The Balinese Male Mindset

When told that as a foreigner with a retirement visa I was eligible for government medical insurance in Bali, I was skeptical. It seemed so out of the realm of possibility that I did nothing about it for months. Then I discovered that Ketut and his family could also be covered, and the cost was minimal. After hounding my neighbor for details, I cornered Ketut.

East meets West.
Leo meets Capricorn.
Stubborn meets equally stubborn.

It isn’t that he didn’t think it was a good idea, it was just a NEW idea, and one that he didn’t know how to navigate. So we did our dance. I’ve learned that the Balinese male mindset cannot be railroaded. It’s better to ask questions. Rather than saying I don’t know a Balinese man is more likely to text any number of contacts until he gets an answer he likes.

So it went for several weeks, I’d ask, Ketut would text, and information slowly accumulated.

As the facts leaked in it appeared that it would involve a trip to the hospital at a neighboring village to pick up the registration packets. A date was set to go but a prudent call to the hospital indicated that the office was closed. The next day Ketut was too busy. A few more days passed, then he showed up one afternoon with the forms. He’d gone with a friend who had done it before and knew the routine.

The second thing I’ve learned about the Balinese male mindset is that once the procedure is clear, things happen fast.

Day One: Packets…check.

Ketut immediately summoned his wife. Komang and their daughter arrived drenched from the hour long motorbike ride in the rain. “Tomorrow make photos and I take back to hospital,” he tells me. All of us needed passport type pictures and copies of important documents to submit with the government forms. Komang brought theirs with her.

Day Two: Ketut was busy all morning but early afternoon he told me that they had taken their showers and were ready for photos. We set out,  Komang and Nengah on one motorbike, Ketut and I another. We were in and out in about 30 minutes, pictures in hand, total price $4.50.

Back on the bikes we went another mile to a copy shop,  22 copies, 20 cents. At that point Komang and Nengah said goodbye. They have done their part. Ketut and I returned to the house and assembled the materials. The forms were filled out and he was ready to go back to the hospital when I handed him an envelope.

“Here’s the money. I want to pay for one year, not every month.” He frowns.

“Very expensive, not possible today.” It’s my turn to frown.

“Why not?”

“Today Hari Buda Cemeng Kelawu, cannot pay big money.”

“Buddha? You’re Hindu. What does Buddha have to do with anything?”

“This special day, Hindu ceremony give money only to god, cannot make big money go out.”

“I’m not Hindu. Maybe it’s okay for me?” Ketut has a repertoire of faces. The one he wears now is familiar. It’s a half-smile with lowered eyes that tells me he’d very much like to do what I ask but there’s no way in hell he’s going to.

“Not so good,” he says.

Tomorrow will be Day Three. Ketut will take the forms, the photos, the copies, and the cash, and go to the hospital. Then we’ll wait a month and he’ll go back to pick up our little plastic membership cards. Four people will be covered for anything and everything medical that can possibly happen to a human being in Indonesia, all for the equivalent of $12/month. I love this place. I love it’s inconsistencies, it’s inconveniences, and it’s incomprehensible devotion to a belief system that multiplies the inconsistencies and inconveniences exponentially.


Offering for Hari Buda Cemeng Kelawu

And I love Bali’s inclusivity, but I’m still mystified as to how Buddha figures into this Hindu ceremony.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sageblessings
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 08:56:44

    Well done!! Congrats on the insurance.



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