The first in a series of short interviews with teenagers and young adults of mixed Balinese / expat parentage who are in one way or another tied to Ubud . Emma Wayan (or Wayan Emma) is the 15 year old daughter of Joan Bullen and Nyoman Mastra.
UN&T: Do you go by Emma or Wayan? Do you prefer one in the States, one here?
Emma: I usually go by Emma Wayan in California. On my birth certificate my name is Emma Wayan Mastra. In Bali they call me Wayan Emma because they flip the name. They say it has to be that way as tradition goes in Bali. With family and friends most people just call me Emma.
UN&T: Do you feel that you live in two worlds? How is easy is it to move between them if you do?
Emma: In a way I do feel I live in two different worlds. The culture and the way of life of in Bali is dramatically different from that in California where I live. In Ubud they live a simpler life in terms of processions and a fuller life in terms of community and spirituality. In the US there is more focus on the individual (dreams, educations, jobs, obtaining monetary things, etc) and less focus on community and spirituality.
People in Ubud live in simple compounds and most of the kids have what they need with a few extras. In California everyone is living in big houses and they all have cars. Plus all the kids here in US, especially where I live in Mill Valley, California, are spoiled and have way more things than they need. Some kids at my school even have these big expensive BMW cars at age 16 or 17 years old. They aren’t even really happy with all these things. If you take a look at the kids in Ubud they seem like they are much happier even though they have less.
I find it easy to move between these two different worlds because that’s always been my life. I am both cultures. I choose to take what I like from each place and look for a balance.
UN&T: What do you like about being in Ubud, and what don’t you like?
Emma: What I like about being in Ubud is that I get to see my Dad and my extended family. I only get to see them every 2-3 years or so due to the expense of the travel. I also like to go to Ubud because I LOVE eating the Balinese food there. I especially love going to the different warungs and the restaurants. Something I don’t like about Ubud is that the traffic is terrible, it’s getting polluted and I hate how many tourists are there. They’ve taken away too many of the little warungs and shops and replaced them with mini marts and Starbucks.
UN&T: Have you ever felt like an outsider here? In other words is it easy to be fully accepted as a mixed race person?
Emma: I don’t think I ever feel like part of my identity is being challenged in Ubud. My family is so large in Ubud that anywhere I go someone knows me. They respect that I live in a different culture and love teaching me the Balinese ways. And the new Balinese I meet seem excited that I am mixed race. I have never ever felt like a outsider.
UN&T: Is language a barrier?
Emma: I have to say not knowing the language is a barrier. Sometimes the women in my family are gossiping about stuff but I have no clue what they are saying. I want to know what they think and talk about. Also with some of my family members it’s difficult to communicate with them, so I feel like I don’t have as much of a connection at times. With my Dadong it’s different though. I speak English and she speaks Balinese at the same time and some how we make a connection.
UN&T: A lot of foreigners have moved to Ubud. Does that make it better or worse for you?
Emma: I think it makes it worse because Ubud has become so over-populated. Every time I visit another piece of land has vanished, more Western style stores have popped up and some of my favorite places are gone. I come here to be with my Balinese family in their Balinese community.
UN&T: What do you think would be good for Ubud as a community? It’s inevitably changing all the time – do you think there should be a better direction for that change?
Emma: I think it would be great if maybe the local banjars and the government stepped in and tried to put a stop or some kind of limit on the amount and type of building in Ubud and the number of tourists coming there. They should make plans that help keep the roads clean, so there is less trash and reduce the impact that the tourists have on this place. I feel as more and more of the tourists come, Bali is losing more of its culture and beauty.
UN&T: would you want to spend your life based here? Why/why not?
Emma: At this point I don’t think I want to spend my life in Bali. I have more opportunities for my education outside of Bali. I am growing up in a Western culture where women have lots of opportunities. I know there are strict Balinese roles for men and women living in Ubud and all villages in Bali. While I adore these traditions, I don’t think I could fulfill them myself. I am both Western and Balinese and I have to respect that with a balance of both values in my life.
I love Bali and it will always be at the core of who I am.