It is very easy when you stay or live in Bali to get totally immersed in your own social circle… or bubble. This is understandable but at this time, more than ever, it can also lead to a pandemic of short sightedness. Bali is a beautiful island, and was once a more simple place, and then westerners came in, and we brought with us money, tourism, music, parties and commercialism. This has had a huge financial benefit of course, but it also comes at a cost. And now, as we find ourselves in this unchartered situation with Covid, and not just from a health perspective, but equally, if not more so, from an economical and social one too, we are seeing behaviours on the island that we feel are not OF the island.
Nobody wants a return to the Bali of old more than us here at Secret Bali Life, where our whole business model was based on music, events, going out, and having fun but in the current climate we have personally taken the stance that the long term future of the island is more important and the overall picture, far bigger too.
The island is so much more than the stretch down the west coast where the beach clubs and western community are all concentrated. And as part of the island-wide community we believe we have a collective responsibility to look at Covid and Bali with all of those on the island in mind, not just ourselves, and understand that what may be a low risk venture for one community may result in a very high risk situation for another.
This article was not written to debate the health risks of Covid 19 but to simply highlight some of the situations going on around us in our community right now and outline what we feel is the best way forward and to explain why.
The situation on the ground in Bali and Indonesia at time of writing is grave and looks like it will only get more so as time passes, with regards to the numbers of people infected with Covid, the number of people out of work but most importantly the number of people concerned where their next meal or money for electricity will come from. We are also witnessing unpleasant divisions on the island, exasperated finger pointing, aggressive use of social media coming from all levels… and rather than sit and watch it unravel, we felt implored to do something about it in a positive light.
We wanted to advise our followers of how serious the situation is for many across the entire island. Thousands of people are currently struggling to feed themselves and their families. The stories we have heard from the wonderful people at charities like PROJECT NASI, YAYASAN TEAM ACTION AMED, THE CRISIS KITCHEN BALI, SOLEMEN INDONESIA, SENDOK KREATIF and more, is truly heart wrenching stuff:
Stories of waiting lists of thousands for hand-outs, single charities charged with responsibility of feeding 25,000 people in one region of the island alone. Charities, who despite raising 10 times what they set out to do initially, discovering week by week how short they are of being able to meet the demands. Have you ever had to endure a child, a brother or sister break a leg in unbearable pain for days and there is nothing you can do about it… because you don’t have a single penny to pay for it…. That happened to a local woman this week, we managed to help with several others and get her daughter into a hospital. Have you ever thought about filling up your swimming pool or a pond with fish so that they can breed and you can survive off them? That’s what one of our good friends is doing right now despite running a once successful business.
Most of us are blessed to come from countries where this would not be allowed to happen, thanks to government support, but many of our hosts are not so fortunate. It is also normal in western culture that parents support their children, but in Bali and Indonesia young adults are often expected to send money to their elders… young adults who recently lost their jobs and income and now have to deal with the mental anguish of failing to provide.
So now look at your bubble through THEIR eyes. A bubble where guests to their island are on social media dancing away, dining out, cocktails in hand, with no masks on or a care in the world. How would you feel in their shoes?
Then there is the issue of rising crime on the island. By acting in a non community minded and careless manner, whilst also showing you have disposable income in the process, you have to understand how that could give criminals a warped robin hood scenario in their minds to justify their desperate actions. Would they rob one of their own community? possibly… but highly unlikely.
So what can we do? Social media is currently awash with people angry at each other over who is and who is not taking the health implications of this virus in Bali seriously, those choosing to avoid crowded places and other protocols, versus those who are upset with their ‘brainwashed’ colleagues, falling for the government’s big scams. This is all so irrelevant, because you can not change the law, and you are wasting energy being angry with each other. What does matter though is if that energy could be put into helping the community, to make positive change.
We live in a free world, and people are entitled to an opinion. We also live on an island where there is a limited police presence to enforce regulations, nor is there organised central leadership as many of us are accustomed to in our home countries, cities, towns and villages but a more complicated regional system which makes implementing regulations more tricky . Therefore, as members of the community, we have a very important and responsible role to play, through our own actions. Just as a start if you are fortunate enough to choose to exercise your freedom by socialising then think about balancing that with regular donations to some of the local charities (Project Nasi, Yayasan Team Amed and Crisis Kitchen Bali) supporting the local communities with sembako… or food parcels as you may know them as. Equally there are other more sustainable projects (from the likes of Solemen Indonesia and Sendok Kreatif) that are providing great solutions for families to become self sufficient long term.
Then there is the wearing of masks. The mask is not just a health and safety precaution, but also a signifier, it will become the lasting symbol of this period in history, for generations to come. It should and could be the symbol of how we all came together in this unprecedented chapter.. a sign of community, a collective attempt to overcome what is a truly dreadful and harsh situation.
Putting the health issue debate to one side for Bali to come back from this, we NEED tourists. For Bali to come back from this we NEED tourists from areas that have suffered a lot more travesty and death from Covid-19, than we have up to now. For Bali to come back from this we NEED those tourists to feel safe when they come here, WE NEED THEM to feel like the island has come together and collectively created a safe, relaxing, health conscious environment for them to visit or stay in. Wearing a mask is not about YOU and your rebellious stance, this is not THE MAN trying to dictate what you should do, because the story of getting the island back on its feet, and getting these thousands of people back in work and off the poverty line is a way bigger and more interesting story than your own… than any of ours!
It should also be noted that in the last 24 hours prior to publishing this article it has been sanctioned that not wearing a mask in public will result in a 150k IDR on the spot fine.
At Secret Bali Life, we are currently trying to put together a Covid aware music event with live music and DJs, which will have a central purpose at its core to raise money for Bali based charities, directly supporting local families who desperately need help. We recognise that we have the potential and responsibility to our hosts to do something positive for the people of the island, who need it the most. We realise that we have the opportunity to show that there is a way to put on entertainment for people who choose to do so in a responsible and socially aware manner.
We understand why there are other options and behaviours on the island right now when it comes to going out, we get it, and we even understand the arguments, from some angles, especially the economic ones, even if we do not condone some of them, but we want to encourage people to think about giving more, doing more, and helping the members of the island’s community outside of your bubble. Picking up plastic on the beach is great, but doing something that keeps a family from starving is a notch up from that… wouldn’t you say?
Bali is soon planning to open its doors to the rest of the world, but for the rest of the world to want to come through that door in any number, many will want to know it’s a safe, and comfortable place to visit.
Currently UK citizens can go to Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei and 53 other countries around the world, without having to quarantine on their return but currently Indonesia and therefore Bali, is not on that list. In our office we have two dutch interns lined up to work in September, but currently under Dutch regulations, they are not permitted to fly to Indonesia for their internship with us. And the Australian media, who love bashing Bali at any given opportunity, are probably watching from near and afar, collating evidence online, biding their time to publish it until the moment when Australians are finally allowed to leave their own country.
We have a responsibility to our hosts, to help put the island in a positive light to the eyes of the world, to stimulate confidence in Bali and hopefully also the long-term economy of the island. To do this we have to work together, all communities, support each other, and do what we are asked regardless of our own opinions, and then the good times can eventually roll again, sooner rather than later.
Lastly we would like to finish with this… If there is ONE media outlet on the island that celebrates and enjoys people having fun, living life to the full, and being a little bit naughty, its definitely us, at Secret Bali Life, but we also feel that now is not that time, there are many ways to enjoy yourself, live life, and hang with friends right now… but it is a free world, and we encourage you to go where you want, and do what you want to do, we just ask if you are going to play, then please, for now… play safe and look around you, reach out and try and make a positive difference, because if you do… Bali will look after you too.
Below is a list of some of the charities we have been speaking to, who are all doing wonderful stuff to support those in need. From supplying food parcels, to offering sustainable solutions to keep families self sufficient throughout this crisis and beyond. We simply ask that if you can afford to go out, and buy yourself drinks or a nice meal, then PLEASE put a little bit, the price of a cocktail, into one of these charities each week and lets burst some bubbles together and turn hungry bellies into smiling faces. It could make a huge difference to someone and a smaller hangover for you too!
We did not speak to Adopt a Family but have been advised they are also doing great work to support local families.
*PLEASE NOTE ALL FIGURES AND REGULATIONS WERE AT TIME OF WRITING AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE