Indonesia

Bali Youth

I have a friend in Bali named Kadek. He is about ten years old and loves taking care of his little brother Komang. Like many kids in the little town of Amed, Kadek goes to school five days a week from morning until noon. Some kids walk to school and others ride bike, but they are always easy to spot, all wearing the same matching uniforms. The school day usually begins with group exercises and even some group singing. If I woke up early enough, I heard the children singing along to a song broadcast over the loudspeakers. Kadek will continue going to school until he is seventeen or so, just lke his father.
Not all the kids in Kadek’s small town are as lucky as he is. While it is free to go to school, a student is only allowed to attend if he or she is wearing a uniform. Lots of students own their own uniforms, but there are some who can only afford to rent a uniform. They can rent these uniforms each month or even each day, but if they don’t have the money for it, they cannot go to school. Similarly, the students must bring their own pencils and papers, and must buy their own books. After all of these expenses, school doesn’t seem so “free” after all, especially for parents who do not have well-paying jobs.
The older folks in town may not know very much English, or the folks living outside of town, but kids like Kadek learn English along with their other subjects, in hopes that they can get good jobs with their English skills.
What does knowing English have to do with getting a good job in a place like Bali, where they already have to know two languages, Balinese and Indonesian?
English is becoming very important for lots of countries as tourism becomes more and more popular. Bali is a very beautiful island and people come to visit it from all over the world. English is a very common language for people from all over, even if it is not their native language, so English is one of the first additional languages a child will learn for a total of at least three languages. Many add even more to this list, learning Italian or German to accomodate even more tourists.  With these skills, they can work in hotels, guest-houses, restaurants, and so on.

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Bali Culture

Bali is one of the many islands that make up Indonesia.  It is small but distinctly unique, even from the rest of Indonesia.  While Indonesia is mostly a Muslim country for instance, the island of Bali is more than 90% Hindu in their religious beliefs.  This effects daily life quite a bit. Most Balinese families participate in daily rituals by placing an offering of food and incense at a designated altar at their house or place of business.  They replenish this offering three times a day, believing that this practice pleases the Hindu gods and may bring good fortune to their families or to their business.

In addition to daily practices, Balinese Hindu people will reunite with their extended families every fifteen days to pray together at the family temple.  This ceremony involves lots of food and flowers.  A priest leads the ritualistic prayers inside the temple walls.  When the rituals are finished, the families gather around their food offerings to eat what has been blessed. Often this includes a “Babi Guilin” or a young roasted pig, prepared for the gods.

Balinese Hinduism includes a belief in Karma.  This is the belief that doing something good ensures that something good will happen to you in return, and likewise, doing something bad will result in something bad happening in return.  I met many Balinese people while traveling on the island, and each showed me lots of kindness.  Their belief in karma is strong and they try very hard to live according to these beliefs.

Their is also a belief that Balinese Hindus must assign specific names to their children.  This is one way of identifying whether someone is Balinese or from elsewhere.  One young man we spoke with firmly believed that breaking from this tradition would cause a person to become ill.  This is an example of karma.  He said that if he did not go by his Balinese Hindu name of “Made,” (assigned to a second-born son,) than he would become very sick until he went back to using this name.  It was very surprising to me that so many people in Bali share the same name, but I am coming to realize that many countries assign a name to their children based on birth-order.  This child may eventually receive a nick-name of sorts, but their official name is still maintained as a very important title.

Every first-born Balinese child, whether girl or boy, is named “Wayan,” (though “Lo” was another option for first-born women only).  The second-born may be either “Made” or “Kadek,” as well as “Putu” in some regions.  Third born children are named “Nyoman” or “Komang” whether they are male or female and the fourth child is “Katut.”  If a fifth child is born, the order begins again.

Rituals: something done ceremonially and consistently

Karma: a belief that one’s fate is determined by their actions: a good action will lead to good fortune and a bad action will lead to bad fortune.  This also beans that practicing one’s religion poorly will result in something bad while practicing one’s religion with devotion will lead to something good.  This is usually accompanied by a belief in past lives that contribute to one’s karma as well as future lives within which time a person may continue to be rewarded or punished.

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