Sami is Balinese and his name means ‘everything’. He can’t have all he wants though. He’s a driver. He wants to be a mechanic. But, he can’t afford the fees for study. So he drives tourists and journalists like me around Ubud.
At the opening night cocktails for the writers’ festival, Indophile and Sinophile, Max Lane, says Bali has no industries other than tourism so it’s in an economic and cultural bind. Max came to Bali for the first time in the late 60s, not long after the purges that saw perhaps 100000 Balinese killed. The late 60s is when the surfers came to Bali too. This is according to foreign correspondent Cameron Forbes who wrote ‘Under the Volcano’. I don’t know if Max Lane is a surfer but he says when he first arrived there would only be about 10 people down at Kuta beach. When he returned in the 90s he says it had all changed. Now Kuta isn’t recognisable. I’m sure Ubud isn’t recognisable either.
After the Bali bombings, tourism dropped off. Janet De Neefe set up the Ubud Writers’ Festival to attract people back to Bali and to encourage cross-cultural dialogue and debate. One Indonesian writer said that the writers’ festival was just another subsidy for white people. But Rosemary Sorensen from The Australian newspaper wonders if it’s better than the alternative…nothing.
This morning I’m going to a session on Indonesian-English translation. Perhaps translation will bridge the divide between Balinese and Indonesian writers and the international writers who come to Bali because of its allure as a paradise. I don’t know if it will help Sami become a mechanic though.
I’m going to Bali tomorrow for the Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival. I’m all packed and ready to go.
I’ve been reading Cameron Forbes’s book ‘Under the Volcano’ for some background on modernBalinese history.