For a month, I lived crime-free. I was oblivious to all things related to crime. What I mean is I didn’t hear any sirens, ambulance or police. The only time I saw a police presence was at an intersection directing traffic because Bali has very little to no traffic lights. People left their doors open. I walked to and from ATMs in pitch darkness, alone. I forgot my keys in my scooter overnight and found it there the next morning. No one warned me about being a female walking alone day or night. The only message of be careful could be found in the street signs around construction sites saying Hati Hati. Maybe it’s because I didn’t speak the native language, or read papers, maybe I lived in a bubble and something else was going on in other parts of Bali but the comfort at which everyone went about their lives, unbothered, safe, suggests it wasn’t just my ignorance. I experienced living in a place where you didn’t have to worry about bad things happening. It’s possible.
And then I came back home.
Within the first day back, a man felt it necessary to tell me that my walking to my car in front of my home, while making a phone call is not safe for someone like me, for a woman on her own. He told me that I’m making myself a target because I am calling my dad to tell him my car battery died. He told me it’s not safe. I was back home for a day.
Facebook showed me the daily crimes being committed. Who got robbed, or stabbed, or killed, daily. Blue lights blinded me every time I got into my car at night with officers constantly abusing their power on the roads. And then the country blew up with the news of the murder of an icon, in his home, alone. And it hit me: I am not safe here. This is not a place for living. This has become a place for surviving. We used to be a happy, relaxed, laid back island who knew how to have a good time. Now I see tweets about women feeling unsafe to go out and lime after certain hours, my mother worriedly sending me articles and messages of concern and warning, men telling women they shouldn’t dress a certain way, when I was just in a country where women’s cleavage out in a fitted lace top was the appropriate wear for going to the temple! What the fuck am I doing here? And how do I possibly even try to make it better? Hope feels like a disease. Crippling and pointless, leading only to death. How do we make it better? I understand why so many creatives become digital nomads and go disappear in a far away place like Bali, removed from the Trumps and Keiths of the world, not belonging anywhere because home is not what we grow up falling in love with, home has become unrecognisable and unliveable and we’d rather belong nowhere and live at peace than fight for a land that feels lost.
I don’t know what all of this means. But this can’t be it. This can’t be what I was excited to grow up to live in. Fix it! Fix it now!