The Love Story of Lean
Jero Wimega is our neighbour and the owner of warung Prada Shanti here in Lipah. She cooks the healthy and very tasty balinese food for the old people in our programm twice a week in her warung, fills it into the bento boxes and delivers them to our house. Ibu Jero even helps to distribute the lunch boxes to the people up the hill. You could call her the good spirit of our organisation: Whenever she sees somebody suffering she will try to help. We are happy to have such a reliable and caring partner to support our projects.
Today, I drive with my motorbike up the hill and deliver the lunch box in person to Wayan Telaga and Nyoman Gerenjeng, these days better known as Dadong (grandmother) and Kaki (grandfather) Simpen, because I would like to chat a little with them. I don't know much about them, only that they live a little way up the hill of Lipah and that they are some of the oldest people of our village. However, it turns out, that they are a very active elderly couple still until now. They don't know exactly how old they are, but they can remember the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, which took place between 1943 and 1945. They were both teenagers at that time. So we can deduce that they were probably born around 1930, which puts their age at about 88. Both of them were born in Lean, our neighbouring village, and they knew each other already as children. When Nyoman Gerenjeng was still a boy, his family emigrated to Singaraja, the former capital in the north of Bali. However, he never forgot the little girl he had played with at Lean and also Wayan Telaga and her family remembered the bright boy fondly. When the little girl had grown up and become a beautiful young woman, her parents sent a message to Singaraja and asked for Nyoman to come back to Lean and marry their daughter. As soon as his toothfiling ceremony, a traditional, balinese ceremony at which the front teeth are filed a little to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood, was over, he left his family and returned to Lean to see her. And he never went back. They both fell deeply in love with one another, a love which is still strong after 70 years. You could call it the love story of Lean.
After their marriage they build their little house in the hills of Lipah. Both of them remember well the volcano eruptions in 1963. "The earth was shaking and there was a sound like a machine gun," says Nyoman. "But we were lucky: Apart from some ashfall we didn't have any problems. Not like in other regions where people were killed or starved because the harvest was ruined." They have had 8 children, most of them dead now: 3 died as infants, 2 died as adults. At that time, there were no doctors available, no midwives, only a traditional balinese healer. Their surviving sons are Nyoman Carik, who is now about 65 years old, Wayan Tegal, age 55, who is a teacher in Lean's elementary school, and Ketut Pucak Susena, age 47, who works in one of the hotels around here. By now, Dadong and Kaki Simpen have many grand-children. But, although their grand-children have already asked them many times to live with them down at the bay, they always refuse to leave their home up the hill. Dadong cannot move around much any more, she sits in her Bale and makes porosan, a small but essential part of all daily hindu offerings in Bali. She still earns some money with them, but sometimes she also just gives them to her children and grand-children for free. Her husband is still able to cattle some pigs. He has 3 pigs at the moment, which he provides with food and shelter. Until some years ago, he used to have 4 or even 5 cows, which he fed until he could sell them at the market. But then, one day, his children convinced him that this was too much for his age and he stopped. So, the logistics of everyday's life, like carrying sacks of rice and other food up the hill to their house, are taken care of by the younger members of the family.
'We are very happy and thankful for the delivery of the lunch box twice a week', says Kaki Simpen. When I look at Dadong she seems thoughtful and I ask her why. 'I am thinking about my sister,' she says. 'Actually she is my half-sister, since my father had been married 7 times. One of my half-sisters, Nengah Gadung, is living in Lean. She is alone, very sick and she has no sons, who care for her, only two daughters who are married and living somewhere else. I was thinking that a lunch like this would be so good for her. Do you think we could share our box with her?' I promise to talk to Ines and Roy about her sister and to discuss with them the possibility to add one more recipient to the project. When she smiles at me I can see the beautiful young woman Nyoman Gerenjeng fell in love with.