March 27, 2020
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind at every level of scale for everyone, but with some extra layers of concern for those of us that are living away from home, and living in developing areas!
Our family has been watching as reactions fall into place - Green School and Canggu Community School closed, sending the kids home. Bali banned Chinese tourists, and started restricting foreigners from domestic travel, abruptly cancelling our spring break plans (I'm crying for the Raja Ampat trip that isn't happening!).
Our tight-knit community of Green School families has dispersed to the wind, many making the call to return "home" or stay in a more western country for the time being, amid fears of medical problems and quality care in Bali.
We registered for the Canadians Abroad service, so we get constant (daily) emails from the consulate pushing us to return to Canada before the medical system collapses in Indonesia, before international flights are completely closed down, and while they can still help us escape.
It's a lot to take in. It's scary. It changes daily.
We're Riding It Out Here
Ultimately, we are staying put. Bali is home. We're social distancing, and hunkering down with the kids, and watching to see what happens.
We have a beautiful four-bedroom home with a big pool and sunset views. We have a room set up as an office, outdoor living space, and lots of room to be together or apart while bathed in sun, fresh air.
Our home is paid up until July, while our home in Vancouver is rented out. We have nowhere to go in Vancouver, and would have to rent something for the duration. Staying with family could put them at risk.
If global shipping gets curtailed, I'd rather be in Bali. Canada is dependent on Mexico and California for food, while food security is not an issue here. We definitely import, and we saw an onion shortage last month, but it's always growing season in Bali and the island is an abundance of local fruit and vegetables. We'll be fine.
In fact, we are extremely healthy here. The sun, fresh air (always open living!) and fresh, mostly-vegetarian eating has us feeling fit and fantastic. This has been the norm for the last two years, our deep sleep, outdoor time, healthy food and active lives have us living better than ever, and certainly healthier than in a closed up forced-air Vancouver house.
Our menagerie has grown - we have two cats and a dog that we love, and we hope to bring them to Canada at some point, but running home and leaving them behind was a non-starter.
The medical system will likely get hammered. Or it won't. The locals aren't great at what we're asking now - hand washing and social distancing are both not part of their culture. Just as the western world pushed everyone apart, the Balinese were gathering in dozens and hundreds to prepare for Nyepi celebrations (Balinese new year, day of silence, very important - more on that soon). The local governmant, at the very last minute did the right thing and cancelled or postponed most celebrations and required a few days of isolation.
It's very possible Covid-19 will tear through the local population like wildfire. Or it won't, if it is less potent in hot/humid climes, as some believe. Or we already had it, there was a wave of illness in Jan and Feb that could have been Bali getting it early, thanks to the tens of thousands of Chinese tourists we still had in November, December, January, and February before that door closed.
It's possible if the locals get it, they could overwhelm the medical system. Or they won't, as depending on "class", they often seek treatment from religion and traditional medicine before seeking western medical help. The for-profit hospitals for the tourists and expats may throw their doors open and help everyone who cannot pay, or they won't, protecting their model and reserving their beds for those with money. We don't know until it happens.
But there are a lot of reasons for us to believe we'll be fine if we stay, that the crisis could hit Bali hard and we'll ride it out, or it'll fizzle and pass us by. The next month will answer that.
What Are We Doing
We're working hard at staying safe, and we're ready to ride it out here.
We're having to be aware of epidemiology, following trends and locations and evaluating the trustworthiness and responses of governments.
We're being parents and children, evaluating the risks to the health of our kids, and our parents in Canada who are even more at risk.
We're being visa and travel experts, constantly reviewing the changes to our visa renewal process and our avenues of movement as flights are cancelled, regional and national restrictions drop into place, and Indonesia figures out how to handle us as a population of foreigners.
We're being preppers, figuring out which supplies will run low (imports like cheese and milk), sharing notes on where to get things to make the time easier (beer, board games).
This is what Helene and I are good at - absorbing lots of information, committing to a path through uncertain waters, and then project managing it! This month has been another reminder that there is no one else I could do this with - she's my foxhole buddy, my co-CEO, she has her arms around it all and the sleepless nights to show for it.
The most important thing we have is our community. From being at two schools now in Bali, we know that the most valuable thing Green School has, above the bamboo buildings and ecological learning, is the community of families.
We have a group chat of 150 expats here sharing information about the disease and current travel issues as they all navigate their home country rules and restrictions. Green School has families from 48 different countries, so we diverse but there are pockets from each country.
We have another community of 90+ families who have all decided to stay, and are sharing resources all day to keep everyone safe and help them weather the storm. From emergency supplies and medical information to which stores are open to borrowing board games.
And finally we have the group of Canadians, all of whom decided to stay while so many of our peers from other countries have left.
I can't stress how proud and strong it feels to have people around you pulling together and putting effort in to share information, gather communication, and check in on each other to make it possible.
We're strong and stable here, ready for some long-term solo living, and with plenty of people and resources to lean on when we need it.
What Comes Next
It doesn't feel any different, but we're in March break right now. In a week, the kids will go "back to school" and we'll be doing distance learning from two schools every day. This is a lot to manage, and our approach will be pretty chill.
I'm working for Lucy Bank, poking around opportunities in Vancouver for after we return, and finally completing some of the side projects that I've been puttering on since moving here.
Helene is in the thick of it with WeeTravel, as tourism grinds to a halt so does her business after 15 years of growth. It's a hard time, and she's making hard decisions. I'm proud of her strength and her heart and her will.
Personally, I'm more excited about this extra time with the kids to continue learning about them and shaping them and coaching their interactions, than I am about the geometry and Bahasa Indonesia classes by vidcon. The stat I've heard many times is that by the time a kid leaves home, they've spent 50% of all the minutes with their parents that they ever will in their life. That's sobering. Max is 13, and the thought that he will move out in five years and our relationship is half over soon cuts me deep.
This crisis, and settling in to spend weeks to months together as a quiet, focused family of four in a relatively low stress setting, is a gift that we will not take for granted. I may have just gained an extra 10,000 minutes of face time with each of my kids, and I will not let that go to waste.
Reach out. Everyone is at home now, we're in a different timezone but let's get on Facetime or Zoom or WhatsApp and keep the ties strong while the physical world is weak.
Stay healthy, stay sane, Love those around you!