A very good recent example: a Balinese family that ‘forced’ us to stay with them a whole month instead of three days.
The more we travel, the less we organize, so it was normal that we ended up in Ubud in Bali without having a clue of where we were going to stay. We were walking for about an hour and half while looking for a guesthouse when we entered a homestay hidden down one of many side streets of the town.
Putu (34), which means ‘the first daughter’, and her husband Wayan (34), which means ‘the first son’, are the owners of a brand new homestay called Angga. When we say brand new, we mean we were extremely lucky to be their very first customers! We guess they were as excited as we were.
Our small ‘castle’
The homestay impressed us straight away. It wasn’t only that we were walking on completely sparkling tiles, using a brand new sink and shower and sleeping on fresh sheets and a perfect mattress. There was also a small terrace in front of our room that looked like a small house with a uniquely decorated door and windows, complete with Hindu sculptures standing along the stairs leading to our room. It was all decorated with fresh, bright, yellow flowers.
Another beautiful cultural discovery was a small yard at the back of the homestay, where there are eight temples, each belonging to a different family.
Wayan, Putu and their three children, Sintia (9), Angga (7) and Anggi (3) surrounded us from the moment we arrived, and after the first questions about our homelands and some minor confusion as to how we have no job, no house, no wedding rings and still travel, we slowly started to grow closer to each other.
If Bali is ‘the land of Gods’, then they welcomed us in one of the best possible ways, because we arrived three days before the two major Hindu festivals: Galungan and Kuningan.
We were so excited to see all the preparations on the streets and in our new homestay! When Wayan offered for us to celebrate the first festival (Galungan) with them, we were jumping from happiness and enjoyed the opportunity to take dozens of pictures in the local costumes that they lent us for the special day.
Suddenly we felt like part of a family and shared their devotion to the traditions. Gianni and I were feeling blessed to be dressed in the costumes and our hosts looked proud to share this important event with foreigners who shared their house.
We followed the family to three ceremonies in Hindu temples. The most fabulous was one at the majestic Pura Samuan Tiga (Temple of the Meeting of the Three).
Putu took great care of us and gave us some instructions on what to do during the ceremonies.
“Just follow me,” she said at the beginning and showed us the whole procedure of how to put our hands together, how to pray and how to receive the holy water from the priest.
Not that we did everything perfectly on the first try, but since we were accompanied by a local woman, the priest forgave us our imperfection.
That day the family took us to the beach, where we had a great time together, especially Gianni, who was jumping over the waves with the children.
The festivals mean a lot to the locals also in terms of family bonding, so we had a chance to meet other members of the family who came for a short visit. That Sunday we decided to give something in return to our hosts, so we offered to cook an Italian pasta for them. Without knowing how many people would come for lunch, we prepared a big pot of pasta with aubergine, tomato sauce and mozzarella.
They helped us to cut the veggies, sampled the cheese that was a new taste for them (not everyone was thrilled by it) and every now and then a member of the family peeked into the kitchen to check out where the strange smell was coming from.
About twenty people were waiting in the yard for their very first plate of pasta. Without too much hesitation,they ate it all. To be honest, some of them admitted the cheese was not their thing, but they liked the pasta so at the end of the day, our mission turned out a success.
Wayan and Putu
Wayan works as an electrician in a hotel in Ubud, while Putu works a few hours per week in a warung (a small, local restaurant), but they’re currently focused on building the homestay business. They’ve been married for eleven years now, and decided to invest some money and build the two rooms for guests. It took them six months to complete the building works and now they’re doing their best to run the business successfully.
It has already been two weeks since we arrived to stay with Wayan’s and Putu’s family and we are incredibly grateful for this experience. We’ve sampled local food, visited local markets with the family and had the privilege to wear local dress. But what counts the most is the opportunity to learn and try to understand a totally new culture, which brings us to another level of respect and multicultural experience.
Have you ever stayed with a family while traveling abroad? How is your experience? We would love to hear from you!