Our last day in Bali has arrived. Honestly, I don’t even know how to describe the feeling that I have. I hate that our beautiful time together with our family is ending. I hate that our Southeast Asia vacation is drawing to a close. I hate that I have to go back to the old familiar routine….. school….. work….. homework….. housework….. the rat race……
Wouldn’t it be incredible if a person could live like this forever? Floating from one awesome place to another……stay here an while……stay there a while…..check this out…..check that out…..relax here…..relax there….climb a mountain here…..ride the surf there….kick back over here….work out over there….ride a bike here….hike a trail there….
This trip has been the ultimate dream of a lifetime. Six weeks of jampacked adventure and new experiences all wrapped up into an amazing bundle of fun, interspersed with just the right amount of relaxation.
But as you might know there is a price to be paid. I often find myself thinking that as my age creeps upwards my years to retirement creeps downwards. I really need to get serious about retirement savings and plans. But on the flipside I have this deep fear in my heart that as I age my mobility will decrease significantly and my ability to travel and enjoy activities that I love will become more difficult if not impossible. And that brings me to my life’s philosophy, that today is the day that I need to enjoy life, not tomorrow. Today is the day that I need to see and do the things that I want to see and do, not tomorrow.
Some of you might know that before this trip I worked many long hard hours to earn money to pay for this extravagance. And when I go back I will likely have to work hard some more. And honestly, I probably need to think more seriously about retirement. I like to joke that my retirement plan was to have 12 kids so that I can spend one month per year at each kid’s house, and mooch off them. That would make for a pretty cheap retirement plan. But we only have 8 kids, so that means we have to spend 6 weeks at a time at each kid’s house…..and rotate…..but that is really just a joke.
I told David that we are going nowhere but maybe neighboring states in the next few years. Let’s see what happens. Just the thought of such travel restrictions makes me feel cranky! I already have this inkling in my head that I want to do a motorhome tour of eastern Europe, or go to South America or Australia (my birth country). But I digress, and I am babbling as if anyone is interested in listening to such nonsense.
This morning our cook, Made, is here to make us breakfast again. It is our second Indonesian style breakfast, this time with noodles. To say that she is a good cook is an understatement. Now, you may know that I am not entirely the hugest fan of noodles and rice for breakfast, but we want to try Indonesian style breakfast food, and she pulls it off very nicely. Made is a gentle spirit, kind and gracious and hospitable. To meet her is to love her.
The image of a woman imprinted upon Made’s shirt appears to be crying. I wonder if Made thought about this when she pulled on this shirt this morning. I wonder about this woman, Made. She appears so strong and capable, yet gentle and caring. What makes her cry? What makes her laugh? Does she have dreams like I do? Does she ever dream of crossing the ocean and going to see and experience exotic foreign places?
She works so hard for her money. I feel bad for her, and we all pitch in to help her where we can. Surely she does not need to set the dishes on the table for us, nor clear the dishes away. Surely she need not do all our dishes all alone in the kitchen. How tired she must be. She comes early every morning, and then she goes to another cleaning job. She stops at the market to pick up food for our breakfasts and the dinners that we hire her for. She cooks our dinners and finishes late into the evening. Do her fingers ever weary? Does her back pain her? Does her spirit sorrow over the endless work?
It reminds me of Hong in Sapa, Vietnam, and when she related of how hard she had to work as a young mom. The endless tiresome days of working in the rice fields, needlework, tending to the livestock, cooking and cleaning and caring for the children. She said so often her belly would growl displeased and hungry, yet the work remained to be done in a neverending stream with nary a moment to relax and enjoy life.
Yet her story sounds like my story in so many ways. No, I don’t have to chop wood for a fire, or butcher a chicken for dinner, or wash laundry in a concrete tub, or gather herbs and plants from the jungle. But as the saying goes, a woman’s work is never done. I have a constant nagging about all the work that needs to be done, all the tasks that need accomplished.
And so it here in Bali, too, the familiar story of a woman’s survival from day to day. The endless chores and tasks that pile up into an insurmountable mass if the woman does not keep moving. I know that even when Made leaves from here her work is not done. When she goes home she still has all her own housework to do, and bills to pay and children to tend to.
Yet she is happy, and seems thankful for this moment that we share…..this moment that she can serve us and make our day better…..this moment when she can earn more money to help her meet her daily needs….
Perhaps it is a universal experience for a woman to work hard…. to put others first… to seek joy in the most difficult moment. Is that not how it is for us? We rejoice about the blessings in life. We want to give of ourselves to others for the joy that it brings us to serve. So that even when all the difficult and wearisome tasks of the day are completed and we finally can rest our heads on our pillows we find reason to be thankful. We are thankful for our loved ones. We are thankful for our homes. We are thankful for good health. We are thankful for our jobs and livelihood. We are thankful for our friends. And in the last few moments before our weary eyelids droop shut each night we whisper a prayer of thanks for all that we have, if not in actuality then at very least subliminally.
And that is what carries us on from one day to the next….all of us women of this world, far and near, neighbors or oceans apart, first world or third world, rich or poor….. I think that when the day comes that women lose the ability to rejoice in giving of themselves in the service of others the world will be in deep trouble. We are the nurterers, and lovers, and doers, the ones who cherish age old traditions and customs that keep unity in nations, yet uniqueness in cultures.
That is the beauty of this world. We may all be citizens of this world, as the saying goes, but the beauty of our citizenship lies in the diversity and uniqueness of cultures, our own individuality and personalities. This uniqueness of cultures is at grave risk throughout the world as the predominant western culture threatens to consume all. I believe in my heart that preservation of cultures and languages will make the world a much richer place. I would contend that the concept of being a citizen of this world certainly is applicable to consider in our consumption habits and treatment of the environment, but to me it has become increasingly clear on this trip that the uniqueness of nations and cultures is a great gift worthy of careful preservation.
And so it is here, oceans away on an Indonesian island precariously situated in the ring of fire, that Made has brought joy to our lives. She has made us think about how different our lives are, yet how much the same. She has been delightful and lovely and tenderhearted. She will remain forever imprinted in our hearts and minds.
David decides he wants to take surfing lessons. He pay 300,000 for 2.5 hours of private lessons. The instructor asks him why he waited for his last day in Bali to take lessons. Now that’s a good question.
And the honeymooners enjoy their last moments on the beach. They leave for their real official honeymoon in just a few hours. They will be going to Taiwan today for a week. Unbeknownst to them there is a hurricane bearing down on Taiwan.
If I could hear over the roar of the waves I think I would hear the instructor saying something like, “Dude…..it’s like this….”
There’s Johann up, up, up….
David lasts out in the water for two hours, but is exhausted when he comes back on shore. It is a lot of work fighting those waves. My head would be spinning after getting knocked about by the waves for so long.
Ashlee is getting pretty good at this.
The table is set for eleven people tonight, since Jasmine and Tristan left to Taiwan for their real honeymoon. We all feel sad. Kristoff keeps lamenting about how it seems like our group is so small now that they are gone. David comforts him and tells him that it is always sad when people start leaving from a special gathering.
Tomorrow we will all be parting ways. Ashlee, Ville, Aundrea and Johann will all be going to Lombok, Indonesia for another few days. Who knows when we will see our Finnish kids again….maybe in a year? I have vowed that after such a long vacation this summer we will not be going anywhere else any time too soon.
Tomorrow David and I and the three munchkins are going to Singapore for one more night and then we head back home. I planned our trip with one last night in Singapore just to make sure we have enough time to get to Singapore to catch our final flights home. We don’t want any surprises, and end up missing our big homeward bound flights. That could get terribly expensive.
Even our special bridesmaid friends are departing. Hennu is flying tomorrow via Singapore and heading back to Finland, and Holly flies via Singapore to New York City.
We are all kind of subdued on our last evening together. Everyone agrees it has been an incredibly awesome time together here in Bali. I feel blessed beyond measure, and my heart is at peace. My beautiful family, how I love them all. How fortunate I am to have each and every one in my life.
And so it is, as I click the lights off for the last time at our little Balinese villa, that I say a prayer of thanks for this incredible moment, for the many blessings in my life, for my beautiful husband, and my dear children, and my good job, and my home, and my faith, and even for all the work that awaits me when I get home….all the things that need to be done, that are patiently awaiting my arrival…..