For those of you beauties that regularly follow my blog, you should hopefully by now be well aquainted with Wayan. If however you’ve just stumbled upon this post, or need your memory jogging take a look at Indonesian Fashion: Rule Number One.
Wayan stepped into my life two months ago, and to be honest I don’t know how I lived without her before. She keeps the Bali house running when we are not there, and when we are there, she looks after us, laughs with us, and laughs at us alot because we are crazy bules and there’s always madness when we are around. She does an incredible job making sure that things run efficiently and smoothly, so that we can both get on with our making own work and focus on our various projects. Over the past few weeks she has introduced us to most of her family and has taken us as much into her heart, as we have taken her into ours.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post called, My Perfect Sunday: Working And Playing in Bali. I showed Wayan what I had written and showed her my photos as I normally do. She’s fascinated at the amount of time that I spend writing and she loves to see the end result after it’s been published. She was especially interested in the post above as it was through her that we were able to photograph the Kampung and make work in the padi fields. She read the post and seemed very happy with what I had written and how I had photographed it.
Last week I spent some time in Bali alone without the Irishman as he had to return to Jakarta for meetings and I had stuff that needed to be taken care of in Batur Sari.
One afternoon whilst I was in the kitchen writing and Wayan had been looking at my blog, she asked me if I’d like to visit her house and take some photographs. I was enormously touched, and felt honoured at her invitation as I knew that this was a big deal for her. How big a deal will become apparent when you see the pictures. The differences in our lives, and in our fortunes was a sobering reminder for me of how life is for many people who do not have the comforts and conveniences that I am used to, and although I could see a romantic side to what I was photographing, the daily reality for Wayan is harsh, and very hard work, especially in the rainy season when the old roofs leak and the dry earth floors turn into thick mud. There is no running water at her house and no sanitation to speak of. There isn’t a bathroom, nor a shower, and forget a toilet, it’s just a hole in the ground. The ‘washing machine’ is a board set up with a scrubbing brush and all the water has to be drawn from the well. Wayan has to share a bed with her sixteen year old son in a tiny bedroom with thin damp walls as she doesn’t want to sleep with her husband in the room next door, nor in the spare room out in the garden.
I spent 2 hours at Wayans house and took around 200 photographs. When we got back to my house we sat on the balcony looking up at the stars, and Wayan quite spontaneously started telling me her life story. It was an emotional experience for us both but she over came her tears and I listened, at times open mouthed to stories of her childhood, growing up, marriage and all the bits in-between.
The ninth child of eleven children, she was born on a pile of banana leaves out in the fields. To this day she has no idea whether she’s 45 or 46 as her Mother and Father never thought to record the year and date of her birth and it didn’t help that neither of them could read or write.Imagine never knowing your birthday? Or indeed, ever having your birthday celebrated?
Imagine living in a house like Wayan? with no running water, no bathroom, no toilet, no washing machine, the most basic of kitchens. In fact all the things that nowadays most of us take for granted. The photographs below are of her Mother’s kitchen. Wayan saved up and bought a gas hob but her Mother didn’t understand how to work it so prefers to cook on this simple fire instead.
I was so moved by Wayan’s story that it occurred to me while she was telling it to me, that it was something that many people might want to read about. It is an account of the life of someone born into a large family, their poverty and their struggling to escape from it. It is the story of someone who despite everything, has never given up, who has studied and learnt, not just her mother tongue Balinese, but Bahasa Indonesian, and English as well. Who has taught herself to cook because her Mother was out earning her living Balinese dancing, and her Father busy elsewhere and she wanted her brothers and sisters to eat properly rather than to have to eat the basic rice and eggs that they normally existed on. It is the story of someone who never possessed a pair of shoes until they were old enough to work and could then slowly save and buy their own.
I gave Wayan a big hug and I put an idea that I suddenly came up with to her. I asked her if she would like to write a book. Her face lit up and we started to talk about it. I’ve told Wayan that if she writes a book, I will sort out the rest. I will do everything practically that I can, so that she can tell the world her story and hopefully make money out of it. I know that I am biased, but I think it’s going to be an autobiography worth reading. It is Wayan’s story and everybody should hear it.