Dance to the Balinese is what shopping is to Americans. Everywhere you go on this island people are doing it and doing it with passion. It is part of them. There is a performance stage near our bungalow where dance takes place 3 times a day. The performances are by a group of children ranging in age from about 9 to 16. They are all orphans that come via bus from the larger city and are studying hotel hospitality. So they dance 3 times a day and in between do their studies. When they return back to their orphanage at night usually around 9pm they have chores and studying to do before bed.
This reminds me of one of those accounts we would hear in the west about young orphans needing to work in 3rd world countries and how awful it all is. However, in actuality I would much rather my girls have an upbringing like this than most in the US. These children are among the most pleasant and truly happy children I've ever seen. They are friendly, confident, poised, very quick to laugh and just relaxed with who they are. This is in stark contrast to many of their counterparts in the US, who are very awkward at this stage and fidgety and often do not look adults in the eye when they speak. Of course there are exceptions and there are certainly confident pre-teens in the US. However, if a person were to randomly enter a Jr. High in the US and start talking with the kids there- the general disposition of the average student is not one of relaxed poise.
So, of course the big question is why? What causes this? Is it our obsession with media and outer appearance that has most pre-teens feeling insecure about themselves? Is it a lack of belonging in the greater society in our culture? I think anyone could agree that pre-teens have no real 'place' or role they play in our society, other than the somewhat recently discovered tween market targeted for consumerism.
All ages here actually have a meaningful role to play in the greater community. All ages perform their dances, which are accounts of their history and faith. In a way it's like learning bible stories at Sunday school. Of course many of these dances have been dumbed down for tourism since most last many hours- up to 8, and tourists usually come from the west, whose attention span typically does not exceed 45 mins.
So, I ponder at night while I ought to be sleeping - what is it that makes the people here so relaxed and so smily? I don't think it's utopia- they definitely have their issues, but what makes them smile so much?