By Rucina Ballinger
Detra Rangki was born in 1956 in a tiny village near Kapal, Mengwi, the third sibling from his father’s second wife. As is the case of many Balinese are, he was a self-made man. He had to make it on his own from high school, and in college went to IKIP Malang Teacher’s College in English, living with his maternal uncle and family, and other assorted cousins who had the fortune to go to school at that time as well.
He told me stories of ironing shirts that he and older brother Degung would sell to get living expenses money and tuition as his family could not help out at all.
He went to on to teach English in Kalimantan for the oil companies, at a language school in Jakarta, privately to rich kids and finally came back to Bali in 1985 to join the Academic Semester Abroad program of the Experiment in International Living, where he was a cultural consultant and Bahasa Indonesia teacher, along with luminaries Putu Suasta and Wayan Sidhakarya. Those were heady days, the late eighties, when anything was possible and the island hadn’t been destroyed yet.
A number of the Ubud lads decided to start the UMBC or Ubud Men’s Bicycle Club which would go on monthly excursions all over Bali on their mountain bikes, bonding over broken spokes and their love of nature – the bikes have outlasted the club but not the memories.
Agung and I, his American born wife, began a customized tour company Dhyana Putri Adventures (still going strong) in the late 80s and worked a lot with student groups studying theatre (my ‘forté’). Agung created Rangki, a two hectare garden of wild landscaping, tall stone gates based on the styles of every kingdom of Bali, and a myriad of plants and trees used in Balinese rituals. Agung and I held workshops and performances here. We even have had a group of 78 German paranormals “do their thing” here, including regressing back hundreds of years to become citizens of Majapahit kingdom and playing the old songs on the gamelan!
His dream was to climb Mt Agung when he was fifty (which he did) and to skydive (which he never got to do). In 2011, he became critically ill with nasty aneurysms that evaded detection, even with numerous flights to Thailand and Singapore hospitals. Finally with the help of the Mayo Clinic in the US, a proper diagnosis was made (assisted by the Ganesha spirit in one of Singapore’s Chinatown’s temples) and we found out the problem and dealt with it. His health improved immensely and he would powerwalk at dawn and then go swim at Rangki; he was in good shape.
The Gedebong Goyang troupe, of which I am a member, would always ask for his input into their humorous skits. Even though he rarely saw their shows, he loved helping them take the mickey out of politicians.
Most recently he worked as a language teacher at Cinta Bahasa in Ubud, a job he really enjoyed. Before that he had taught at the Green School in its nascent stages.
His sons Anom and Arie, 26 and 23, have lost a wealth of knowledge about adat and village relations. His gentle manner and subtle way of organizing meetings and people will be greatly missed. When he lay dying, with his wife and second son beside him, he went fairly quickly. That morning he’d had a glorious swim, prayed with his family and then was taking Arie to the airport to go back to college in Bandung.
Take a moment to hold a dear one close to you today, for you never know when they will be taken from you.
He is very sadly missed by many.
all photos courtesy Rucina Balinger
from top down:
1. A recent photo of Agung, on the left, with his brothers
2. Agung, Rucina and their boys in 1985
3. At the pool he created in Rangki
4. Agung and Rucina at their sons’ tooth filing ceremony.