Travel Memories: Being Black and Beautiful in Bali

Crystal Lynn Selfie in Bali

I was walking down a peaceful street, and as I was passing a stately family compound I heard someone shout, “Black! Hey, Black!” I felt myself slow down because I was clearly the only ‘Black’ on this little road, and I turn around to see a couple of old Balinese men lounging on a bale, smoking cigarettes and chilling. “How you, Black” one of the men asked. I smiled and said, “I’m fine… and black!” He laughed and shouted as I was walking away, “VERY BEAUTIFUL! You are very BEAUTIFUL! I love you skin!” I turned around and said graciously, “Thank you.” He and his buddy kept grinning and chatting away and I laughed as I resumed my jalan-jalan.

There’s a woman who walks on one of the main roads here in Ubud and every time she sees me, she grabs my hand and kisses it. She rubs my head because she loves my tightly curled afro. She pats her head, which is silky smooth; and she just giggles. She really wants me to understand that hers is one texture and mine is another… not because one is better than another, but because they are different. With an open heart and an open mind, one learns that God expresses Itself in different ways, not superiorly or inferiorly, but differently. Black, brown, white, pink. Kinky, curly, wavy straight. If we leave out all the stories behind the differences, all our differences become fascinating, beautiful, life-affirming expressions of Love… or God. But add in the stories of crime rates, esthetics, race, and the other things that we use to separate other people from ourselves, and we are left with lies that lead to stereotypes and generalizations that lead to marginalization and shame.

Now, I gotta say here that I do question some of the ways that Balinese men might understand black women. On a couple of occasions, I have had groups of little boys run along side of me shouting, “Black girl!” I giggled when one started doing some sort of booty shaking thing that might have resembled twerking but totally did not. I’m just saying that it is nice to think that people might notice my open heart, bright eyes, inquisitive spirit and warm smile before they wonder if I might be a twerker.

By the way, I can twerk (a little) and samba (pretty well) and salsa (best when I have a good partner) and do that funny ass Carlton dance. I’m just sayin’ that there’s more to this Black Girl than meets the eye.

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2 Comments

  1. Fatima Johnson
    October 12, 2017 / 9:53 am

    Hello from NYC! I am Fatima, a native newyorker, and professional black girl in her twenties who greatly enjoyed your blog post!
    I am taking my first solo trip this year to Indonesia, and am super excited to explore the capital, as well as other islands. So far, my itinerary right now is pretty sparse- do you have suggestions for must-see places, restaurants events, museums, workshops, galleries, venues, or anything else fun in the the area, or even outside of Jakarta (Im hoping to goto Bali and Gili T as well). This will be my first time in South East Asia ever, so please if you have any tips or advise for first time travelers I would love to hear your travel stories and adventures 🙂

    • October 12, 2017 / 10:34 am

      Fatima, I am so excited for you!!! Congratulations on your first visit to SEA. Indonesia is such a great choice. You will really love it, Sister. I am sure. Please go to Bali– Ubud is my suggestion. While you are there, consider doing the Bali Silent Retreat for two or three days at least. It is in a beautiful location outside of Tabanan. They’ll pick you up in Ubud and take you easily to the retreat center. I recommend renting one of the open single unit rooms that overlook the jungle. They’re magical and the whole experience on that property will be life changing. All of Ubud is wonderful with lots of great shops, yoga and healing. There is also a cool artist colony there that will entertain you for hours. All in all, you’ve made a wonderful decision to visit Indonesia and I know you will feel safe and welcome with these beautiful people, Fatima. Blessings!

Here I am! Eccomi qui!

Florence, Italy

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