This week was the village homestay in Tabanan. We also started off with a 1 hour walk to the village. On our way there, we passed by cows, rice paddies, and rice terraces. It was very calm and peaceful with all the greenery around and it was nice to get away from the air pollution of the city. We also had over 20 local university students with us who was staying at the village too, but for other reasons. We had a chance to mingle with some of them. They participated with us in almost every group activity aside from making the coconut bowl and sambal matah. When we sat down to choose our homestay families, I noticed that most of the mothers were looking at me and smiling and saying something to each other. I didn’t know what it meant so I just sat there awkwardly and smiled and tried to not pay attention to it. I inquired later what that was about and apparently they were talking about how I look Indonesian! Anyways I was placed with M’bah Naomi who was very sweet, but of course, there was a language barrier. I ended up using Google Translate to communicate with her, but obviously, I didn’t know what she was saying back to me. She kept saying I was cantik which meant pretty, and I think she asked me to show pictures or asked about my parents, so I started showing her pictures of my family. I actually liked my homestay family and where I was at because I was only a few minutes walk away from the center where we will be having most of our activities. However, one of their dogs kept growling and barking at me. Since I have a small fear of dogs, I tried to avoid using the restroom at night if I could. During the homestay, we participated in collecting medicinal herbs, ingredients, and plants for making traditional medicine, dinner, and Balinese offerings later, creating our own coconut bowl from the half of a pre-cut coconut, making sambal matah, participating in a flirtation dance, making black rice pudding, and working in the rice paddy.
When it came to the flirtation dance, I was very nervous because I can’t dance and there were the local students watching. When it was my turn, I relied on what I learned and know from trying Cambodian royal ballet dance before to help guide my hand movements. It felt like forever when I was up there, but I guess it worked because one of my classmates said I looked very good because my movements were fluid. Based on my knowledge from Cambodian royal ballet dance as well, I know that the flirtation dancers have had to practice from a young age to be able to perform the flirtation dance beautifully because aside from the more noticeable movements, there’s also the subtle movements like slight head, body, and feet movements to bring it all together. Also, I wonder how long did it take for them to learn how to move their fingers like that!
Something that I have great appreciation for is the work of the rice farmers. After attempting rice farming myself, the work is very laborious. For example, after 5 minutes of trying to turn over the cut roots with the hoe to make way for the new rice crops that will be planted, I was already tired. The weather was also not super hot yet, so I could only imagine what it’s like to do it when it’s hotter. I also didn’t know that the mud can stick to you which is why we applied coconut oil beforehand. Literally right now, I still have mud stuck to my toenails and the bottom soles of my feet where the new calluses had formed. I guess now I have an excuse to get another pedicure again here in Bali! Overall, I am grateful for the experience of working in the rice paddy because I felt like it helped me understand better the forced labor in the rice fields that my parents, grandparents, and relatives went through during the Cambodian Genocide.
Overall, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the homestay because it was the thing that I was looking forward to the most and remains my most memorable highlight of this trip so far. Aside from the homestay, another significant thing that happened this week is getting Bali belly which was extremely not fun. I didn’t sleep for almost an entire night because I was vomiting every single hour, had stomach cramps, fatigue, and lower back pain from being on my period. Due to that experience, I don’t plan on having iced drinks here anymore in Bali just to be on the safe side since that’s where I think I got it from.