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Everyone Is Tired of Christmas Stories, Nevertheless I Share This Sweet Moment From Bali

Spending holidays in cultures different from our own provides a different perspective and appreciation

By Victoria Kjos Published 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - January 2024
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Brief video by Dika on YouTube; permission to use from him.

Christmas is exceedingly different living in a country outside the States. For me, it translates to unembellished, meaningful introspection sans the massive commercialism that commences on day one post-Halloween.

This was my second on Bali, the "Island of the Gods."

With no holiday plans in 2022, I checked myself for a few-day stay into a quasi-luxury Nusa Dua resort, a chi-chi area of the island I'd yet to explore. It's the area of the location of the 2022 G20 Economic Summit. And, no, my hotel wasn't where heads of state and presidents had stayed. 

The plan was for an enjoyable, quiet beach vacation. Oops, forget the beach aspect. December is the rainy season on Bali. Last year, it was in full force during my entire stay. 

And not the brief morning splash followed by afternoon sun kind of rainy. More of the grab your umbrella to dash to the restaurant for meals while hanging out in your room the rest of the vacation variety of precipitation.

With no interest in repeating that mistake in year two, what to do instead?

Option One: Ignore the holiday. 

Option Two: Invite my "adopted Balinese son" Dika and his family to join me at a local hotel, Western-style festivities with a sumptuous buffet, children's activities, and Santa visits. 

Option Three: Invite said family to my abode for a downsided soiree.

Because Dika's four-year-old is terrified of me, cowering behind his dad whenever in my presence (because I'm a foreigner), I opted against Option Two. Santa can be frightening enough to kids reared with his overbearing, jovial persona. And, any resort would be populated mainly by Aussies and Europeans. 

Option One seemed grinchy. So, Option Three it was.

The Balinese are among the gentlest, non-assertive, most thoughtful people I've met anywhere. 

My attempt to ascertain their culinary preference, having squashed a momentary lapse of purchasing cookware for the gargantuan task of preparing a traditional US-style feast, was far from straightforward. Does anyone remember Elizabeth Gilbert's Balinese house-buying fiasco in Eat, Pray, Love

Finally, after numerous innocuous WhatsApp texts, I teased out that the family did enjoy J&C food from a barbeque joint located three minutes away.

Aha, the menu was determined. Despite the majority of Balinese being Hindu, unlike my vegetarian Hindu friends in India, most eat meat, although, of course, not beef; the cow is sacred here, too. 

When ordering from the charming J&C proprietress, she inquired if my guests were Balinese or Westerners. One chicken feeds eight Balinese but only three Westerners. Ouch. But how accurate she was - the five ate the equivalent of newborn birds. 

From TV, the kids were aware of Christmas and Santa Claus. And, with adequate numbers of Christians residing here and the influx of holiday visitors, the isle musters its own unique flair.

I arranged gifts, ordered food delivery, and awaited my 1 p.m. guests. Impressed, they were all dressed in white shirts (it seems to be a Balinese tradition) and on time (another surprise in a place where the fluidity of punctuality is a given), they arrived with a luscious bag of fruit.

Whether this year's weather would be more cooperative was an unknown. But I'd suggested after dinner, if it wasn't rainy, the kids might wish to swim. Their bathing suits were under their togs.

We shared a sweet, delightful couple of hours despite communication challenges. Embarrassingly, I speak only a few words of Indonesian; hence, Dika, the only English speaker, served as the group translator. The kids seemed happy with their modest gifts. 

After food and presents, they managed thirty minutes of pool time before the skies unleashed sufficient rain to send us scrambling for cover.

What moved me most profoundly, however, was discovering how meaningful the day had been for them. Only on the 26th, upon receiving his YouTube link, did I realize Dika had been surreptitiously honing his videographer skills.

Spending now the better part of thirteen years in countries where the vast majority of their populace could barely imagine, and only through the screens of TV or cell phone imagery, the overconsumption of a Western Xmas, his video was the best Christmas gift ever, along with their friendship and endearing kindness.

Your time is valuable. Thank you for yours.

Victoria

© Victoria Kjos. All Rights Reserved. 2024.

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About the Creator

Victoria Kjos

I love thinking. I respect thinking. I respect thinkers. Writing, for me, is thinking on paper. I shall think here. My meanderings as a vagabond, seeker, and lifelong student. I'm deeply honored if you choose to read any of those thoughts.

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  • Esala Gunathilake15 days ago

    Congratulations on your top story.

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