Our driver, whose name I can’t pronounce, but whose Balinese nickname is Nyoman, stopped by the side of the road. We were on an unmarked side road somewhere near his village that was somewhere near Klung Kung, or Semarapura as it’s also known.
‘Good view here,’ he said.
As we stepped from the car, a wave of dragonflies rose around us- more than I’ve seen in one group before. More than I can count. More than I can wish on.
He’s right though- the view is amazing.
Back in the car we drive down an impossibly narrow laneway. Children block the way, wrestling with kites. They weave their bodies in the same direction as the kites twist and turn in the sky.
‘That is my grandson,’ he says, indicating the smallest of the children. ‘He flies the kite all day and forgets to eat.’
He gently scolds the boy and makes a movement with his hands to indicate, we assume, food and eating.
‘This is my home,’ he said. ‘I need to get a jacket.’
Inside the compound, all thoughts of the jacket are gone as he introduces us to his caged birds, making strange clicking noises with his fingers and his throat. The birds answer back, cooing and clicking in time with his fingers.
‘This one cost me 3 million,’ he said. ‘It’s for good luck.’
He went on to tell us how many families lived in the compound.
In Bali, sons tends to stay with their parents after they are married. In Lobo’s case, his eldest daughter ‘fell into an accident when she was 14,’ so now she and her husband and their 6 year old son live with him too. ‘It was very bad luck,’ he said. Perhaps that’s why he bought the birds- to bring good luck to his younger daughter. She is studying to be an English teacher in West Bali, so perhaps it’s working.
He tells us later that he rode his motorbike for four hours to visit her the previous weekend.
‘Why didn’t you take the car?’ hubby asked.
‘I didn’t have enough money for the petrol,’ he said.
Now he introduces us to someone who I assume is his wife. She nods and smiles.
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ he asks.
‘No thanks,’ I reply on behalf of both of us. It’s nearly midday and we’re due across at Bali Asli- just outside Amlapura- at 1pm.
Tacked onto the door of one of the buildings is a sheet of paper with French conversation phrases written on it.
Voulez vous aller a la place?
Voulez-vous aller aujourd’hui ou demain?
Combien d’enfants avez-vous
J’ai deux filles.
I roughly translate:
Do you want to go there instead?
Do you want to go today or tomorrow?
How many children do you have?
I have two daughters.
‘Do you speak French?’ he asks.
‘Not really,’ I say, ‘but I can read a little.’
He seems impressed.
‘I teach myself,’ he says. ‘For the French tourists.’
I’m the one who is really impressed.
Then he disappears. Hubby and I look at each other. We hope he has gone to get his jacket.
Instead he reappears with a bamboo cage- similar to the sort that roosters are kept in. This one contains a pair of white doves.
‘I have five pairs,’ he tells us proudly, and proceeds to open the cage, freeing the birds. They soar together into the sky, whirling around and around in ever increasing upward spirals until they’ve disappeared from view. A strange whirring, musical noise accompanies them.
‘It’s a tiny bell,’ he tells us. ‘I like the sound.’
We watch the sky until the doves come back into sight, the bell heralding their reappearance.
‘It’s hot,’ he says. ‘They won’t fly far today.’
His wife comes out with cups of hot, sugary tea…and no jacket.
We smile and thank her.
‘How far is it to Amplapura?’ I ask, some time later.
I’m not sure if he says half an hour, or an hour and a half.
‘Will we be there by 1pm?’ I ask.
‘Amplapura very far,’ he replies. I take that as a no.
‘Perhaps we should go soon?’ I suggest.
The doves are still whirling around above us. Still together, still flying in synchronised circles.
‘Ok,’ he says.
I indicate towards the doves.
‘They’ll find their way home,’ he says.
And we walk back up the lane, without his jacket, stopping on the way to remind his grandson to eat.
Do we get to lunch on time? Absolutely not.
Was it a privilege to take a peek inside a way of life? That’s priceless.