Pandemic life in Bali eighteen months and counting

We’ve logged eighteen months of Covid in Bali. Nobody thought it would last this long. Nobody had a clue how devastating it would be to the economy, to morale, to human life. I wish I could say we’re learning to live with it. We’re not. There’s still a never-never-land hope that soon tourists will return. Soon everything will be like it was before. Soon.

Soon was supposed to be June, 2020. That was scrapped and moved to August 2020. Each new date set for the reopening of international tourism was exchanged for a later one. The most recent was this month, September 2021. We all knew it wouldn’t happen as the Delta variant bore down on Indonesia making it the world epicenter for the virus.

I hate to preach doom and gloom, but the only upside I can see to this prolonged slog through hell is a return to the land for those who didn’t sell out to the highest bidder. Paddies, neglected for years while their owners taxied foreigners to and from the airport, guided tours, sold sarongs, or opened cafes, are being tended again.

Fireflies haven’t returned yet but birds and butterflies have. Roads aren’t clogged with trucks belching black fumes, and there are no drones, helicopters, or planes disturbing the peaceful sky. Only kites. Hundreds of them pirouette on unseen currents high above. These photos are from the annual Kite Festival in Sanur, Bali. This year it didn’t happen, of course.

When there’s no work there’s an abundance of time – time enough to go fly a kite.

For many Balinese, however, there isn’t enough money to buy food, and the lack of funds affects the animal population as well. This article, Bali’s tourist drought sees hundreds of hungry monkeys raiding homes, hit international news today. These are the monkeys that visit me. They never used to leave the Sacred Monkey Forest which is a quarter mile from my home. But now they have no food and no tourists to entertain them. They’re bored, hungry, and they’re multiplying at an astonishing rate. (Nothing else to do, may as well make love.)

The longer the situation persists, the more aggressive they become. They use my roof to stage their battles. I wake up at dawn to the sound of snarling monkeys waging war as clay roof tiles crash to the ground. If Ketut isn’t here to do immediate repairs, I know the next rain will pour through the ceiling wreaking unspeakable damage.

I captured a photo of this guy coming toward my upstairs landing across the old roof.

Hoards of roving monkeys, thirty to fifty at a time, appear multiple times a day every day. Whatever isn’t behind closed doors is fair game, a plate of fruit, a bottle of water, a bouquet of flowers. They’re looking for something – anything – to eat.

Their petty thievery was manageable, but the roof issue was not.

Ketut and I engaged in endless conversations attempting to arrive at a solution to the problem. The situation was dire. I had to replace the fragile tiles with something monkey-proof.

Last week we found the answer. Genteng pasir. Literally translated that’s sand tiles, a pressed metal shingle coated with a gritty substance and painted the color of a traditional roof. The look was perfect and the price was right.

Ketut lined up a team, placed orders for shingles, nails, lumber, and cement, and work began. First, the old tiles came off.

The three-man crew worked, ate, and slept here, on site. They began at 8:00 a.m. and stopped at 6:30 p.m. when the sun went down. We provided their meals, coffee, and beds.

Ketut was the busiest of all, running to get take out food three times a day, making coffee, keeping the necessary building supplies on hand. Food, coffee, and snacks were all part of the package to ensure that the guys stayed well-nourished and happy.

They worked seven full days, non-stop, and did a stellar job.

Isn’t that a splendid sight?

I didn’t realize how on-edge I was. Even now, three days later, I find myself stiffening with a lump of dread in my stomach when I hear the beasts coming. Then I remember, oh! My roof is monkey-proof. I can relax.

Just in time.

Rainy season approaches and there’s nothing as important as an intact roof when tropical storms shed their pent-up tears in torrents – gallons per second!

It doesn’t solve the greater problem. The economy is worse than ever. People and monkeys are still hungry. I’m acutely aware of my privilege as a foreigner living here. Because I’m a long-term expat with the necessary documentation, I was given my vaccinations free, same as the locals. I follow government protocol to the letter, grateful for the measures they’re taking to end this plague so living can find its rhythm and a better life for all can begin.

Soon. Hopefully, soon.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karin Grouf
    Sep 05, 2021 @ 19:59:14

    It is the plague of the century, and it wrecks havoc to all of us. That it should touch the whole world is what makes it even more frightening. It has divided the country and the youth still believes it won’t touch them.

    We must come together for the sake of the future otherwise as we head into another season there will be more sickness. We’ll lose young and old. What a heavy price to pay for stupidity. Take the vaccine, wear the mask and follow the rules.

    Liked by 2 people


  2. Carol Taylor
    Sep 05, 2021 @ 20:44:17

    Stay safe

    Liked by 1 person


  3. rickerw
    Sep 05, 2021 @ 20:50:12

    Nice work. Very well done.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Marlys Gall
    Sep 05, 2021 @ 20:55:20

    Hopefully Aussie tourism will soon help out Bali. We can’t go anywhere yet other than QLD to South Australia just opening up to us. NSW and VIC are having heavy days of Covid patients. They are closed off to most other states. Not sure how economy will last here either! Looking forward to one day meeting in person.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Anonymous
    Sep 05, 2021 @ 23:07:53

    What an undertaking and brilliant solution. Perhaps the monkey claws can’t take hold of these and they’ll move elsewhere. I remember how scary they were and that was in better times. I hope you now sleep better and this reduces the multiple problems by one. Your writing, as always, is great. S

    Liked by 1 person


  6. stevecastley
    Sep 06, 2021 @ 01:46:42

    Glad the roof is done and monkey proof. And yes, Covid drags on, and on and on, and we do what we can to stay sane and have a little fun. Stay safe and well. Hugs, Steve

    Liked by 1 person


  7. greygeckos
    Sep 06, 2021 @ 13:05:32

    I truly hope that we as Australians can visit Bali again soon . I worry for the Balinese people as they financially can’t cope forever . We have helped our Balinese friends out financially in a small way but not enough to keep them living how they used to . They have lost their home and the car that bought them an income . So hard !!!!! And those monkies —- they would scare the hell out of me .

    Liked by 1 person


  8. Diane Struble
    Sep 06, 2021 @ 13:19:41

    The new roof is beautiful. That it is, plus being monkey-proof , is cause for celebration. I like monkeys, but not when they come in hungry hordes. I would say that the government should feed them, except it seems, they have not enough even for people.

    Sorry, but I do not think your soon is going to be any time soon. The world needs to be vaccinated or get herd immunity. Neither is happening. And when there are people so misled that they will not even save the lives of their families, it is going to be a long and death filled road. We all know that eventually this will pass, but no one can put a date on it. Just look to saving your life to a better future. It will need all of us.

    Liked by 1 person


    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Sep 06, 2021 @ 18:09:20

      You’re right, Di. Soon is a long way off. Even though this is worse than my worst ever nightmare, what has happened to the world intrigues me. I’ve had to revise many assumptions, things I took for granted that no longer exist. The collapse of life as I knew it makes room for something new – but that could go either way. Most disconcerting is the condition of the planet. By the time we kick Covid, we may have lost earth.



  9. writingforselfdiscovery
    Sep 06, 2021 @ 16:21:43

    You’re right, Di. Soon is a long way off. Even though this is worse than my worst ever nightmare, what has happened to the world intrigues me. I’ve had to revise many assumptions, things I took for granted that no longer exist. The collapse of life as I knew it makes room for something new – but that could go either way. Most disconcerting is the condition of the planet. By the time we kick Covid, we may have lost earth.



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