Back in Singaraja once again after a few months in Denpasar (written about over at lifeinthetropics), Rebecca and I have been taking hour walks around the city early in the morning so that she gets some doctor-ordered exercise before she gives birth sometime later this month. I tried to get the other children to accompany us, but they are definitely not up for early morning exercise. Today we took off to wander the streets and neighborhoods to the west of Kampung Bugis. Even at 6:30, the streets are teeming with traffic and the small, local markets packed with throngs of ibus (ibu is a generic term of address for adult women similar to Mrs. or Ms.; it also means mother ) doing their shopping for the day's cooking.
Unlike years past, many of the neighborhoods now have narrow sidewalks, although using them can be a challenge as they are often used as parking spaces for motorbikes, convenient spots to expand the boundaries of small shops and eateries called warungs and places of rest for the irritating presence of Bali's wandering dogs (still here despite the roundups over the last few years due to the rabies epidemic on the island). We navigate our way through these obstructions, carefully hugging the edge of street so as not to become one of Bali's many traffic fatalities. A young mother-to-be and her old father gather a few stares and some smiles along the way, as well as some surprised greetings from neighbors, family and acquaintances who are also out shopping, having some exercise, or just passing the time watching life in neighborhoods.
Out on Jalan Dewi Sartika, we pass an old acquaintance who built one of the first discos in North Bali several decades ago. I rarely see him these days and am surprised to notice his graying, thinning hair. I still have a mental image of him as he looked decades ago when we'd sit in his bar/restaurant having a few beers while talking about life in North Bali. We chat about what we're up to these days and how many grandkids we have and make some plans to get together in the near future. The chance encounters with old friends that I've had since I've been back in Singaraja reminds me of just how long I've been here in Bali and how much things have changed here over the past several decades. The north coast is in the process of changing from a quaint, sleepy, laid-back melting pot of Bali's diverse population to a bustling large city somewhat marred by the lack of central planning in its development (something common to all areas of Bali these days, as everyone from locals to Western expats to monied Javanese rush to get a piece of Bali while prices for land and houses continue on in a crazy spiral onwards and upwards).
A nephew drives by in his bemo and gives us a few honks and a wave, a brother-in-law pulls over to the side of the street to ask where we've been on our walk today, a neighbor corrals Rebecca to check her tummy and ask when she got back from Denpasar. We walk out onto the main road, Jalan A. Yani, and surprisingly the traffic here is less intense than on the little sidestreets. A few policemen are out controlling the traffic; one waves and I gesture to inquire if I can take his photo. He gives me a big smile and the thumbs-up sign.
Farther along A. Yani as we head for home, I notice a new bakery. I know that there's another one on Jalan Diponegoro. As I take a photo, I wonder what market forces have brought about the openings of all the bakeries that I came across while living in Denpasar and see now opening in Singaraja. Baked goods have long been a part of the Indonesian diet, but in the past they were generally sold in small shops along with a variety of other goods; now we have gleaming, Western-style bakeries specializing in cakes, donuts, and a variety of breads. I know now where to buy my wife's birthday cake this year.
Back home again, the cat that Rebecca and I rescued a few months ago in a field in Denpasar is racing through the house looking for our rabbit; the two have become somewhat unlikely friends. It's time to begin the chores for the day under the cloudy Singaraja sky.