Building a House in Bali – big stones arrive

We had polished off a killer meal of Lake Batur fish and copious amounts of Bintang. We’d solved half the world’s problems and discussed the other half ad nauseum. The mosquito coil lay in ashes on the floor, spent. The guests had gone home and I was reaching to turn off the garden lights when a bush rustled. Bushes rustle all the time, but after dark I notice. My eyes scanned the shadows while my mind ticked off possibilities: herons, squirrels, monkeys…Ketut. “Ya, stones come tomorrow,” he said, stepping into the light.

“What time?” I knew it would be early, I just wanted to know how early.

“Oh, maybe tweluv.” In Ketut speak, the number twelve has two syllables, twel uv.

“You mean midnight?” I’m still grappling with Bali time.

“Ya, in the street, many-many.”

He made the announcement and left. Pasek appeared moments later. “Ya, stones come tomorrow,” he said.

“What time?” Didn’t I just have this conversation?!

“In the street now, maybe five bring inside.”

“Five in the morning?”


I didn’t sleep much knowing my stones had been dumped in the busy Monkey Forest Road and would sit there until the women came in the early morning hours to haul them to the house. I pictured small stones. I know that sand has to come, and metal, and bags of concrete. Small stones were also on the list of materials.

P1050897At 5:30 I heard voices whispering in the garden. My windows don’t have glass. There’s a bamboo blind between me and the forces of nature. At 5:48 there was a bit of shoveling and scraping. I got up. I had just spread out the yoga mat on the bedroom floor when, at 6:09, an avalanche of volcanic boulders crashed to earth.

Through the window, women pushing pinkish wheelbarrows piled high with rock streamed past me. The boulders rolling out of the barrows created a thunderous roar. Ketut strolled up and I said, “Why big stones? I thought little stones.”

“Oh, first big stones. Make strong.” He disappeared into the kitchen to make coffee for the workers. When he emerged with glasses of the thick, black drink, I joined the women for their breakfast break. The savory scent of chicken and chilis emerged from their brown paper wraps. The smallest one of the group had a bag of kue, the Balinese sweet treats that I love. She offered them to me. I chose a browned ball. Coconut, palm sugar, and sweet potato lay hidden in the center of the cake-like confection. “Mmmmm!” I said as I bit into its moist sweetness. A beatific smile beamed from her weathered face.

Their rest was brief. As they retrieved their wheelbarrows, Ketut, ever mindful, scaled the palm that towered over the dump site for the rocks. His machete sliced off six coconuts and a couple of enormous branches. Being clobbered by a coconut isn’t a happy ending. One of them split when it hit the rocks. Next thing I knew, a glass of young coconut water appeared in front of me. Delicious!

Mid-afternoon the task was done.
P1050907My first materials have made their appearance. “Sand tomorrow,” Ketut said.

“What ti…” I began, then realized…it doesn’t matter.

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