FaceTime photo of Jeannette Miller, poolside in Bali. Official CDC Covid figures for Indonesia are high, but actual tourist numbers on the island of Bali are low, so the Millers figure the risk is worth it to see their new grandson.
What does Gene Miller love most about life in Bali? “No one here gives a shit about what’s going on in America.”
The San Diegan’s speaking over FaceTime from Bali, Indonesia. On the little screen, you can see the dark woods of his son Mark’s leased house there, tropical leaves, intricate ceramics in the background, and Gene’s wife Jeannette in an orange swimsuit in the blue waters of the house pool.
Gene and Jeannette got the chance when their son, Mark, who made his fortune importing surfboards to the U.S., arrived in Bali on his cruising catamaran, which he had sailed from Australia. “He said come over any time,” says Gene. “And I was so upset over how things were going here, it was disturbing to my psyche. I stopped reading anything political. Now after two-three months over here, the continued divisiveness back home is tempting me to stay.”
Besides, he says, life in Bali is good for people like him and Jeannette. “No Americans to argue the last election with,” says Gene. “Only some Europeans, Australians, and a colony of Russians. But it is so civilized and cheap, people don’t want to leave.”
Are we having fun? Jeannette and Gene accept Covid risk in high-incidence Bali to see grandson.
But can he leave? It has become more complicated, thanks to covid restrictions. “We arrived on JAL on January 1st, and as soon as we got here, they shut the airport,” says Gene.
He says Bali is semi-deserted, but in a way, perfect. “Everything is open. No long lines. We play golf and tennis nearly every day. Shopping is so cheap. The Grand Hyatt hotel, where all the expats meet, has everything: pools, massages, great food, and is relatively cheap.”
But why fly to Bali at the height of covid-19? It was the birth of their grandson in Bali to Mark and his wife Masha. But they are risking much.
Recently, CDC put out a “Very High Level of Covid-19” notice for Indonesia. Gene says people are wearing masks. Well, most. “The other day, I was wearing mine. This expat lady who wasn’t, said, ‘Isn’t that uncomfortable?’ And I knew immediately where this discussion was going to go. Soon we got to her saying, ‘You don’t need that mask. It’s all a hoax.’ I couldn’t take any more, especially in this beautiful, spiritual, green, harmonious place, with its rice terraces and temples. I walked away. We came here to welcome our new grandson, not to re-fight the election.”
He’s not worried about getting back to San Diego, even though family members here are fretting about them. They intend to leave in a couple of weeks.“We’ll have to be tested. But [son] Mark knows the ins and outs of navigating the system. I mean, we love it here. My shirts are perfectly laundered and ironed, every day except Sunday. But honestly, I don’t like having servants. Besides, I’m just basically looking forward to California weather. Here, starting January, we’ve had the monsoons, raining every night. I tell you man, there is no weather like California weather. It’s the best in the world. By far. Covid or no covid.”