Bali.
Life in iso-town hasn’t been terribly unpleasant, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing either. For starters, there are far fewer Bintan-slinging tourists recklessly driving scooters on the roads, there’s no more pumping bass from thronging beach bars and a slower speed to general life. But this is offset by other troubling concerns, like the lack of tourist dollar to keep the employment machine churning, the tenuous medical system infrastructure, and a marked increase in abandoned dogs roaming the streets.
Want to know more? This is a week in my lockdown in Bali life…
Oh, Monday! Here we roll again. I will say that having a routine, no matter how cobbled together it is, seems better than having none. For some of us in the family, there are Zoom calls and Meetup school lessons to crack on with. For others (me), there’s the need to be flitting between both kids helping with homeschooling queries while juggling the million other daily To-Dos that keep this iso-juggernaut moving along at a snail’s pace. Honestly, this homeschooling jive has not been easy.
Today, my son erupts in hot, frustrated tears due to missing a couple of assignments. This kind of blow-up is a rarity and throws me. I give him as many hugs as he’ll take and tell him I’m proud of everything he’s doing and how hard he’s trying. All you can do is your best. By the time this is ‘all over’, my kiddos won’t have been in a classroom for 22 weeks. Thank goodness for the unfaltering online support of Granny (now retired from teaching but still delivering the goods) to help virtually assist with studying.
I drop my Bali rescue dog at the Dog Club so that he can hang out with his mates for the day. The irony that he has a more exciting social life than mine does not escape me. We only have a couple more weeks of homeschooling to wade through before our summer holidays begin. The best, most fun way to tackle these holidays in the middle of a pandemic whose goalposts seem to shift daily is causing me some concern. I pray (hard) that Bali’s beaches will be officially open by then.
While we’ve been in lockdown, I’ve tried to install some semblance of home-workout activity. I even went so far as to hire a trampoline and spin bike. But, truthfully, I’ve hardly been smashing fitness goals while in lockdown. Some days I get my heart rate up, other days, I find I’m riding the emotional coronacoaster, where getting through to dinner time without losing my rag at someone seems like a win. Tonight, I shut the curtains and settle in for a Netflix binge of Better Call Saul rather than talk to or text a loved one. Switching off seems the only way to gain some much-needed perspective and distance from hard news, which frankly I’ve had enough of.
Hump day – I’ve made it to mid-week. Yay! Hubby and I enjoy our daily hangout at our coffee machine for elevenses – the best chance for us to have a decent chat. How’s your day panning out? Can you help with the kids’ maths because polygons ain’t my scene? Today I feel incredibly grateful we’re in this together when a lot of couples have had to live separately. I post a paraphrased quote by Charles Darwin on the socials about it not being the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survive, but the one most responsive to change. Perhaps I’m trying to remind myself to be my most flexible in the midst of this sh*tshow.
I head out to get cash and provisions only to find the one DBS cashpoint within a 10km radius has been boarded up. I visit three other cashpoints but have no luck with my card. While Granny tells me she hasn’t touched a single note of money in Australia since lockdown began, in Bali, cash is king. After some time driving around Canggu in the blazing heat in search of the elusive rupiah, I eventually find a cashpoint that works. All good – for now! That’s today’s challenge sorted.
No school today, as it’s a public holiday. Phew! With the kids taken care of, I go and check out a villa for rent, just for the hell of it and to get out the house. It’s a stunning open-plan six-bedder, complete with green-grassed grounds and swimming pool. In good times it can rent out for close to $30k/month. Now, the price is a mere fraction of that. Many of the hotels are doing Pay Now, Stay Later deals just to keep the doors swinging but for an island that makes 80 per cent of its income from the tourist dollar, these are scratchy times.
Among all the changes, however, I see the locals showing incredible resilience. Those in employment seem to be getting on with it and wearing a smile behind their masks. I also see the sharing of jobs and wages as families pull together, plus a strong devotion to prayer, offerings and meditation, and I respect that unity and attitude.
Another public holiday here so we deliberate hitting the local skate park. Aside from a quick temperature check at reception and a branded face mask to wear, no other precautions seem to be required. Sign a waiver here.
Even though many of the touristy shops in Canggu have closed, I take my daughter to one that has remained open so that she can spend her pocket money. The shop has no fan, AC or lights running due to cost-cutting. She chooses a locally-made laptop bag (for all those Zoom meetings, natch). Then we hit the supermarket for dinner supplies, where I allow her a couple of extra treats that I usually wouldn’t. Am I the only mum overcompensating right now?
Today I do some school holiday research – googling slow and sustainable family holidays on our Island of the Gods. We are lucky in Bali to have the freedom to move around en famille as long as we are wearing masks, washing hands at entry points, and keeping our distance. Sure, I have worrisome days about the global economy, the eight-week school holidays just around the corner and how to create some non-Covid-related memories for us all. Perhaps there is no better reminder of the few chances we get at this than in author and Iraq war veteran Jessica Scott’s too-true words: “We get 18 rare summers with our children. This is one of your 18. If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.”
If the people of Bali have shown me anything while I’ve lived here, it’s their resilience and ability to adjust (with a smile) throughout this time of no tourism and economic slowdown. If that’s not perspective, then I don’t know what is.
Top image: Maryanne Hunt