Mixed Blessings

Relationships between foreigners and locals have been happening since the first outsiders arrived on these shores. But, as these people tell us, mixed marriages are not without their challenges.

[ The Kuta Cowboy and the Hippy Traveller Chick ]
“We got married because it was something to do. Something neither of us had done before,” says Fran Putrawan. “We met on May 9 and were married on July 11. We would have married sooner but Ketut’s sister said it wasn’t a good day.”

Fran met Ketut, an original Kuta cowboy, in Bali in 1977 when they were both 24. “He was this gorgeous super skinny, long-haired beach boy calling himself ‘Funky’ (foon-key)” says Fran. “We started seeing each other and that was that. I had no money so he asked me to move in with him in Denpasar.”

“A friend told me there was this new girl in town who played guitar so I went to check her out. I sat outside on the street playing my guitar and waited for her to walk by,” says Ketut. “That was 31 years ago and we are still together today.”

Two weeks after the wedding Fran went back to Sydney where she worked three jobs to save the money for a ticket to get Ketut to Australia where they stayed for 24 years. “It was hard,” says Ketut. “It was so bloody cold! Fran was pregnant with our first son and I applied for a job in a timber yard. I had never worked before in my life and it was so hard, working in the pouring, freezing rain. But a made a promise to myself. I was here and I had a family to support so that was it. When Leo was born, I cut my hair. I was going to be a good father and take the responsibilities properly.”

“A big problem was the racism,” remembers Ketut. “Australia is a very racist country and I used to get stressed from always being called a ‘black bastard’, and all those kinds of things but I learned to retaliate and then it eventually stopped affecting me.”

Twenty four years and two children later they came back to Bali in 2002 after the boys had grown up and moved away. Fran now runs the Kuda P riding stable in Canggu and Ketut is a fully certified sports therapist, a certification he picked up during his life in Australia.

Ketut reckons that one of the main reasons why their marriage has worked is because they started the relationship away from the Balinese community. “It would have been much harder if we stayed here because this culture is so patriarchal. We couldn’t have lived the life we lived in Australia. Fran would have had to really go deep into the Balinese way of life and I would have had to become so heavily involved as well. We would have been very different people.”

“I suppose the thing we have learned from each other is tolerance,” says Fran. “We never analyzed our relationship at all, how long it would last or even if it would last. We just got on with it, just being us, together. It’s all we’ve ever known.”

[ Java-Japan Jive ]
Ronnie is from East Java and Mayuko is from Osaka, Japan and they have been married since March of this year. Both work at Studio 5 in Bali, a company specialising in Japanese weddings and the place where they both met. Ronnie speaks fluent Japanese.

“I had just started working here in Bali and when I had to get my visa there were many problems. Ronnie was helping me via email and telephone, both here and in Japan and we just grew closer and closer,” says Mayuko, describing how they fell in love.

“My parents were very happy with my decision. I had always said to them that I would never get married, so they were happy that I was getting married at all,” says Mayuko. “My family were also very happy,” adds Ronnie. “My brother is already married to a Japanese girl and living in Tokyo, so they are quite used to the mixed marriage thing and having a foreigner in the family.”

“The big challenge in our relationships is that I had to become a Muslim to marry Ronnie,” says Mayuko. “It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I can’t eat pork any more and I miss it. Pork is a very big part of the Japanese culture and diet and it is seen as very good for your health. It was a part of my daily life. My first Ramadan is coming up in September so that will be a big challenge for me to fast all day as well I have always lived freely, it’s in my nature. I decided to move to Bali to live and work here because I had that freedom. I was very happy with that free life, so it’s not mentally easy to follow the rules set down by Islam for praying and diet, etc. But, I am trying.”

“It would have been difficult for me, as well as for my parents, if she had not converted to Islam,” says Ronnie. “I am quite a devote Muslim and it is important for me that my wife is too. However, I cannot force her too strongly then she may get crazy or be unhappy and I don’t want that. So if she wants to do it, then I will be happy.”

The challenge for Ronnie is how to make Mayuko comfortable to become a good Muslim in her heart. “I hope that she can really believe from her heart eventually, but for now she is still very new to it.” Mayuko reckons, “the good thing is that I now have a choice to live here or in Indonesia or Japan. If I wasn’t married to an Indonesian man it would be difficult for me to live here for a long time.”

“And as for me,” says Ronnie, “I am just happy that I met such a beautiful, generous and wonderful woman as Mayuko.”

[ George and Putu ]
George and Putu (not their real names) are restaurant owners in Bali. They met 11 years ago and were married in 1999 in a Balinese ceremony. “My father was afraid that George was going to take me back to England and he would never see me again. But I explained to him that George wanted to stay here forever in Bali, and he gave us his blessing,” says Putu.

“The biggest problem we face in our marriage is the Indonesian bureaucracy,” says George. “The foreign man gains no rights from marrying an Indonesian. I still have to have a work permit despite the fact that I have two half Indonesian children. Last year when we went for a bank loan for our business, Putu had to get the head of her village to re-issue her KTP national identity card to say she was single so we could get a loan. If it says she is married and the bank manager finds out the husband is a bule, then the loan would be denied.”

“Everything we own: the house, the business, are all in Putu’s name, so there has to be a lot of trust on my part,” he laughs, “and because of a bureaucratic cock-up with our wedding certificate, if anything was to happen to Putu, then the house would go to the government and our children will miss out. The notaries told us we could get divorced and married again in the same day to rectify it but that’s laughable. We have to put everything in her brother’s name to ensure that the children get their inheritance. I have no legal recourse to family rights in Indonesia as foreign man married to a national.”

“But culturally the hurdles are tiny for us. I think that for every mixed couple it depends upon the length of time you have been here before you get married,” reckons George. “I think I had covered most of the adjustment to the culture shock before I even met Putu. I had been coming here since 1986 and didn’t meet her until 1998, so I had a good 12 years to get to now the place and spoke pretty good Indonesian.”

“In a bicultural marriage there are two ways of doing everything, so you can pick and choose the best aspects of each. For example, we participate in some ceremonies but we don’t let it take over our lives. We just do the ones we feel are most fun and worth doing,” says Putu.

“Being a bule, I am involved in the family to a degree and I participate in certain ceremonies but don’t have to get involved with the village council, which would take up a lot of my time. I also get to have trilingual kids,” says George. “At home we speak a three-way pidgin language of Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Bali, and English. It’s great and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


yenni 'yendoel' said...

hello,salam kenal. how r u too? thanks for stopping by at my daughter's blog. what about yourself .. having or going to have mixed marriages too perhaps?

Kos Serani said...

Salam perkenalan, nice entri...suka cerita-cerita dan segala tentang Bali ni.