Compound Living – Balinesian Style

I’m back on land finally – and living the Bali Life Style. And today was a cool lesson in the reality of Bali living for locals.

Diane – our 46 year old Male driver – lives in a compound with 49 of his nearest and dearest relatives. And lucky me – today I finally scored a tour!

I’ve been dying to see the inside of his compound since it was pointed out to me – the highly carved stone front gate is easily the nicest on our block – and if you peek in past the highly useful ramp that covers 1/2 the front steps and provides easy access to motor scooters – you can spot a gold and gilt covered prayer statue. So i was pretty hyped to go in – but afraid to ask. Thank goodness Diane must have read my vibes – he asked me first.

Compounds are family owned plots of land – often seriously huge so that they can harbor several generations of extended family. Effectively – these are villages within a village – providing housing for brothers, sisters, husbands and wifes, cousins and their children. Male children stay in the family compound, female children must leave to follow their husbands family. All things being equal – and baring either a sudden lack of interest in having kids, or a mini family unit that decides to have a dozen kids, the number of people living in the compound is generally stable. About the same number of births and folks leaving the compound either thru death or marriage means that the optimum number is about the realistic number – 50.

Interestingly – Diane doesn’t remember when his family got the compound – he was ‘born’ into it – and even when he was young – it had been in his family ‘a long time’.

But on to the nitty gritty of Diane’s compound. Starting at the gate – to the left is first the house of a cousin, and then the ‘big’ house – the home of the clan senior. in Diane’s case – this is his older brother – the one born first. How to spot the ‘big house’? Glit on the door frames and window edging of course!

Opposite the houses is the kitchen. Diane tells me that there is basically one kitchen for every living space – no communal cooking unless it’s a feast or festival day. I got a quick peek – stove top (no oven), fridge, sink, prep areas. Basic and functional.

Just near the ‘big’ house are two key parts of every family compound in Bali, and Diane tells me that everyone lives in a family compound. Key component 1 – a space for ceremonies. In Diane’s compound, this is a raised tiled open on 3 sides roofed area that contained just a large wooden table. This space serves as a funderal hall should a member of the family die, a wedding chapel is someone gets married – etc. you get the picture. Bodies lie in state till the next day if they died after lunch, and get buried in teh afternoon if they died in the morning. Next to that is the family compound temple.

This is the most interesting part of the compound to my mind. Apparently all compounds must have a temple – and once you realize that is what you are looking at – sure enough you can spot one in every compound. This enclosed space houses the most important spirtual elements of the home – the houses for the different members of the divine family. And in the north-east corner stands the link between this family temple and the major temple in all of Bali – situated at the foot of Mount Argung.

The entrance to the temple area is a set of raised steps – Diane tells me that this is to remind family members that you are entering a unique and special space. Found in the temple grounds is a larger platform that Diane tells me is used by the priest if there is a cermoney to be held at the temple. There is also a chair – and that holds the holy relic that is stored in a locked cabinet in one of the prayer houses. I know this because one of the prayer houses had a locked door – and I asked why.

Now that I know to look for these family sized temples – it’s easy to spot them. Often they are on the roof of a family home that is multiple floors, sometimes they are hiddlen in the middle of a compound, and sometimes they take up valuable space right along side the entrance gate.

The rest of the compound held a series of resting tables – large open air decks that had thached roofs and now walls, along with a brother’s batick making business in one area and his neices painting efforts in another. There’s a garden area – unplanted in the case of Diane’s family, and at the far end is a house that Diane’s brother has decided to rent out to paying guests. There are also ‘garages’ for the always present mo-peds and motor scycles.

Enough with the noisy inspection – Diane and I quickly gather our stuff and head out for a day of touring.

Signing off – The Soup Lady.

2 thoughts on “Compound Living – Balinesian Style

  1. Hi – always glad to have coffee with people! Sounds like a great idea. Let me know if you get this email. Leslie

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