I slept with him

And now that I have your attention…

It’s no secret that I adore Ketut. My blogs have been littered with his name since I met him three years ago. Clerks have asked me if he’s my husband. “No,” I say. “My son.” It amazes me that a man 35 years my junior is considered more likely to be my husband than my son. But here, a gaping difference in ages is not uncommon. And it’s not just ancient men with young, nubile women. In Bali, ancient women with hot-bodied young men is just as likely.

But I digress.

At 3:00 that afternoon my phone rang. It was a friend who had arrived a few days earlier and her voice was strained. “Sherry, I’m in the hospital in Denpasar and I’m really scared.” Nightmarish scenes flashed through my mind. A motorbike accident topped the list. But it turned out that a bite she’d gotten while still at home in California was infected. The doc in Ubud referred her to the hospital in Denpasar for surgery.

It’s one thing to go to the hospital in America. There are stringent laws governing everything from the hand sanitizer by the doors to hairnets for the kitchen staff. Not so here. Nowhere is developing country a truer label than as it applies to health care in Bali.

I asked her if she knew whether or not she would be put under for the surgery. She supposed so. That’s all I needed to hear. “Okay, I’m coming,” I said.

“Oh, you don’t have to…”

“Yes, I think I do!”

P1090582I located Ketut and told him the problem. He didn’t know that particular hospital but I pulled up the address online and in a matter of minutes we were on our way. At 4:30 we found her in an ice cold room the size of a shoebox. She was hooked to an antibiotic drip and so happy to see us. We were told that surgery was scheduled for 8 p.m. “Ketut, you can go back to Ubud,” I said when I realized that there was a long wait ahead.

“Oh, no. It’s okay,” he said.

“It’s many hours. You should go.”


Inscrutable man. So many times I’ve wished I could peek into his mind and understand what transpires there. The tone indicated it was no use to argue.  I scooted onto the back of her bed. Ketut perched on the edge and we chattered and joked until 7:00 when the surgical prep team arrived and rolled her away.

“Should be finished by ten,” one of the white lab coated attendants said as the gurney disappeared behind a pair of double doors that swung shut behind them.

The café in the lobby had an extensive menu and seemed like a good place to pass the time. Service was slow, a fact that I appreciated with hours of waiting looming before us. The food arrived and we dragged out the process of  eating as long as possible, then opting to escape the stuffy confines of the hospital, we strolled outside and sat on the curb, sucking in exhaust fumes and watching the guard direct traffic. Fatigue gathered between my shoulder blades. The long bike ride and worry for my friend were taking their toll. “Ketut, let’s see if we can find a comfortable place to sit.”

The open waiting area on the second floor had chairs, but comfort wasn’t the goal when they were designed. Ketut settled himself and didn’t move. I, on the other hand, squirmed, contorted, and flopped around like a fish on land but couldn’t find a position that worked. The hands on the clock crawled. At 10 p.m. bleary-eyed, I approached the women behind the desk and inquired about my friend. She punched a series of numbers into the phone, and rattled off a question in Indonesian then smiled and said, “She just begin surgery now.”

“Oh no!” I groaned which brought Ketut, frowning, to the desk.

“You okay? Problem?” he asked.

“They just started the operation. Still two hours more.” I could feel muscles seizing up in my lower back. A couple more hours in those chairs…but what other option did we have?

I lowered myself back into the cracked plastic covered seat, shifted to the right, the left, hooked a leg up over the sharp wooden arm, lowered it again, kicked off my flip-flops, pulled both legs up with my feet tucked close to my butt, and rested my head on my arms folded over my knees. I hadn’t expected to sleep, but thirty minutes later a sound startled me awake. Ketut, in the chair beside me, was out cold, snoring.

For about the zillionth time in my tenure as an ex-pat in Bali, an intense rush of gratitude careened through me for the man asleep beside me. Spending the night in a hospital in Denpasar is not part of his job description. It’s not even close. But he’s wired Balinese, and while the western mind is all about individuality and independence, the Balinese value community and interdependence. Those beliefs form the foundation for every selfless decision Ketut makes, and I am the direct beneficiary of that.

At midnight we got word that the operasi was finished. At that hour the hospital was shrouded in a tomblike silence. We approached the door to her room and slowly pushed it open. I expected, if not sleeping, at least a groggy face. “Hi Sherry!” she chirped, flashing a huge smile. After two hours in the operating room she looked far fresher than I felt.

“They didn’t put you under, did they?”

“I don’t think so,” she said, and I exhaled a long breath of relief.

“You look great, and, if you don’t mind, I think we’ll go home now!”

We bid her good sleeping and found our way to the parking lot. Sometime during our night vigil it had rained and the helmets hanging on the motorbike were soaked. “Oh good,” said Ketut. “Make head not hot.” Laughter erupted out of me.

“Really, Ketut? Is everything always good news?”

“Ya,” he said, and with that we headed for home.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sageblessings
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 11:47:10

    Love this post. I can’t imagine how happy N….was to see you there. Ketut is such an example of teaching through doing. He’s such a dear and I’m happy he was in U ud when all this happened. Also very relieved she is well.



  2. Kasprick KATHLEEN
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 17:09:47

    Dear friend, As I read your recent post, I was heartened to hear of your friend’s successful recovery, or your selflessness in rushing to her in the hospital, and of course, the tales of Ketut. He is an amazing example of what we Americans bemoan as the lack of in our culture. Dedication to another’s well being, or a cause greater than ourselves seems to have vanished here. Maybe the last time it really existed in the States was WWll and we’re both too young to have been embraced that time and culture when the “greater good” was greater than “my good”. I think it was Viktor Frankle’s work MAN’s SEARCH FOR MEANING that comes to mind when you tell Ketuts’ adventures. He knows, deeply and in his soul he is needed, necessary and that he honors his decisions based on those needs.I say this perhaps as catharsis. Leaving my 95 year old mother’s apt., which is kept at 97 degrees, with her soiled clothing, I’m crabby. I cling to her “I love you, honey” and know deep in the recesses of her dementia she does. And I love her, with, I hope the kind of faithfulness Ketut examples.
    I write with speed, sending my wishes for an Easter appropriate to Bali. Oh, and a hug. kath



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 04, 2015 @ 21:38:22

      It’s a sad reality that the group-mind so prevalent here only presents itself in the West in the face of traumatic events like war, or hurricanes, or other disasters. But even here, Ketut is exceptional. And as I spend more time with his family I understand why. His father’s cremation, a little over a year after he passed, will happen in two weeks. What a dear, kind, intelligent man. I still have a stab of sadness through my heart when his memory arises. Ketut’s mother is a riot! I know where Ketut gets his wry sense of humor. And generosity literally spills out of her. “Please stay with us tonight. Please eat…now eat some more…! I shake my head in wonder at the blessings that Bali has bestowed upon me. And this Easter Sunday, although there isn’t a trace of a fuzzy bunny or an Easter egg anywhere to be seen, my heart bursts with gratitude. The line from a song that Julie Andrews sang in ‘The Sound of Music’ comes to me: Somewhere in my youth or childhood…I must have done something good…



  3. stevecastley
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 17:46:57

    Wonderful, inciteful and entertaining as always. Steve



  4. Lottie Nevin
    Apr 05, 2015 @ 19:35:02

    What a lovely story. I’m so glad that your friend is ok. You and Ketut deserve a medal for what you did but I bet it was much appreciated. There’s something really quite miserable about hospitals regardless of where they are so I’m sure you were really happy to have Ketut’s company and good humour to keep you sane.



  5. quirkyartist
    Apr 05, 2015 @ 19:48:42

    Loved your post. Typical of the way Balinese make connections with foreigners. I have Balinese friends I have known for years and our friendship is important to me.



  6. shanemac
    Apr 05, 2015 @ 20:38:33

    Thank you for another of your insightful and funny stories, Sherry. Your description of Ketut sounds exactly like our Wayan and, like you we feel so very blessed to have him in our lives. And your comment that somewhere in your youth or childhood, you must have done something good brought a tear to my eye. Maybe the good that is coming to you now is because of all the good you do now and the joy you bring to all your friends.



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 05, 2015 @ 23:08:17

      The stroke of fate that delivered Ketut into my life was something I could never have imagined or manifested. I didn’t even know how to dream someone like him. He’s a gift from some benign source that knew exactly what I needed and provided it, no strings attached.



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