A Cab Ride in Bali
Photo credit: James Morgan
James and I had scheduled a BlueBird to take us a little ways. We usually walk if it's under 2 or 3 miles, but we had further to go. What we think is our cab pulls up and we get in. We quickly realize it's someone else's cab, simultaneously realizing our scheduled cab took this cab's fare. So, we laugh with the cab driver at the irony and fortune, and head off. We weren't meant for his cab, but we actually totally were. The next 20 minutes really effected me.
Usually BlueBird taxi drivers don't talk to the passengers unless prompted, but this gentleman, named Heri, starts up a conversation. He asks if we are on our honeymoon. (We are asked this daily.) We say no, that we are traveling together.
He replies, "Well, if you aren't married but together then everyday is your honeymoon!"
He insisted on referring to us as husband and wife for the remainder of the drive.
We ask if Heri is married. He shares with us - yes, for 15 years. He has 4 boys.
"We tried for a girl, but boy, then boy, then boy. We don't try anymore!" His oldest is 14; his youngest is 3 months old.
He asks how long we've been in Bali; when we say a month, he asks if we are working. He seems super supportive when we say yes.He asks where we are from. We say America.
Then we stop at a light, and a child comes begging at the door. He tells us this child is not in school because school is expensive. That Bali is very corrupt, education is privatized, the police are violent and untrustworthy, and the whole political system is against the people.We mention much of that is in the U.S. All of it. Really. Happening more and more daily.He says the Balinese are terrified that Trump will start a World War. James and I have a moment of realizing, as we stare out at the consistently crumbling infrastructure of Bali, that our country might not be far behind this.
Heri says his heart breaks as a parent, watching someone else's child beg in the streets because they cannot afford education for them. That he is lucky to have a job that pays for his children to go to school. That it is not so uncommon to not.
We mention that we are going to India next.Then he starts to tell us about his experience with Indian tourists, which is essentially terrible. I could determine quickly that there were some racist undertones. I was uncomfortable and also kind of unsure how to respond. There were tons of micro aggressions.
Heri asks if we have been to India. I say yes, I have.
"Why were you there, miss?"
The entire conversation took a swift shift. He starts to apologize sincerely for what he said about Indians. Then he goes to awkwardly shake my hand/high five me.
He asks me if I understand what he means about Indian people. And I explain the culture difference I've seen between Bali and India and why he might feel that way. And he gets it. No defense of his ignorance, just yes, that makes sense.
"What do you think about Balinese Hinduism and Indian Hinduism miss? Are they different?"
And we start to have a lengthy conversation about the subtle differences I've noticed. Mainly that the Balinese actively practice, in public. Altars are everywhere. Puja is evident constantly. In India, it is not so everywhere. It is happening, yes, but it is not outside every single shop and home. I said I imagine it is because of the time frame. Hinduism came to Bali long after India. It is more a part of inherent culture there. It is not as new as it is in Bali.
He agrees with me intensely. "It is still very real and alive here Miss."
There is a serious pause, then he says "The Indians love the cows. They let them do everything. Don't let them eat your food!"
"Heri, the cows are Nandi. You let Nandi do whatever Nandi wants!" I tease back.
We laugh. Then we arrive at our destination, and we hand him the money. James and I always tip considerably because it is so little and these people really have so little. He blushes at our generosity.
"What are your names?"
We tell him and we say we will be back to Bali one day.
"Yes. And you bring your children!"
This was the first moment, in two months of travel, that I felt so strongly connected to a person. We went through so many emotions in that car ride. I'll probably never see Heri again. Think about that though - he lives on the other side of the planet.The world does not feel big to me these days. It feels very small and intimate and real. Real and alive.
Rachel May began her yogic journey as a child. Her mother, a transcendental meditation practitioner, was her first teacher.
Her studies became in depth in 1997. She began teaching in November 2000, and completed her first teacher training through Saraswati River Yoga; under the guidance of Parvathi Nanda Nath Saraswati and David Pittenger. Rachel’s life took a new and powerful turn into the lineage of Sri Vidya. She is E-500RYT and certified Ayurvedic Life Consultant.
Rachel is currently spending a year traveling to Costa Rica, India, and Bali, teaching yoga and exploring the world.