Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Bali? On our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy spoke with Nadine McNeil. She is a Jamaican living in Bali, an island in Indonesia.
Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Bali? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com. Today, in Jamaicans to the world we talk to Nadine McNeil, a Jamaican in Bali. Welcome, Nadine. How are you?
Nadine: Welcome. Thank you so much. I am very well indeed. It’s a first of October here as it is for you, new month, new day. So feeling good.
Xavier: Good, good, good. So which paat (part) a (of) Jamaica yuh (you’re) from?
Nadine: An all of us come from Kingston right? From Kingston, St. Andrew. Red Hills to be specific.
Xavier: Okay. We love our school. What high school you representing.
Nadine: Wolmers, I’m a Wolmarian?
Xavier: Oh, okay. Good, There’s quite a few popular people. We have our Shelly-Ann, and we have our Sean Paul, you have quite a few Jamaican personalities that come from Wolmers. Tell us the story of how you move to Bali?
Nadine: Wow! The short story and the long story. I’ll start with the long story. I worked with the UN (United Nations) for many years. In 2005, following the tsunami that had happened Boxing Day 2004, I was stationed in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, from 2005, to about 2008. Working with UNICEF in the areas of emergency response and logistics and that posting gave me the opportunity to travel across the country, which is a massive country, as you may know. The archipelago of islands and Bali was one of the places that I would come to for R&R and fell in love with it. Even after I left Indonesia, I would come here at least once a year to spend some time and when I transitioned from my UN World into my yoga world, Bali was the right place to be and I happened to have received an opportunity in 2015 to work at the Yoga Barn, which was or is the largest Wellness Facility in Southeast Asia and I immediately said yes, so I’ve been living here more or less full time since 2015.
Xavier: Wonderful, wonderful. What do you love? Because it seems like you kept coming back there. What do you love about Bali?
Nadine: You know, that’s the million-dollar question, Xavier. I love the people, they’re very gentle people, even though Indonesia is a Muslim country, fourth largest Muslim country in the world. Bali itself is essentially Hindu or Balinese Hinduism and so people are very genteel, people are very welcoming, people are very open. The fauna reminds me a lot of Jamaica. Where I live in Bali, a place called Ubud would equate to what Port Antonio, Portland is to Jamaica. I love that aspect of it and if you’re into yoga, wellness, spirituality, this is sort of the mecca of the world. Anyone who’s someone who has any sort of interest in that field or that area, eventually finds themselves in Bali. I often described Bali being the Yin, the sort of genteel, feminine aspect of me where Jamaica is that Yan, very energetic, very masculine. The sort of balance both sides of me as it were.
Xavier: Oh, that is great. You said, it’s the place to be for yoga. Any famous, semi-famous, wants to be famous folks that you met out there?
Nadine: Quite a few, and one of the things also like Jamaica, which is why celebrities usually enjoy coming to Jamaica is that the Balinese allow everybody to feel quite at home. There’s no sort of hype, you know, people can be themselves. I’ve met people like India Arie here, Tyra Banks, President Obama and his wife were here a few years ago. I was away at the time that they were here, but they’ve been here. Many people, in terms of yoga names like I said we’ve had Sean Core and Michael Franti, he is here a fair bit, Russell Simmons. A whole pile of people that come through here and you know, make Bali home as it were. There’s sort of this joke that you come to visit and then the visit, you extend your visa. For years I would buy return tickets and then I decided to stop. There are two places I don’t buy return tickets to one is Jamaica, and the other is Bali, because I can never seem to leave when I’m supposed to.
Xavier: What do you like the least, about Bali? That sounds like a tough one.
Nadine: It is. I would say, honestly, perhaps the travel. It’s not an easy place to get to. Everywhere is far from Bali. Singapore is okay, a three-hour flight down the road. But if you’re coming from North America, Jamaica, Europe, it requires at least two plane rides. For me to get to Jamaica, is about 30 hours of flying time. I would say that’s an aspect I like least, but you can’t just hop on a plane and go somewhere for a week, because it already takes you two days to get there. Outside of that, I can’t think of very much and here in Ubud where I live and in Bali, where we have a huge expatriate community from all over the world. We formed like our own family. So it’s really very beautiful in that regard.
Xavier: Wonderful. Being Jamaican in Bali, I’m sure you have gotten this experience, somebody finds out you’re a Jamaican and they either, you know, something happens after they come up to you what’s the funniest experience, or just even a regular experience you’ve had? When somebody finds out you’re Jamaican, what happens after?
Nadine: Wow! You know, one of them happened quite recently, the same day that Toots passed on, I was doing a speaking engagement at an event and the musician who was asked to play at the event. Reggae is big in Indonesia, by the way, the Balinese love it, I mean, it’s like I was time traveling to Jamaica. Toots who I know personally, I had just heard as I was about to go on, that he had passed, and so I had said, I would offer whatever it was saying to him. And when the whole event ended, and we were all socializing, the musician came to me as I was leaving, and he goes, Oh, Toots had left, did I know and what a shame it was and a lost to the music and our lineage and it was like I was talking to a Jamaican. You’d have to understand reggae and music and vibes to understand what that departure meant to the music and he got it, you know. I would say that’s a fairly recent one with hair that looks like mine. People obviously, oh Jamaica, love Jamaica and the first Association comes through the music and through Bob.
Xavier: Jamaicans are viewed in a positive light in Bali?
Nadine: Absolutely, absolutely. This might be a little bit controversial, but I was saying to our fellow Jamaican today, that we are probably the ones that are hardest on ourselves no matter where we’re going to work, people love us, and I’ve been to a few places in the world and there’s nowhere where I’ve had a push back, because I’m Jamaican. In fact, I would say it’s a very opposite where doors open as a result of being Jamaican.
Xavier: I would say the same exact thing. I’ve only had one experience, where it wasn’t even pushed back, it was me not getting the right visa. The experience was, I was almost deported to what they call our mother land, which is England, because I had a one entry visa I left, I was coming back in and they’re like, no, you have a one entry visa into Germany. But the welcome mat is always there and it’s good to know that in Bali, the welcome mat is there also.
Nadine: Interestingly, I’ve had a similar experience in Germany, and without being stereotypical I don’t know how much of that is Nationalistic or was Nationalistic, as it may be our demographic.
Xavier: Right. They were quite welcoming after realizing I never knew what was going on. I just think they never saw a Jamaican Passport before. I was traveling on a Jamaican passport at the time and so, it was quite an interesting experience. The other question I have, and it’s about the people itself because you said they’re welcoming. Do you see any type of a personality trait that says, yeah, this kind of remind me of parts Jamaica or anything like that? some people, ok they laid back or any of that, any personal traits or personality traits that you say, yuh (you) kno (know), I like this, this kind of reminds me of Jamaica, there may be none and maybe an unfair comparison.
Nadine: You know, the thing that comes to mind firstly, everyone talks about the smile, we even have the sun in our smile, we’re in Jamaica. There’s nothing more infectious than that Balinese smile, you know, which is so welcoming and warm and accepting and just the beacon of hospitality as it were. That’s the one that first comes to mind.
Xavier: What’s the biggest adjustment you had to make when you made the decision, I’m living here in Bali?
Nadine: Wow! That’s a tough question Xavier because you know, there’s something about being in Bali that I feel very at home with. I feel as at home in Bali, as I do in Jamaica. One believes in other lifetimes. I’m convinced I must have been here in another lifetime. There’s nothing that I really feel uncomfortable or has been a huge adjustment to make.
Xavier: Good, good. Food? The food there, what is the thing you would say if you come there, you must try this. I know there’s probably a lot but what’s the one thing you’d say you must try this this? You know, depending again, some folks may be vegetarian or whatever but it don matter your favorite, what you love what you like and what you recommend?
Nadine: Well, what is sort of the national dish and enjoyed a lot here Babi Gulling, which is pig or pork, I don’t eat. The vegetables here are delicious, we have a lot of more or less the same foods, they’re just prepared differently. Foods here are quite spicy, I love spicy food. One particular dish in Bali, Nasi Campur, which is essentially nasi means rice. You have the rice in the center and then around it, you have little dishes. There is like a vegetable dish, they do something what we call Chocho a sort of salad with it. Then there’s Tempe, then there’s of course Sati with the peanut sauce. What we do in Jamaica we use like blue draws that yuh (you) duh (do) in the banana leaf. They do fish in the banana leaf and they also do a sort of polenta type dessert in a banana leaf. Juices, beautiful fresh juices, tons of coconut water, other exotic fruit that we don’t get at home like mangosteen.
Xavier: Mango what?
Nadine: Mangosteen, is quite similar to what you and I call Star Apple.
Nadine: Then there’s something called Rambutan, which is quite similar to Lychee.
Xavier: I know the Rambutan, I call it that, and some Jamaicans call it Rasta Plum.
Nadine: Wow! I’ve never heard that before. I’ve never heard that before. Look at that.
Xavier: Because of the hair on the plum wi (we) call it Rasta plum.
Nadine: I’ve never heard that before. That’s too wide and because a lot of the food is grown in its natural habitat, there’s very little insecticides and organic. One of the things I love is that food just has taste, you know? It’s magic. Fish, there’s one area in Bali called Jimbaran and by the sea where they do like a roast fish which is delicious, kind of on the open grill, so many things, but my favorite is Nasi Campur, Love it. Love it. Love it.
Xavier: Nasi Campur. All right, we got to put that on our list to try. If we were to visit Bali what is the one attraction? Doesn’t have to be a tourist attraction it could be anything. The place you’d say, you have to go see this, you must see this if you visit?
Nadine: Wow! I would say the temples. There’s a temple Ahlawat which is by the cliffs. Uluwatu is sort of the across between Negril and Treasure Beach kind of vibe for Jamaica. I would say the Rice Fields, just seeing the Rice Fields in Uluwatu and seeing how they are tended to. The art, art is extraordinary here in Ubud, Ubud is sort of the art and cultural capital of Bali as it were. If people are into monkeys, of course, there’s Monkey Forest Road down the road. Everything is like an art form. The architecture is beautiful, looking at the temples, visiting the water temples in Tirta Empul which has the Blessed Water Temples. In fact, we had a full moon yesterday where it’s a ritual to go and get yourself bathed in the temples. I mean there’s so many beautiful things in and around that I would say but definitely the rice fields, definitely the temples. Coming from Jamaica beaches here are gorgeous, but I say to people caa (can’t) match a Jamaican Beach. Like Doctors Cave Beach.
Xavier: Oh really?
Nadine: Beaches here are lovely but when you look at Boston Beach or there’s one Winnifred Beach, yuh nuh, (you know). You look at Doctor’s Cave, Beach like line key these epic beach locations in Jamaica, you caa (can’t) touch dem (them).
Xavier: Oh, wow. Because I’ve heard so much about the beaches around Bali and the area there. Wow! that’s good to know.
Nadine: They’re gorgeous beaches, you know, don’t misunderstand me, but for me, Jamaica and that crystal clear water. When Negril was Negril back in the day, that seven stretch, Blue Hole all of these places. One of the things with the beaches here in Bali is that you have to be a strong swimmer because the currents are incredibly strong. Beaches here are more about surfing than they are about swimming and what’s really beautiful is that a lot of the beaches you have to hike to and those hikes are just magical. If I left Jamaica, if you’re a diver, incredible diving in and around Bali, also Lombok, which is a neighboring island, Muslim, which has developed over time, and then you have what’s known as the Gili’s’ is also lovely. But if you leave Jamaica or if you are familiar with beaches in Jamaica, you don’t have to go to the beach and you wouldn’t have missed something is my feeling.
Xavier: Okay. That’s good to know. What’s the advice if someone was thinking, I’m taking that jump, I’m going to move to Bali? What would the advice be to that Jamaican or anyone?
Nadine: Well, the thing I would definitely say, and I know people who haven’t done it this way, but I would say visit first. Bali is an interesting place like Jamaica, most people love Bali, I’ve never met anyone who said that came to visit and they absolutely couldn’t stand it. But you know, there are some things that you’ll have to get accustomed to, if you’re not familiar in living in cultures that are diametrically opposed to yours. It’s one of those that’s very different. You know, for example, ceremonies are a daily part of the Balinese life. So for example, you might have a staff member that doesn’t show up to work and they say, oh, they were in ceremony and you can’t, it’s accepted that that is in the ethos and the fabric of the culture, it’s not something you’re going to argue with someone about. The distance that one has to travel one has to take that into account, and you know, that you may find if you’re someone that needs to be in a Jamaican community, yuh (you) know us Jamaicans, we like to kind of keep together sometimes. We are around but to really enjoy Bali and all that it offers I think you have to open up to that because it’s not like there’s a huge Jamaican community here.
Xavier: Okay. If there’s a Jamaican Food that you really miss, what would it be?
Nadine: I was saying to a friend today I know I’m ready to make a trip home now. Of course because of the pandemic, none of us have really traveled and for the first time in my life of living abroad, I’ve run out of all of my Jamaican things. I doah (don’t) even have a bottle a white rum and yuh (you) know that is sacrilegious as a Jamaican. Yuh (you) got to have a bottle a rum inna (inside) yuh (your) house.
Xavier: Even if yuh (you) only use it for medicine.
Nadine: I’m telling you, I mean a friend of mine said to me today, “Yuh (you) have any white rum?” Mi seh di (I said the) white rum dun (done). Im seh (he said), “no, yuh (you) have a problem.” I really miss, I’m a Chippies Banana Chips girl, when I go home that pack a Chippies (laughter). A nice, good, hot patty. Patty affi (have to be) hot, yuh caa ave (you can’t have) a lukewarm patty.
Xavier: Right, yuh (you) don’t blow on it. Yuh (you) blow on it in yuh mout (your mouth).
Nadine: And a nice plate a (of) Ackee an (and) Salt Fish, I have to tell you, a nice plate a (of) Ackee an Salt Fish yuh caa (you can’t) miss. Those are the things I do miss but the Chippies and that Ackee and Pineapples. Yuh know what I really miss, Avocado or what we call Pear?
Nadine: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, a good Pear, nice.
Xavier: Avocado don’t grow there?
Nadine: Not like how mi an yuh (me and you) know Pear; it’s about the size a yuh (of your) fist an (and) every time yuh (you) buy it, it’s kind of like a hit and miss. You never quite know what yuh (your) going to get.
Xavier: Folks, you know what to send Nadine, let me be specific. Let me be specific. Some of you think banana chips is banana chips. A (is) only one banana chips me know, one. It is called Chippies. I will tell you a quick story, one day I brought home; I said honey, to my wife. I said we’re gonna try this other brand and I’m not go call the name and I brought it home. My girl seh (said), “listen, don’t even try it. Don’t bring this in my house again. If it’s not Chippies don’t bring it.
Xavier: Folks we know what Nadine needs, she needs some Chippies so get it to her. Nadine, what would be a popular term, a popular expression that you hear? Correct me if I’m wrong, the Balinese is that what you call the folks that live there? The Balinese, what would be a popular term? Yuh (you) know wi (we) seh (say) bwoy (boy) soon cum (come) or everyting criss (everything is ok) or whatever. Is there any popular terms that you pick up on from the language or they really don’t have any popular terms?
Nadine: I suppose the one that equates to our soon cum (come) or no problem is, Tidak apa-apa, which means no problem.
Nadine: The other thing also, if you have come to visit someone where we would say walk good, they say, “hati-hati,” which means, “be careful”.
Xavier: Hearty, hearty? I love it. I love it. I love it. Nadine, thank you so much for just sharing your story and sharing a little bit about Bali. And I learned so much I will let you have the last word, anything in closing any words of advice, any words of wisdom and anything else you’d love to share? I think you blog. If you want to share the blog with the folks here that they can check it out and they can follow you. You know, thank you. Thank you. Thank you closing words, Nadine.
Nadine: Thank you so much. Well, for those that are listening, particularly my women, my sisters, I do run women’s circles via zoom. They happen bi-weekly and I post a lot about on that on Instagram. My Instagram handle is Universal Empress. I am also what I call a Transition Mentor. What some of us call a coach, Personal Development coach where I do work both at a corporate and individual level one on one as well as in a group setting. And I know that the notion of coaching can be something that’s kind of not in our culture, you know, we’re strong people were resilient, we can do things on our own but in these times in which we live, reaching out and finding help and support that can that can relate to your culturally and at every level is so important. Check out my website universalempress.com and you can see what I’m up to in terms of my coaching, facilitating and also doing online yoga sessions mainly privates at the moment. I do do occasional classes and also to visit if you want to get a real taste of Bali while you’re sitting wherever you are. The yoga Barn online.com. We’ve recently launched our online platform, and it’s amazing. We have all sorts of classes there, zoom sessions, workshops, you name it, so I hope I’ll see some of you somewhere very soon.
Xavier: All right, Nadine, thank you very much. You have a blessed day. And again, a wealth of information. Take care Nadine.
Nadine: Okay. Take care.
Photos – Deposit Photo