Ashlee's blog

Volunteering in Bali is my life’s greatest adventure yet. Every day I wake up to the fresh Balinese wind bringing me the sound of laughing children, the scent of morning coffee, and the cool breeze of the ocean. Every day, I know that I’m here to meet amazing people and make a difference in their lives.

These past four weeks in Les have been the fastest I’ve ever experienced. During my first week, I immediately bonded with the village’s children and started teaching their daily English class with Kadek, an English-speaking village native who teaches when no one else is around. The love Kadek has for these children is contagious as she’s always creating new games to get the kids excited about learning, and in turn, the children love her. At first, I was a bit hesitant to drop myself in the middle of their bond, but they quickly accepted me and started to eat up what I had to teach them. The first challenge was to find out what they already know, and then to find out how to expand that. Currently, we are learning verbs, sentences, and emotions. Eventually, I want us to start reading together and possibly watch a kids’ movie in English!

Kadek also introduced me to some of the older kids in the village, those who are closer to my age. Many of these people are in college or starting college very soon. Bela was one of the first people I met who was in the process of applying to college so he could study tourism. Bela’s love for life pervasive; he loves to sing Justin Bieber songs and watch The Voice. We immediately bonded over American pop music, and for the first time in my life, I was grateful to have allowed those crazy lyrics to get stuck in my head. Music offers a special route for teaching English, as Bela will constantly ask me how to pronounce words or what certain phrases mean. Because of Bela, we started having a young adults’ English class in the evenings where we practice conversing in English or reading books.

My second week in Les was even more hectic because students from Carroll University visited Les for 10 days. These students were my age and from the same area as me in America, so I ended up tagging along on many of their excursions around Bali. We toured temples, hiked volcanoes, hungout in hot springs, learned about the ornamental fish trade, bonded with the Balinese, and experienced the culture together. These students were a small taste of home even though I was halfway around the world. I’m grateful for the comfort and laughs that they brought me at the beginning of my stay.

Another guest at the villas that influenced my experience greatly was a scuba diver from California named Christy. Christy invited me to go on dives with her all around Les to see things like the cement turtles, The Wall, the coral gardens, and the USAT Liberty in Tulamben. My dive experience with Christy gave me the confidence that I need as a diver to help out future divers when they come for dive volunteering. Soon, we will have a large research group coming to the villas to do coral and fish surveys, so I’m excited to jump on board with them!

Sea Communities is an incredible NGO that has not only helped me give back to this amazing and friendly community, but has also helped me grow as a person. I’ve been able to fully immerse myself in such a beautiful culture and see how the Balinese live their lives. I still haven’t found their magic potion for impermeable happiness, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about these people and helping them in any way that I can. Today marks halfway through my stay in Les, and I can’t wait to see what else the village has in store for me.

Ashlee Renich-Malek

Aquatic and Marine Biology Major, Stetson University