Ni Putu Susilayani is the daughter of our neighbours Made and Jonny. He is a fisherman, and between his early morning and late afternoon trips with his 'Jukung', those slender fishing boats with double booms, he rents sunbeds to tourists on the beach of Lipah. Made is a housewife, mother, owner of a small village shop and cooks in Warung Jonny. And how she does it! Her traditional Balinese dishes are among the best the region has to offer. We have been able to experience this for ourselves many times. In order to fill her long days, which have become even longer due to the lack of tourists in recent years, she often sits for hours in front of her small shop and makes 'canangs', small baskets of artfully woven bamboo strips and folded banana leaves, which the Balinese use as offerings in their daily prayers. And because she has been making these 'canangs' for decades, she has acquired such a skill in making them that the observer can' t help being amazed. Sometimes she patiently grinds small bamboo tubes with fine emery paper, which she offers for sale as a replacement for the plastic drinking straws that have been banned by the government and which earn her a small extra income.
When we met Putu Susilayanti about two years ago, she had already started her studies at the university in Denpasar. Her goal was to become a midwife. Shortly afterwards, the volcano Gunung Agung erupted after more than 50 years of sleep, plunging the east of Bali into a veritable crisis. Because tourism had collapsed, in many places people lost their jobs or were put on part-time jobs. In the worse cases, the inhabitants even had to be evacuated from their villages at the foot of the volcano and for months lived more or less badly in government-run refuge camps.
At that time we got into conversation with Putu. She is a lively, warm young woman, speaks excellent English, and whatever she says sounds well thought out and authentic to us. She submits everything to her goal of one day being a midwife and perhaps caring for the people in the hills of her home village. This includes getting up at three in the morning in order to prepare her day at university well enough. She usually lacks the time to cook a decent meal. Despite the tiringly long working days, she occasionally visits her parents and rides on her rickety motorcycle for about three hours there and three hours back. As if to confirm her determination once again, she casually says: "I want to have a better life than my mother". We are impressed. And we want to help Putu continue her studies. Therefore we decide to support her with a small monthly contribution. We have heard from other families that they can no longer send their children to secondary schools because of the poor economic situation. This pains us, and it should not happen to Putu. We are firmly convinced that she not only has what it takes, but is also determined to achieve her goal.
Now a good two years have passed and Putu has completed her studies. She tells us with shining eyes, her mother glows in silent pride beside her, we are happy too. Daddy is a bit excited, because he has to cut off his ponytail for the evening of the diploma ceremony. That's befitting.
Putu with her proud family: grandfather, mother Made, brother Resa and father Jonny.
I ask her what she wants to do professionally afterwards: "I now have to work in a clinic for 2 years and gain experience. After that I will do a two-year additional training that allows me to work independently." Again this clarity and absolute determination. On my next visit, I tell Dr. Patrick, my chiropractor, who has just opened a small clinic in Sanur, about Putu, her degree as a midwife and her goal to find a job where she can acquire practice and learn more. Obviously, my enthusiasm for Putu is transferred to Dr. Patrick, because he immediately agrees to invite her to an interview. A few days later, the three of us meet and half an hour later, Putu has a job at Dr. Patrick's Global Health Center. And a very fair wage in addition. She can hardly believe her luck, I'm happy with her.
Putu has now been working for Dr. Patrick for two weeks. I pay her and him a surprise visit. When she sees me in the entrance hall of the clinic, she rushes to greet me beaming with joy and embraces me. She leads me up to the treatment area where Dr. Patrick and she work. Next to a small wall I can see a side table with canangs that I hadn't noticed during my previous visits. There is a subtle smell of incense. After a short while Dr. Patrick welcomes me cheerfully. "How is Putu doing?" I ask him carefully. "She's just great," he enthuses. "Thanks to her, our new clinic is filled with Balinese spirit. She prays every morning, brings canangs from home and spreads a wonderful scent with her incense sticks. I have already sent her to a first aid training course and she has passed it with flying colours." Everyone seems happy and content, I definitely am.
After taking a photo with her and Dr. Patrick, I say goodbye. Putu accompanies me to the parking lot behind the clinic. It is a rather modern, elegant and well-kept building, the likes of which are rarely seen in Bali. Even the windows are sparkling clean. She notices my look at the house and says in her wonderfully natural way, beaming at me: "Yesterday Dr. Patrick was absent and we had no patients. So I cleaned all the windows." That's just like Putu, I muse: Always do more than is expected of her. And it is obvious that luck actually fortunes the brave: this is a well-deserved good start into a better future. Mommy and Daddy can be proud!