After two (corona) years of waiting, on September 7 Jolanda and I finally went to Bali. A few weeks before that date, Tjeerd brought us some clothes for the children on Bali. A large blue suitcase filled with clothes and toys and some extra stuff that we would take with us in a second suitcase. In recent years we have seen many photos of Tjeerd and Hetty with other fellow travelers visiting the schools and sponsored children. But if you’ve been there and see yourself in those photos, that’s really great! 

There were five of us traveling: Tjeerd, Hetty (Jan’s sister), Jolanda, Henk and me. Henk has seen a lot of the world as a photographer and he told many enthusiastic stories about his travels. We landed in Denpasar and went straight to Sanur, a beautiful seaside resort where Tjeerd had booked a nice hotel for us. There we could settle down a bit for a few days. That was not too difficult; daily cycling around, swimming in the sea, delicious coffee, ice creams, super fresh dinner and delicious fruit juices at the night market. An hour of massage at the end of the day, a good night’s sleep and the same the next day..

After a few days in Sanur we went to Ubud. Ubud is a beautiful provincial town, very cozy and with a buzzling evening life. To the north are many rice fields, located in beautiful valleys and along the roads a lot of small-scale workshops, specializing in wood, metal, glass, paintings or silver. You see many things being made that you see in shops here in the Netherlands, from large (expensive) furniture stores to Xenos.

Most Balinese are Hindu, unlike the rest of Indonesia where the majority are Muslim. The Hindu religion is very present in daily life. For many occasions there are large or small ceremonies and daily offerings are normal. Each house has its own temple, large or small, salled with a partition consisting of concrete elements. The temple contains all kinds of objects, statues, figures and ornaments. Alongside the road,  you will see many companies that make and sell these ornaments. You also have to be careful on the street that you do not accidentally step on an offering, trip over it or burn your toes on an incense stick. You see people on mopeds who place these offerings on the street or in trees in all kinds of places and others who put sweets and cookies in them. And sometimes squirrels have their lunch there.

After Ubud we continued our journey north. After a night in a beautiful villa in Pancasari, situated on a hill (it looked like Alsace), we visited the first schools. Those were the most precious moments, the most beautiful experiences. You don’t experience that on the most adventurous holiday. When we arrived at such a school, we parked the car or sometimes we were on mopeds on small roads in the middle of nowhere and there were dozens of children shouting and singing behind the fence of the schoolyard to welcome us. The gate opens and we walk onto the square. Then they come up to us cheering and laughing for a “high five” and sometimes they take your hand and bring it to  their forehead, as a sign of welcome and respect. Hetty and Tjeerd had taught us some words of Bahasa so we shouted ‘apa kabar’ (how are you) and they all enthusiastically shouted “baik baik” (fine!). So beautiful, now that I’m writing this I’m experiencing it again.

That was all nice and a bit unorderly due to the enthusiasm of all the children; so we needed some order to finally get to the official part. With the help of teachers  and the occasional stern look from Mister T.J. (Mister Tee-Jay”, that’s Tjeerd’s name there) we got all the sponsor children together to hand over the sponsor money and take the pictures.

Tjeerd had suggested that I take the children one by one to a place chosen by Henk for the photos. There, pictures were taken of the child alone and with his/her family member(s).  We were a great team. I made small talk to put them at ease: “hello apa kabar, nama saya Jan, dan anda?” (I’m Jan, what’s your name?). And the boy or girl enthusiastically calls his/her name and “baik baik” and we walk to Henk for the pictures. That was so much fun, we laughed a lot, the children and their parents no less. I put their clothes right if necessary, straightened the ties, put the child in the correct position with father, mother or brother/sister. and set them up for Henk. He is a true professional and knew how to find the best locations for the photos. And he also did his best to make the kids laugh for the photos. For that we sometimes had to coax them a little or “surprise” them with a joke, because they were often a bit shy and it was not always easy to get them to laugh. We usually succeeded and sometimes this caused a lot of hilarity from the other children, parents, and teachers around us. 

After the photo session, we went to a classroom. The children with their parents behind their desks. In front of the class, Tjeerd sat with Hetty and Jolanda behind a large table with stacks of papers and sponsor money. The children in their obligatory school uniform(!), were all called forward and stood in front of Tjeerd and Jolanda, who had a chat with them. That was done in English as much as possible (especially with the older children) because the Foundation Scholingsproject Bali thinks it is extremely important that they master that language sufficiently. If you want to achieve a little more later on, this is important. So now is a good time to see if they are doing their best. After this talk, Tjeerd gave the children (accompanied by a parent) the sponsor money and they had to sign a form for receipt. It was all neatly official.

It was really so much fun to do. For some children we did not come to the school but to the contact persons at home. Over the years, Tjeerd has built up an important network of contacts. Often teachers from schools and/or parents of sponsored children, or Dutch people living on Bali. That is how we came to Pancasari with Gita who lives there with her Australian husband in a beautiful villa. Dozens of older children from secondary schools came from the area. They were between 13 and 18 years old and mostly spoke and understood English well. There, too, the photography was hilarious. The weather was nice so it happened in their beautiful garden. Sometimes with misunderstandings, because the children often have the same name and sometimes with some embarrassment and hilarity because of all our attempts to make them laugh when they were a bit shy. And the classmates participated enthusiastically. Inside the house, Tjeerd, Hetty and Jolanda handed over the children their sponsor money and some also received a laptop which they were very happy with. The young people who go to the senior high school receive a laptop from the sponsor. An amount that has been saved over the years, especially for this purpose. All sponsor children from Pancasari also received a food package with rice, sugar, flour, oil and the like worth 20 Euro (300,000 rupees, a lot of money for these poor families). We were able to distribute these food packages thanks to special donations from sponsors, shortly before the visit to Bali.

We stayed in the north of Bali in Lovina. That is a nice small collection of villages on the coast with a long (black) sandy beach where many people live along the coast in often quite poor housing. There are also many fishermen’s families and of course Tjeerd (Mister T-J) was recognized everywhere, by the ladies in the many shops along the beach and by the fishermen’s families. We visited one such family and were treated to a delicious meal and of course freshly caught fish. Early one morning we went out to sea with fisherman Shanti in his boat to spot dolphins and with success. Jolanda and I snorkeled next to the boat and saw the dolphins jump up close.

From Lovina we made a nice long journey along the coast to Padangbai. It all started there years ago when Tjeerd came into contact with a poor family.

And there we visited the last four sponsored children. So only four, after the hundreds we had already met, that had to be a piece of cake;  Henk and I said to each other. Maybe we shouldn’t have had a beer first…. It was only one, but a standard 65cc Bintang. We followed our usual procedure, Henk took beautiful pictures, and we were ready. Then someone – I think it was Jolanda – said ‘but they have to be in uniform’? Oops, violated a cardinal rule of the Foundation. No one thought of it! One of the parents sat with a bag on her lap, containing the school uniforms. The children quickly dressed and posed for another photo. All’s well that ends well, these last four also looked great!

On to Gili Air, one of the islands near Lombok, for a few more days of relaxing and snorkeling and then back to Sanur for the last few days, enjoying  sun, sea, beach, delicious food, walking along the many souvenir shops, and massages. Ah, it’s so addictive. But it was also WARM! Sweating all day and still sniffling because of the airco’s. You can’t cool down anywhere either, swimming pools? just as warm, the sea? ditto. So after these three fantastic weeks it was really wonderful to come home to our chilly country.

Our Bali holiday has been over for a while,  but we still enjoy it extensively every day. What a wonderful experience!

 Greetings from Jolanda Serné and Jan Winkel.