Our village welcomes evacuees in Bali
I was expecting the worst when I arrived in Bali 2 weeks ago, having seen an early TV report by an Australian journalist describing the temporary housing situation resulting from Bali's volcano crisis as 'squalid'.
Driving eastwards from the airport towards home in the village of Mendira, the increasing number of evacuation centres from around Padang Bai onwards looked highly organised and highly functioning, with mess tents and grocery vendors supplying meals, and community services notices clearly marked and without graffiti, Bali's customary calmness appearing to prevail.
My association with the village of Mendira, just 5km from Candi Dasa in the regency of Karangasem, East Bali, is a close one. I built my home there some years ago, and take a certain pride in knowing that in the recent 'Clean and Green' competition run by the Bali Government to promote ecological awareness through civic pride, Mendira won 3rd place after heavyweights Gianyar and Ubud. I do love my village, and I am made to feel a part of it, in a low key, we-know-you're-there-but-don't-want-to-worry-you sort of way.
When the government directed more than 400 people from a village threatened by the lava flow of Mt Agung's then-imminent eruption, to take temporary refuge in Mendira 12 km down hill, our village responded with a level of generosity which has been soberingly touching to witness.
Sure the Government finances the rice, accommodation and sanitation, but it's been the Mendirans who've gone out of their way to make the environment clean, comfortable, and welcoming to old people, householders and children who have had no choice but to taken up residence in the Banjar building (a kid of council/community space). In addition, homes have been offered, bathrooms made available and kitchens set up. Many residents have donated funds from their own meagre incomes to make these evacuees, most of whom are farmers and unable to earn a living in absentia from their land, a little more comfortable.
It feels exemplary, and it is not going unnoticed.
I recorded this brief interview with Kadek Astini this week.
I guess the real test will come next week when the cyclical ceremony of Galungan demands that Hindu Balinese provide hospitality through prayers and offerings at their ancestral temples and altars to welcome the return to earth the spirits of the cremated deceased who visit every 210 days in the (balinese ) annual cycle known as Galungan and Kuningan - Kuningan being the last day of the 11 day ceremonial period, when the spirits return to their heavenly abode.
This year the ceremony begins on 1st November and concludes on the 11th. Marked by the offerings, sacrifices, feasting and artistry, the festival is marked by the thousands of penjor, decorative bamboo poles, swaying on every street.
Question is, will the cosmic forces conspire to create a dark anniversary of Mt Agung's last eruption, which claimed 1100 lives on the eve of Galungan in 1964?