How a Bottle of Hair Oil Broke Bali’s Language Barrier for Me
Sitting on the back of a Vespa passing through endless traffic, my light skin complexion drew many eyes from the locals that filled the narrow streets. My pale skin was not used to the 90 degree temperature, and neither was my hair. I was walking around in a dress and sandals in the middle of January, hoping to find the nearest beach to cool off.
Since I was eight years old, I have traveled to Southeastern Europe to visit my family in Serbia, but I never truly realized how crippling a language barrier is until I went to Bali, Indonesia.
While unbelievably frustrating at first, here are three things the language barrier taught me — and the final lesson, which surprisingly came in the form of a beauty product.
1. Patience is key.
When I first arrived to Bali and realized that barely any locals spoke English, I immediately wondered how I would get anything done here. Every interaction made me want to smash my head against a wall. Even the simplest tasks like directing my taxi driver or asking for the nearest bathroom were excruciating.
However, I decided to use this barrier between myself and these people to my advantage. I began to use my hands, phone, and facial expressions to maneuver around the island and learn more about Balinese culture. Since I was unable to communicate with anyone, I gained a heightened awareness of my surroundings. Drowning out my own voice left room for me to think about the other things within me that should also be drowned out. I was able to listen and learn more about the world around me.
2. Inspiration can be found within yourself.
While Bali is a destination that I would always recommend to anyone, I want to break the “Eat, Pray, Love” stereotype of traveling to another country to look for inspiration and guidance in life. Yes, traveling allows you to think differently about the world. No, it will not make you into a new person, it will only reveal to you who you already are.
At home, we are continuously occupied by our responsibilities whether they are work, school, family, etc. However, traveling allows us to have time to reflect on ourselves and our goals. It can give you that much needed “me” time and allow you to tap into your full potential. Exposing myself to Balinese culture helped me draw parallels of my world vs theirs. I was able to realize that my career path could be severely altered if I became softer, more passionate, and more spiritual.
3. Always be nice to strangers.
I cannot emphasize this enough. The humidity in Bali is real. The air is practically hanging and everything, literally everything, feels like it’s wet. My curly, bouncy hair was consistently a frizzy mess until I went to a small, local restaurant for lunch. The menu was in Balinese, but the pictures of seafood platters made my life easier. My waitress was a petite woman in her 40’s, with the cutest little red nails. Before she served my meal, I began to pick at the mess on my head. As I began to tie up the spiderweb of curls into a bun, the waitress motioned me to walk over to her. As I approached her, she took out a little bottle of light yellow oil from her purse nestled in a shelf behind the bar. She managed to explain in broken English that I should apply the oil to my hair twice a day to minimize the frizz. The bottle had no label, but I followed her instructions anyway. Would I go bald? There was only one way to find out.
After a couple of days, to my surprise, my hair was seemingly back to normal. While there were still areas of frizz, my ends looked better and I could actually style my hair. This was the beacon of hope for my unruly mane, thanks to the pretty waitress with red nails. While this gesture was so minuscule, it made me realize the power of kindness. Karma is a real thing. Whatever energy you exert is the same one that is reflected back to you, therefore, be wise with your energy. It is always the most unlikely people who will give you the best possible solutions to your problems.
As I packed to go back home, I thought about how much I would miss that language barrier that taught me more about myself than anything.