Updated: Dec 6, 2022
“I taught him archery by day - and when his arm waxed strong, 'twas me he shot.”
- Arabic Saying
I believed I would spend the rest of my life in Bali.
For seventeen years I poured my heart, soul, and resources into creating a life there. Then, within the span of a few short days, that life collapsed through the deliberate actions of someone I once cared for and trusted implicitly. At the time it felt sudden and unexpected but, the truth is, there had been countless warning signs that I’d either ignored or rationalised away. I’d heard cautionary tales from others in similar situations, and those too I chose to disregard, believing my circumstances to be different.
Betrayal is the stuff of legends, and very few of us get through life without experiencing it in some form. I’ve been through a few myself, but this time was different. This one was carried out with the deliberate intention of destroying my life. The core motivation wasn’t anger or revenge, our working relationship had helped provide this couple with a lifestyle and status they previously would not have thought possible. Their motive was as old and common as betrayal itself: greed.
Looking back now, from half a world away, I’m determined this will not crush my spirit or damage my health. To this end, I’m writing about my experience as a way of purging and, hopefully, gaining some clarity. I know that dissecting the past in search of “what if’s and why’s” is a black hole, and unlikely to unearth any semblance of the truth. But I feel a need to reopen the wound, thoroughly clean it out, and then move on with the rest of my blessed and fortunate life.
I am no stranger to abuse - my family history is riddled with it. I left home at an early age, and this very likely saved my life. I’d grown up hyper-vigilant to emotional chaos, but this did not protect me. Instead, it left me with an unusually high tolerance for dysfunction. It was my “normal.”
I arrived in Bali in May of 2004, as part of a round the world trip, and immediately fell under the spell of the spirituality, warmth and beauty I saw there. It coated everything with a shimmering fairy dust and life felt magical. As things later changed and darkened, I stubbornly held onto this fantasy.
Far from a victim, I was an active participant in the decisions and choices that ultimately armed and empowered the people who would wreak total destruction on my life. I will call the young woman “W” and her husband “L”.
W came into my life a couple of weeks after I arrived in Bali. She was my landlord’s niece. Nineteen, with a 3-month old son and a vain, self-centred husband, she needed a job. Bound by the restrictions of being female in a patriarchal culture, she had no personal resources or space. She had a fraught relationship with her mother-in-law, with whom she was obliged to live. She appeared to be experiencing genuine depression. My rent was low, so I could easily afford to hire her as a housekeeper.
Initially, our relationship was a struggle. Although she was grateful for the job, W cried much of the time. My sense was that she would rather be anywhere else. Painfully shy, she seemed to want to hide and constantly had her hand in front of her face. It wasn’t just the shyness - her two front teeth were rotten and black, making her self-conscious. Her English was minimal and my Indonesian non-existent, so communication was “interesting,” but we managed.
By the end of my initial two-month stay, I knew I would be returning to Bali. I reserved the same house for later that year, and as soon as I arrived I saw W making a beeline along the rice field path towards me. I’d made no arrangements to re-hire her, because I intended to find someone with a happier disposition. But I didn’t have the heart to disappoint her, so we gave it another try.
Taking her to a dentist, I paid to have her teeth fixed, and enrolled her in English classes. She was bright and intelligent and learned quickly, and her confidence increased immensely. I got to know her family, and she got to know my many friends who visited. I found her other work for when I was not in Bali, until I could afford to pay her full time whether I was there or not. There was much laughter, sharing and joking, and I believed we were developing a true friendship.
I started organising and hosting astrology workshops, which was my ticket to stay in Bali and travel the world. Legally, it was a grey area since there were no permits or special visas for such events then. So, along with all the other yoga and event coordinators operating at that time, I just hoped for the best. I opened a joint bank account with W, as this was the only way to acquire one at that time. She was deeply religious (Hindu), and I believed her to be 100% ethical, so felt no qualms whatsoever.
Around 2009 I needed some information so asked W to bring me a printed statement from the bank. I immediately saw that more than $1,300 had disappeared from the account via direct withdrawal, and it had been transferred directly into her husband’s personal account. When I pointed out this transaction, W appeared genuinely shocked and distraught, and literally fell to the floor weeping. She told me she always kept the PIN hidden from L, but he must have somehow found it. I believed her.
Shaken, I met alone with L and asked him why he had stolen from me. His answer was that he just wanted to provide for his family. However, W’s constant complaint was that he would take her money whenever he could, and whatever he had would be spent solely on himself. He was covered in tattoos and piercings and spent a great deal of energy and resources on his appearance.
I told L he had three weeks to pay me back, or I would report him to the police and expose him as a thief to his village and the ex-pat community. All these years later, I can still see the look of contempt in his eyes - it was chilling. He had no moral compass and zero remorse for stealing from me.
L returned the money to me, and I should have cut ties with them both right then. But I was fond of W now, and feared for her wellbeing and future, being married to a criminal. She talked about leaving him, an extreme and difficult thing to do in their culture.
A friend of mine was quite vocal about what L had done to me, and one day he went to her home, machete in hand, and threatened her. Again, W appeared to be beside herself, but more because of the potential damage to their reputations, not the trauma he’d inflicted on my friend.
After that, I told W I would have nothing to do with L ever again, and she promised to respect this. In hindsight, this was a grossly naive expectation on my part. Family systems in Bali are patriarchal, and loyalty within them practically unbreakable.
W and I continued our working relationship. I took out a 20-year contract on a house close by, and arranged for extensive renovations on it. W’s great-uncle was the builder/foreman, her grandfather did carpentry, and her great-aunt carried building materials. Before long we were employing almost her whole family. Her father became the gardener and W acted as contractor. It felt as though we were growing in leaps and bounds as a team. I felt immensely blessed to be surrounded by this lovely Balinese family, and grew hopeful that I would be able to spend the rest of my life there with them.
As W took on more responsibilities, we hired a housecleaner so she could focus on the building projects. I paid for her to take driving lessons and bought a car, which we put in her name. She kept it at her house, and could use it whenever she liked. Her salary steadily increased in sync with her skillset and responsibilities.
Travelling extensively, I was running workshops in Mexico, India, and the UK, and managing the rental of my home in the US. I was never in Bali more than 5 months at a time, and some years I could only spend 3 or 4 months there. When I was away, my house was rented out. W’s job was to handle guests, preparation for the Bali workshops, plus the accounting. The ultimate goal was always for me to spend more time in Indonesia, but this did not actually happen until COVID struck.
I grew to care for W as though we were family, and I wanted the very best for her. I encouraged and praised her, in retrospect to the degree of over-inflating her ego and sense of entitlement. Conversations revolved around plans for the future, and our shared interests and goals. I constantly checked in to see if I was paying her enough and that she was happy with her job. If business was good I would hand her large bonuses in cash, and was more than happy to share the prosperity. Together we learned much, and she was a great support.
As long as we were in the same place, all was well. However, when I was away, W’s unavailability soon became a glaring issue. Juggling so many projects, we needed to talk regularly, but she would ignore my calls for days on end, sometimes for weeks. Several of my friends had begun projects with her, and all shared the same complaint. It was distressing, passive aggressive behaviour. Despite feeling guilty and embarrassed about her treatment of my friends, I bizarrely chose not to acknowledge how dangerous these undercurrents coursing beneath our “partnership” were.
Another issue was the accounting. Part of W’s job was to submit a monthly record of expenses for the house. I gave her a MacBook and she developed proficiency at using the bookkeeping programme. At first I did receive them monthly, but as time progressed I got them later and later.
“Small” lies were a constant occurrence, and although seemingly benign (like saying things were already done when they weren’t). This caused several intense run-ins between us. The ease with which she lied was disturbing, but I chalked it up to a desire to not disappoint or appear unable to cope with new responsibilities. As we became busier, the demands on both of us increased and there were times I could sense her resentment. She was, however, always free to quit the job; I would happily have given her a glowing referral.
L had remained out of the picture since the theft. He inherited some family land, and with western sponsors developed it and stayed busy building and managing rentals. Their marriage seemed to be back on track, and it was a relief to only see him on the rarest occasion, from a distance.
By now there was far too much work for us to manage efficiently, so I asked W to hire another person to assist. She said there was nobody suitable. My persistence regarding this hit a stone wall - for years.
W’s extended family owned a rundown but well-located property, and I helped them to transform it into an upmarket rental unit. I lent them 50 million rupiah, (over $4,500 at that time) towards the renovations, in exchange for being able to use the property for visiting family or friends. I collected on this only once, for one week.
I set up an AirBnb page for them, and handled all of their bookings and communications with guests for four years. (No-one in the family was yet proficient enough with their English.) The rentals flourished, and it changed their lives radically. I was happy to do this for them, and received no compensation.
By this time my professional and personal life was so closely tied to W, I could not bring myself to to entertain the possibility that she herself was dishonest. It was easier to point the finger at L. In many ways she and I became closer during this time. That’s when the bombshells started hitting.
The first one came in 2012, just after I’d made the life-changing decision to sell my house in California and make Indonesia my home. For 30 years I’d worked to pay a mortgage while raising two children alone. It was my only nest egg, and now I was preparing to invest it all in a simple beautiful life in Bali. Ubud was becoming more congested and rice fields were giving way to construction sites, so I asked W to search the areas around Ubud for a quiet, rural piece of land, which she eventually found.
About this time she completely fell off the radar. She would not answer or return phone calls, emails, or texts. I was out of Bali, and although I’d grown used to her recurring communication lapses in the past, this time it went on for so long that I began to panic.
I had deposited a large amount of money in our account, that only she could access, and the 100% blackout in communication had me frantic. I contacted people in Bali and learned that she was alive and well, but she flatly refused to communicate with me, with no explanation as to why.
I returned to Bali and learned she was pregnant with her 2nd child and having debilitating morning sickness. This was no excuse for the deafening silence, but again, I was firmly entrenched in a denial loop of making excuses for her behaviour.
Somehow, we carried on, and it became a busy and exciting time. W had a beautiful baby girl and we now had a property where I envisioned building a simple home, living off the land, and peacefully spending the rest of my life. I couldn’t afford the whole property, but a couple with similar dreams landed in our lives and purchased over half of the property. The magic appeared to continue. Westerners can’t own land so we put it in W’s name, but it was completely paid for by the couple and myself.
The location was higher and cooler than Ubud, so there would be no need for AC, and I already had several Javanese wooden buildings I’d purchased from a friend who imported them. My objective was to grow food, raise chickens, and have enough space for friends and family to visit. At that time W appeared to love the land and enjoy the gardening and creative side of building as much as I did.
During many conversations about the future, W said she would take care of me for the rest of my life. Based on that promise, as well as my wish that W would have something solely hers, no matter what transpired in her marriage, I gave her a third of the land. Again, a naive and unrealistic expectation on my part since Indonesian women cannot own property without the inclusion of their spouse.
We were enjoying the creative side of the project so much that we expanded our plans. We took out various multi year contracts on some adjoining properties to build a small retreat centre, plus an idyllic little house perched over the jungle for me. W was very enthusiastic about this idea, and encouraged me to build a meeting/yoga hall as well. The contracts would run until I was well into my 90’s. I was making a commitment for life.
It was a dream come true. W’s great-uncle, a wonderful human being, agreed to be our contractor/builder. Even though we could barely communicate, I always knew I was in the presence of someone wise. The fact that he was such a lovely soul and so highly respected by his entire village reinforced my belief that W must be an ethical person.
This was one of the happiest times of my life, and I wouldn’t change it, regardless of all that transpired later. I was living simply and in harmony with nature. Every day I worked with a great group of people to create something beautiful.
The next massive blow came in 2016, three and a half years after we started the project. I was in California when W emailed me to say that she wanted to sell the piece of land I’d given her. She said she needed the money to buy a property in Ubud that was being offered at a bargain price. I had put a beautiful teak house on her land, for her to have always, and now she was planning to sell it all.
I would never have given her a portion of the land if she’d even hinted that she might, in my lifetime, want to sell. W has since claimed she deserved that land because she negotiated a good deal on it, on my behalf. I gladly would have given her a cash commission instead. Having strangers move right next door to me would ruin everything, but the amount of money she wanted was more than I could possibly pay to buy her out.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but although I was the sole financier, I never asked to see, and was never shown, a single bill or legal document pertaining to the sale. I kept all of the accounting and communication from our relationship, but it will take some deeper forensic research to unearth many of the finer details of the purchase agreement.
I was heartbroken at her desire to sell. Family and friends could see that it had thrown me into a pit of depression, and they started to harbour real concerns about my safety and security in Bali. They were not wrong.
There was still 12 years, fully paid, left on the lease of my first house in Ubud and in my panic I offered to trade it to W for the land she was going to sell. The free and clear rental profit on it was over $1,000 a month, and I had invested over $80,000 on the lease and renovations, so it was an unbalanced exchange (in her favour). W accepted the offer, and my beautiful home in Ubud was suddenly lost to me. I also gave her full possession of the car that I had paid around $8,000 for just a few years before.
Her sense of entitlement was blooming in front of my eyes. There wasn’t one trace of gratitude, only irritation that I had taken my personal art and belongings out of the house before handing it over. A monster was starting to take form.
Unable to find someone to take over the lease, they still couldn’t buy the property they wanted. They rented it out for over a year, reaping all the financial benefit of positive reviews and return guests that I’d built up over several years on AirBnb. Eventually, good friends of mine bought the contract, and W and L were able to buy the property they wanted.
Whenever I introduced W to any of my friends and some kind of business deal transpired, things eventually got complicated, with overcharges, lies, manipulations, and shady dealings. And when I was not directly involved, L came out of the shadows and took over. In my mind he was always the problem; I still could not bring myself to admit that he and W were both cut from the same cloth.
With each new acquisition, I hoped they would finally have enough, but the monster just grew larger and hungrier. A brand new car, the latest scooters, gold jewellery, expensive clothes, the newest phones and gadgets had to be acquired.
As their needs continued to grow, so did their sense of entitlement. W’s new refrain was: “I started from zero”. She was very proud of her success (while apparently oblivious to the fact that it was facilitated by others). She told me that the people in her village saw her new wealth and wondered whether she had a western “sugar daddy”. We laughed about this, but I was starting to see just how important status was to W and her husband. Their single-minded pursuit of higher social standing was coupled with an insatiable hunger for more and more stuff.
Ironically, while this was happening, I was striving for a simpler lifestyle, inspired by what the Balinese so gracefully embody in their rural communities. I was usually raggedy and tousled, with garden dirt under my fingernails, while W arrived manicured and elegant, with makeup and expensive clothes.
A constant in my life was my astrology practice, plus I was running several workshops a year in different parts of the world. When I wasn’t in the garden I was managing reservations, sign-ups, and making travel arrangements. W oversaw the construction projects, our ever-growing staff, and preparing the property for events. It was an exciting and productive time and I fell into bed each night, exhausted.
In an attempt to bolster W’s enthusiasm and confidence, I joked that she was manager/accountant/ personal assistant and contractor. In reality, she attended to each of these jobs on a very part time basis, showing up at her own convenience, and staying home with migraines when she was under any level of stress. At this point finding an assistant was essential, but I couldn’t be the one to hire them. The social dynamic between W and others was a delicate matter, and jealousies and perceived favouritisms could create real problems, so she would have to be the one to hire someone she could work with.
Around this time my land partners consulted with an attorney in order to make everything as legal as possible. We had all the essential permits and licenses for the property, but too many details had been negotiated with verbal promises and informal agreements.
When I broached this with W, she exploded in anger, saying this meant we didn’t trust her and her family. She said that, for the Balinese, it was an insult to even consider involving an attorney in agreements. The idea was so upsetting for her that I foolishly conceded.
In retrospect, this was the fork in the road. Had I followed my land partners down the legal path, I would have avoided all the devastation that followed. Instead, I chose once again to respect W’s wishes and turn my back on the storm rumbling on the horizon.
As the project moved along we hired housekeepers, gardeners, and construction crew, who became family. Despite my clumsy Indonesian, these relationships turned out to be some of the warmest and richest of my life. While these bonds were developing for me on the property, W and L were forming a life-changing alliance themselves, in town.
When W’s father’s developed a mysterious illness, they consulted traditional healers as well as conventional medical practitioners. When he recovered, they believed this was brought about by a couple I shall refer to as “J” and “G”. J was a “healer” and her husband G assisted her. I tried to keep an open mind, as W was so full of enthusiasm, even sending referrals their way - until I got to know them.
Bali is steeped in powerful spiritual beliefs, practices and resources, and there are some rare and special beings who embody and channel them. These two were not that. Something about them was not quite right.
The required “donation” they charged was high. They had an air of superiority and, in an extremely un-Balinese way, would help themselves to whatever they wanted (food from our fridge and even 2 of my live chickens). I particularly disliked the way they lorded it over our lovely staff, none of whom trusted or liked them.
This new alliance came about as W and I hit a crisis point in our relationship. I can’t pin the blame on her criminal husband or her parasitic friends for being “bad influences”. They cheered her on, but ultimately it was all W’s doing because she was the only one I had a personal and working relationship with.
Once they had the funds from my Ubud house and were building a rental on their new property, W’s interest in her job with me diminished even further. While I was working in other countries our online reviews began slipping and the property had a distinct air of neglect. W frequently paid the staff several weeks late, and always blamed her tardiness on me, a deliberate effort to damage my relationship with them.
She finally hired a family relative as an assistant, in September, 2018. I will refer to her as “K”. She had been available the whole time. W’s talk of “no-one being available” had been a fabrication born of her own insecurities and possessiveness. K’s English was excellent, she was well liked by the staff, and it was a relief to have such an enthusiastic addition to our team. She is a sensitive soul, and from the start was deeply respectful and considerate of W’s position and feelings. Even so, W began complaining of feeling sidelined and took even more time off. She started treating our staff as her own servants. When she wasn’t at the property, she would call them directly to run personal errands for her, sometimes having them drive a full 40 minutes each way to deliver things to her.
Naively, I still believed I could somehow fix things with W, if I just came up with the right solution. I met with her and suggested paying her a (generous) daily rate so she could continue to work part time. She rejected this idea, saying she needed a full-time salary, so we re-negotiated her position. We agreed on scheduled hours, a pay raise, and a shorter work week. She immediately reneged on the new agreement, working approximately 5 days the entire next year. Yet she still paid herself the increased salary, calling it “royalties”. She paid some bills, but rarely sent accounting, and if there were any discrepancies she flatly refused to address them. By now our relationship had completely broken down, and she walked away without a single explanation.
Her niece had been born with serious health issues and the whole family became involved in her care. I was told nothing whatsoever of this at the time; it was only after the fact that W gave this as the reason why she stopped working, while attacking me for being uncaring.
The last straw occurred shortly before the pandemic hit. W and L wanted to borrow the equivalent of $170,000 USD against our property, in order to open a restaurant with their “healer” friends J and G.
I said no. If I had conceded it would have meant bankruptcy, and not just because they were untrustworthy. Unbeknownst to us all, the whole world (and in particular the tourist industry), was about to shut down.
I could no longer find excuses for W’s behaviour. She was clearly flaunting L’s involvement now and I did not feel safe being in any kind of relationship with them. All ties would have to be cut as soon as possible. It was time to involve the attorney.
In March of 2020, K and I took over the accounting, which had been neglected since October, 2019. W ignored all of our requests for the paperwork. We had no idea whether the taxes, insurance or other expenses had been paid, and with everything being in W’s name, we couldn’t get that information.
COVID hit and businesses had to shut down. Airports were closed and tourism vanished. We hunkered down and prepared to ride out the pandemic.
As challenging as this was for me, personally and financially, there is another group of people whose lives were impacted even more. We had eight wonderful employees, some who had been with us for over six years. When we went into lockdown I made a commitment to keep them employed for as long as possible.
What an amazing time it turned out to be. With no guests, we were free to concentrate on the garden, experiment in the kitchen, make repairs, and start many decorative and practical projects. K was an excellent manager and began teaching the staff English, giving them formal classes 3 times a week.
We bought a dehydrator and stocked up on dried fruit and herbs. We learned fermentation with fruits and vegetables, and even made our own vinegars, ginger ale and arak limoncello. We planted an orchard and as many flowers as we could for the daily offerings. We cared for the chickens, established bee hives, baked, and experimented with vegan cooking.
The staff were so grateful to be working. Most of them were the only salary earners in their families at this difficult time. Ironically, as the world suffered, this was one of the happiest times of my life.
One day I slipped on some moss and hit my hip on the sharp edge of a stone bench. The pain was so intense I couldn’t move, so the staff carried me out (embarrassed and swearing profusely). I was driven to the local hospital where I had a long wait to get x-rays, then another wait to learn the results.
At this point L strode into the hospital room, with W right behind him. No one could have been less welcome. Apparently their plan was to take me to their family compound and “take care” of me. W had completely ignored me for over a year, plus she had promised that I would never have to deal with L, so their assumption that I would place myself in their care was absurd.
If they had called me beforehand I could have saved them the drive to the hospital. Calmly and politely, I told them that I didn’t need any help, and they left, but their ego-fuelled rage was broadcast far and wide. They considered my refusal to accept their “help” an insult. I was almost 70 years old and temporarily incapacitated, and I did not trust them. I had my own wonderful staff, who had never let me down, and ultimately did care for me until I was full recovered (luckily nothing was broken).
After a few weeks I was back on my feet, and that magical time in Bali continued. I barely left the property - there was nowhere else I would rather be, plus I was cautious about venturing out. Our whole village was vaccinated, and we remained relatively unaffected, but COVID was spreading throughout Bali.
My promise to keep the staff employed became more financially difficult as time stretched on, but I have no regrets. In return I gained incomparable memories, new skills, and a sense of achievement and community that cannot be measured in monetary terms.
In August 2021, W reappeared unexpectedly twice, to visit our temples. She could not have missed seeing all the work we had done during our pandemic recess. The property was completely transformed and beautiful.
Then I made an error in judgment. I got on my scooter and drove to my favourite beach spot for a few days of relaxation. I arrived in the evening and thoughtlessly posted a photo on Facebook. W and L now knew I was away from the property and the next morning they came onto the land with their two friends, J and G. The staff called and informed me of the intrusion, and I immediately opened our security software on my laptop and rewound the video. We had installed cameras on all the pathways and now I watched as L attempted to divert the camera aimed at my house. Then the four of them disappeared inside for over an hour, during which time they had the staff serve them coffee.
It felt horribly creepy and invasive. Unable to relax, I hopped on my scooter the next morning and returned home. Right away, I could see that certain things had been moved.
During this time W reached out and said she wanted to meet. I agreed to, but first I needed our accounting. She’d given us nothing for almost two years. Two of our staff were as yet uninsured, and we still didn’t know if any of the required taxes or licensing had been paid. We had recently heard from the electrician on the building project that he had not been paid in full.
A week later we finally got our accounting, and right away found many glaring discrepancies. It was a mess, so I hired someone to go through everything meticulously. I learned that W had paid herself a full salary right up until COVID lockdown, although she hadn’t even been to the property during most of that time. We unravelled everything as best as we could, but none of the inconsistencies were ever explained, and they couldn’t justify the huge disparity between the amount the electrician had billed me for and what I’d already supposedly paid him.
When I finally met with W, it was ugly. She complained that she had always focused on my dreams - not her own. I only wish she had told me this from the start, then I could have found someone to work with me who did share those dreams, instead of someone determined to destroy them. She raged at me, making accusations and re-writing our history to make herself the long-suffering victim. The years of raises, bonuses, and gifts, freely given, had only fuelled her sense of entitlement and the belief that I (like all Westerners) had unlimited funds.
I had inadvertently created a monster that was standing in front of me, screaming that she didn’t get enough.
W is a master of blaming others and gaslighting, and not once have I ever heard her say “I’m sorry” or take responsibility, in any situation. It was a fruitless, pointless meeting, but I still hadn’t experienced the full extent of her viciousness.
Right after this meeting W and L drove to the property and waylaid K in the parking lot. She had been working for us for 3 years, but now she abruptly quit the job she loved. She never revealed what they said to her, or had a single negative word to say about them. The staff and I adored her, and we all wept to see her go.
W is no longer the person I met back in 2004. The shy and depressed girl with rotting front teeth and not a penny to her name is now an arrogant and unkind woman, immaculately coiffed and manicured. Any of the kindness and warmth I believed I once saw in her only appears when needed, to disarm and manipulate.
I finally saw the true depths W and L would stoop to in their pathological need for money and control. They had no conscience about bullying a member of their own family into giving up the livelihood she needed to support her family during a pandemic. And this was only the tip of the iceberg.
On September 21st, 2021, a large ceremony had been scheduled for the property. It had been delayed for some time because I would not allow a dog to be sacrificed, despite the wishes of the Balinese. Refusing to support or pay for such a thing, I consulted various friends who have spent decades in Bali. They all told me there were alternatives, and encouraged me to hold my ground.
Over the years I’d spent thousands of dollars on ceremonies. But as much as I respected, and tried to honour the Balinese rituals, killing a dog would have haunted me forever. In the end, only some chickens were sacrificed.
That morning, most of the village got a second COVID jab, as did I. Then I returned to the property for the ceremony. W and L also attended, and at one point I saw W in the crowd and our eyes met. The look she gave me will stay with me always. It wasn’t just the coldness in her eyes, it was her snide knowing smile, a portent of all she had in store for me.
The next day I had some bad side effects from the vaccine, so I stayed in my room, in bed. Mid morning, one of the staff called out to tell me that government officials were on the property. Looking outside, I saw two burly young officers on the steps above my house, and two approaching my gate. Flashing their badges, they told me they were immigration agents and informed me that I was under investigation. In their hands were printouts from the internet and I could see copies of old pages from my website, offering workshops and rentals. They asked to speak to the legal owners of the property so I called W, who was obviously waiting for my call. Then she and L showed up and met the officers in the dining hall, as I lay in bed; ill, confused and filled with dread.
It was a frightening, intimidating experience, but the agents weren’t unkind and they treated me with respect. I had been reported to them, and they were only doing their jobs.
I had just renewed my retirement visa and was in the country legally. W and her co-conspirators had reported me for the events I’d held years earlier, when there were no permits available. From there on out, things became quite surreal and the details not really important. I had several interviews with immigration and had to travel back and forth to Denpasar almost daily. In eight days I would be deported.
The most painful part in all this was telling the staff, which is what I can never forgive or forget. They all wept and held on to me, devastated. We had been building a future together, one that would ensure growth and prosperity for us all. For almost two years they’d been the only income earners in their families, now they were suddenly unemployed. I was gutted - I loved the life we were creating together, and I loved them. I was able to give them a further three months salary to tide them over, and wished I could do more.
W and L had no hesitation about inflicting hardship on their fellow Balinese, to satisfy their own selfish greed.
There was nothing I could do. The young woman I took under my wing seventeen years earlier, had decided to try and grab everything for herself.
Well, I’d paid for it all, and now I decided to spend my last few days in paradise removing everything I could. A dear friend found me a warehouse and twenty people spent a week dismantling teak houses and carrying off bathtubs, statues, toilets, appliances, windows; anything that could be moved.
For the first time in my life I was having panic attacks. I couldn’t eat or sleep and my thoughts were erratic and often frightening. Male staff members patrolled the property at night and I know they were keeping a watchful eye on me. The Balinese rallied around me and the caring they showed during this nightmare both comforted me and further shattered my heart because I didn’t want my life with them to end. But on September 30th I boarded a plane and two female officers escorted me to Jakarta.
The Balinese are amongst the most beautiful people I have ever known and nothing can take away the memories of the glorious life I had there. My gratitude remains stronger than my sense of loss. The deportation order was for six months, so technically I could return to Bali now, but something was broken and I’m not sure I would ever feel safe there again.
W and L have no qualms about what they did. L has even used it as leverage against other foreigners he has dealings with. He told one woman, “I had Evelyn deported, and I can do the same to you.”
My own naivety, fiscal sloppiness, inattention to legal details, misplaced trust, and stubborn delusions led to the loss of my dream life in Bali. I have paid the price, and will continue to do so, as I start again from scratch at 70. There are still many legal and practical issues to be dealt with, and I will tackle those as I become stronger.
Writing this has been harder than I imagined it would be. It’s a tale of betrayal and loss I never thought I would have to tell. And yet, a tiny voice whispers that being forced to leave Bali may have saved my life. I was so attached to the dream I couldn’t let go, not until it was wrenched out of my bleeding hands. I believe I could have died if I’d stayed, so poisonous were the people I had attached myself to.
One of the most crushing experiences of my life also led me to one of the most life-affirming. After leaving Bali I went to England and then the United States, and each old friend I visited enveloped me in love and support. I have been reminded that there is nothing material on this earth that can compare to love freely given and returned unconditionally.
I’m older but I have no idea if I’m wiser, (I suspect this may be one of the greatest myths about ageing). I am blessed to have my health. I’m heartbroken, but still able to love. I’m poorer but not destitute, and most days I feel like the richest person in the world.