Sunday, October 3, 2010

Barbara's Post, Oct 3
Who would have thunk it? A middle-class, Jewish girl from the bowels of Brooklyn, building a house in Bali. But, it’s been a long journey, and a consistent dream which began 35 years ago the first time I visited the Island of the Gods.
I had left the Peace Corps, where I served in Micronesia, was pregnant with my first child, and started traveling with my then husband through Southeast Asia, before having to settle down and raise a family.
In 1975, Bali was a sleepy island, and Kuta and Legian were quiet beach towns. Ubud didn’t even have a paved road or electricity, and the only places to stay were losmen or homestays.
But, I was fascinated by the culture, lush setting and people of Bali, and if I hadn’t been pregnant and had only a 60 day visa….who knows what might have happened and how this might have ended.
So, after many years of living in Northern California, Seattle and Santa Fe, I am now back in Bali working on building a house. Not actually building a house ourselves, but having one built for us to our specifications.
Henry and I have been visiting Bali for the past 12 years and finally decided that the US had become too expensive to live in, the economic climate, too unstable to work, and the politics too crazy.
So, about four months ago, we started looking for some land, and low and behold, found the last piece on the Campuan Ridge pathway, in the ricefields. It was affordable, and we were able to get a 25 year lease with an option for 25 more. So, I’ll have to live to at least 113 in order to benefit from this agreement.
We then signed the contract and went back to Santa Fe for the summer, in order to earn enough money to pay the land lease within 90 days as specified. Henry and I spent every weekend this past summer either working the flea market selling clothes, Balinese jewelry etc, or garage sales selling our 30  years accumulation of furnishings, housewares, art etc.
Let me tell you a little bit about Penestanan. Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali is made up of 17 villages or desas, Penestanan being just one of them. The ridge where we’ll be building is inaccessible by either car or motorbike. There are two stone staircases which leads up to the ridge from the main street, so all our building materials will need to be carried up to the site on the heads of women. That’s right! No other way to do it.  
The ridge has it’s own personality and is very popular with ex-pats, who often live here full-time. It is like a small community with a couple of small warungs (restaurants), a laundry service, a yoga studio, meditation with Swami Ji, and beautiful ricefields slowly being eaten up by the construction of Villas. We are sad to add to this destruction, but our ricefield had been cited for sale and hadn’t been planted for several years.
View from the back of the house
 So, as I said, there are many ex-pats living here, Australians, French, Germans, Italians, Dutch and a few Americans. There ages vary, their interests as well. Most are on business visas, trying to find a reason to remain in this agricultural paradise.  All this variety makes it interesting for us!
Our house for the next 6 months
Anyway, we arrived about 2 weeks ago with the hope of finding an architect to build our dream home. We had envisioned a 2 storey home with a view of the ricefields, a pool and lotus pond, very open, airy and light. We rented a teeny weeny house with a pool for the next 7 months and have actively been trying to make it our own. We've already unpacked some of the items from our home that we brought with us and are now eating on familiar dishes, and have a good set of knives for cooking. You wouldn't think that little things like that are important, but believe it or not, they are (at least for me).
We spoke with two Balinese architects and an American woman, who had been living and working in Bali for the past 7 years. The challenge was to build us our dream on a paupers budget. As it turned out, we had to rethink our dream and have finally come up with a plan, that is a bit of a compromise, but will make us happy and our pocket as well.
We are still going over the drawings, but have chosen the architect and the basic design of the house. It wasn’t easy, and I’m sure somewhere down the line there will be more revisions and changes to take place. This week we plan to sign the contract, outlaying the design, cost, timeline etc, and the building can begin as soon as two days later.
But first, we have to have a ceremony to consecrate the land. Only a small one of $100 to satisfy  the landowner and the spirits. It is mandatory, and there will be another larger one upon completion of the house. There will also be a small shrine erected in the corner of the garden, so that the spirits can continue to be placated and kept happy.
So, step number one starts tomorrow…..keep tuned for more news!


  1. and here i thought hank was the writer...

  2. I'm delighted for you.
    My dream is to come there, but getting the $$$
    is always the issue.
    Hope all is well and you're happy and
    sleeping well.

  3. I do not know how you guys do it!?? What about the other house? When can we visit? We need a bedroom and a private bath, of course. Wow - Donna & Justin in Sayulita and you in Bali!

    We are still in Oakland - but the view is spectacular! Also selling off lots of my stuff - who knows? miss you and am so happy to hear from you always. XXX Victoria

  4. Hi Henry and Barbara,

    Looking forward to hearing about your latest adventure in Bali!