In 2003, my wife and I flipped our world upside down and made a leap to the bottom of the globe in hopes of finding a more authentic us and a more inspired life. After 5 months on the road and two amazing months in Bali, we found a really exciting opportunity to import pebble tile. This time around, we visited Bali again with our two boys Trent and Tanner in tow. Our hope was to open the boys to a new culture and find some great new materials. That our boys found the joy and artistry of making pebble tiles was a great reminder of how special the product is.
The story of how we 1st became acquainted with pebble flooring was kismet thanks to a chance meeting in the surf with an Australian who had been coming to Bali with his kids for 20 summers. He shared with me that inspirational events are always happening in Bali and that if you act on the inspiration, it can transform your life. I took his advice to heart and shared with him, our desire to maybe import something exciting from Bali. That chance meeting and brief dialogue began a series of meetings with a friend of his who was a importer and eventually to an English student of the importer that was manufacturing a really cool new product, pebble tiles.
That was 12 years ago and what has always struck me about that chance meeting was how uneventful it seemed at the time and how impactful it was in my life. The other thing about that meeting was how great it was to see my new Aussie friend and his lovely daughter so immersed in the Balinese culture. Both spoke fluent Indonesia and Balinese (a local dialect) and were very much comfortable interacting with the locals. I would meet with them in the early mornings in a tiny warung ( not set up for guest to visit) along the beaches of Sanur and drink a potent thick local coffee . I would try to follow along with the conversation with the locals and was always impressed with how my Aussie friend's teenage daughter happily stayed and chatted with her dad and the locals.
So when I came back to Bali this year with my wife and two young sons, Trent and Tanner, I was committed to immersing myself and the kids in the culture and staying open to the inspiration of the island as had been suggested to me years ago. Many of our days were spent playing in the waters of the Indian Ocean and enjoying afternoons in local warungs talking with the locals and indulging in Balinese curries and satays. The boys naturally fell in step with the local culture and casual pace and took well to my encouragement of speaking Balinese. Every interaction with the locals included my boys saying selamat pagi ( good morning), abak abar ( how are you), suksama ( thank you) and moale ( your welcome). They learned to order their own food and how to embrace everything that is Bali.
One of my favorite days during our return to Bali was when we toured our pebble floor factory with our children and they learned how to make pebble tiles. The Balinese have a wonderful capacity for being relaxed and happy. Nothing brings that expression forward better than the presence of children. If you want to diverert a Balo's attention than the easiest way is with the presence of a child. When we stopped in to our factory, all the staff were immediately drawn to our kids. They took great delight in showing them around. We toured all aspects of the operation. When they came to the area where the artist puzzle the river rock pebbles into the mosaic patterns, my children instinctively knew that the art project at hand was a fun adventure. One of the workers gave up her spot and sat the boys down and gave them a quick guide to assembling the pebble mosaics. Soon the boys were happily sorting through the pebbles and picking and choosing stones to fit into the metal pattern that dictates the shape of the interlocking tiles. They made several tiles which some lucky customer will get to install as their pebble floor. I love how the artist esteemed our kids by giving them a chance to create a finished product and how they subtly performed quality control while the kids grabbed for more stones.
The process of building the tiles is relatively simple and the final steps of the artistic puzzling is the most enchanting but there are several steps before the magic begins. The kids loved the clever pebble washer which is large drum that is rotated by an engine hooked up to an old truck transmission (classic Balinese repurposing of waste material). They were fascinated with how they used a series of simple graded grates and bars to systematically ferret out the larger to smaller stones like a continuous game of limbo. They appreciated all the selection and cleaning steps that brought them stones of the same consistency to build their own pebble tiles. Of course, gluing was a favorite step and it was great to see the smiles of accomplishment from the kids for having created the tiles that mom and dad have been providing to clients for years.
The trip back to Bali had a myriad of facets to it and we again found the inspiration on the island of 20,000 temples to be irresistible. We found amazing new artisans and some incredible new items to share. We found beauty and harmony in abundance and fell in love again with the wonderful people of Bali. And most importantly, we had the opportunity to share our love of Bali and travel with our children and the special gift of opening their eyes to the beauty of different places and people.