By: Carme, Voluntourist Bali
Believe or not, after three weeks this is my last day at the Bali Center. I have to admit that when I was planning this trip I was a little bit scared because I was travelling alone and I would have to teach teens… But the fact is that it has been a great experience.
During my stay I’ve been able to observe a little bit of the Balinese way of life. The first word that comes to my mind is kindness. People in the street will smile or wave at you just because, and they even ask to take a picture with you (foreigners look so “exotic” to them!). If you are able to say simple words in their language such as good morning or thank you or see you later, you will get an even bigger smile.
The Center is located in a small town called Buitan, near Candidasa. It is a rural area where you can find either fishing boats moored in the beach, rice fields or coconut palm plantations. The small markets in every single town around here are full of flowers for the offerings, delicious fruits, colorful fabrics and many handcrafted items such as baskets and home utensils.
Life starts very early, just about sunrise. At 6:00 am you can already see students heading to school wearing their uniforms while sellers and buyers at the local markets look like busy bees. The streets and roads are busy all day long. In the beginning traffic seems a complete chaos, but in a short time you will see that everything is “under control”. It’s only a matter of making room for cars and motorbikes back and forth. They are all synched.
Here a motorbike is used not only for transportation (you can constantly see a family of four in one scooter…) but an essential tool for work. It can carry dozens of eggs between the driver and the passenger on the back, or long bamboo sticks precariously held by the passenger, or as many rice and seeds sacks as possible, and so on.
Regarding the staff at the Center, I can only have words of gratitude for the warm welcome and for the fantastic atmosphere of living and working in the center. At the moment Alice is the sole Co-Director and Gemma and Maja are work-studies. I was the only voluntourist. We have spent Christmas and New Year together, we played “Secret Santa / Invisible Friend” (buying something for a person that you barely know was a real challenge, but all of us were very happy with the presents we got!), we have visited some places and villages around the area together (Manggis, Klungkung, the volcano at Mount Batur…), we have eaten popcorn while watching a movie on a laptop, and we have laughed so much together! Certainly they made my trip to Bali very special.
And last but not least, the students. Although they know that teachers are rolling during the year, you can feel a connection right from the beginning. They love being at the Center drawing and painting, listening to music and laughing with you. Some of them live in the streets nearby, and they happily greet you when you bump into them. And best thing ever was when we visited a very interesting plantation where they process coffee and tea the traditional way. We met two former students that work there as guides in English for the tourists. It might seem kind of naïve, but I got a “mission accomplished” feeling. The effort of so many people is worth it if we can help our students to have a better future.