I always liked to believe that I was made in Bali. My parents had their honeymoon in the most famous island more than four decades ago when it wasn’t riddled with resorts and the beaches were far from crowded. I was born not long after but their December honeymoon could not have produced me because my conception was later around June as my birthday fell on the Valentine month. Paradise swayed little power and magic as the marriage ended in divorce but I’d still like to think I was made in the shores of Bali.
When I conceptualized our trip around the world, I wanted our first stop to be Bali because for over a year researching alternative schools, I have been intrigued by two TED Talks about the Green School and the Green Village. Bali is also near, doable and requires no visa. So we slung our backpacks on and did away with check-in baggage to practice our skills in traveling light.
A few days before going to Bali, I stumbled upon the Worldschoolers Facebook page which then led to World Schooler Exchange which, among other opportunities, linked globetrotting families with other families who opened their homes to the wanderlust-infected.
World Schooler Exchange is a platform for people using the world to educate themselves and their families through travel. This site is for all world schooling individuals and families out there who want to live like a local and fully experience another country. Rather than just the usual house swap for a week or two, here you will find swaps for people who want to spend a bit longer and totally immerse themselves in a local community. Everything here is really useful and relevant to making your global learning experience easier, helping you connect with other world schooling families round the world.
And that’s how I found Rony and her lovely family from Israel who have been living in Bali for half a year and before that, Spain. They had extra space in their lovely beach villa and wanted their three unschooling children to meet people from all over the world. They welcome couchsurfers too and we came almost at the same time as an artistic, vegan, couchsurfing couple from France.
When we arrived at their house located thankfully in a relatively non-touristy area, Yam and Dandu started painting on Jimmy’s face and arms while Joshua spun round and round the cloth hanging from the roof beams. They took us to the Sing Sing waterfall and Dandu who was then one day shy of his fourth birthday, became our barefoot guide across the cool rushing water. Rony carried baby Luna in a sling so she couldn’t cross the river with us.
Staying at Rony’s place, we didn’t feel like tourists but family. She lent us their car to go to the market in the morning. Jason drove on right hand side which he hasn’t done since living in England more than 10 years ago. The market was an adventure with hawkers recognizing we were foreigners the moment we opened our mouth. Jason took pictures of the weighing scales, the old type with small metal weights. For dinner, Jason introduced Rony’s family and the French couchsurfers, Clement and Fanny to the Chinese home-cooked favorites: tudousi (potato strips cooked in vinegar) and xihongshi jidan (stir fried tomatoes and eggs).
At first, we planned to spend only one night at Rony’s so that we can arrive at the Green School before the weekend but we decided to stay for Dandu’s birthday. Clement and Fanny also extended their stay and chose to join the celebration because what can be more important than a child’s birthday? What a party it was with everyone pitching in their talents. Rony’s husband, Yoni cooked Dandu’s requested chicken schnitzel after which we scrambled to prepare for the 4:00 shindig: painting the banner, blowing balloons, wrapping souvenirs, decorating the place, popping popcorn. The adults took turns organizing games for the kiddies one of which was Stop Dance which had one young excited neighbor standing on his head on the sofa. Clement acted the wild DJ swinging his long hair in the air like a rock star. After the planned games, the kids took over playing hide and seek.
Clement and Fanny are quite an adventurous pair. They have been traveling the whole length of Indonesia by hitchhiking and they aim to go back to France by land. The year before, they drove around New Zealand spending two months in the north island and eight months in the south. They bought a van, fixed it up and sold it at the end of their journey for more than what they bought it for because of the improvements they had made. Clement makes wedding videos for a living while Fanny is a graphic artist. We were mesmerized by Clement’s video of New Zealand with music he mixed on his own and shots taken from a drone. We were equally awed by Fanny’s artworks on skin and paper.
In one of our leisurely chats sprawled on the couch, Rony told me how the pictures that she posted on Facebook seem idyllic living in a renowned “paradise” like Bali, so she also shares pictures of the kids crying and wailing every now and then. In the spirit of Rony’s balanced reporting, not everything we did in Bali was perfect as the pictures we choose to take and upload. The kids fought. Somebody punched another in the eye. We argued. We got bad taxi deals and learned our lesson. It rained so laundry took too long to dry and smelled. There were overpriced bad restaurants. Garbage washed up on some shores or gathered by the road side. Litter marred the coastline. Vendors in the touristy beaches kept offering unwanted massage, bracelets and hair braids.
Still, dreams are made and dreams come true in Bali. This is my wish list all ticked off in this trip alone: we were able to tour the Green School and Green Village, live with worldschoolers, party with couchsurfers, try a spontaneous AirBnB adventure and enjoy with local eyes. Joshua rocked the waves surfing while Jimmy body boarded, swishing left and right, giddy with glee.