Monkey Business

It’s to be expected. I live in a Balinese family compound / guesthouse, so people come and go all the time. Turns out that animals do too. IMG_0643

It’s a tradition for the Balinese to have dogs. But this family’s dogs were banished (ousted?) long before I arrived, then replaced with dog-statues. Close enough. Perhaps even menacing enough to evil spirits. But word had it that Nyoman wasn’t a big fan of dogs so off they went.

IMG_7298Birds have a long and storied history in this compound, as they do around Bali. The Balinese love their birds almost as much as.. well, probably more than their dogs.

This family’s birds were first housed in individual cages, hung around the compound; then more recently grouped together in larger, more spacious aviaries. A few have taken roost outside metal grates, setting up home amongst the limbs of the betelnut tree next to my terrace, keeping still at the mere sight of me and otherwise chirping away melodically.

And then there’s the stunning bird – that stares hard – who is hand-fed bananas nearly every day because she seems unable (or disinterested) in feeding herself. Maybe she just likes the attention.IMG_7289

The koi fish continue to propagate in the ponds, the spring water kept clean and regularly flushed out. They are simply glorious creatures. It doesn’t hurt that they don’t make a peep, don’t poop around the compound and haven’t yet scared any guests away.

A few months ago, a regular guest in this compound bought a couple of bunnies. One was albino. The pair got along famously, gradually acclimatizing themselves to the surroundings. Eventually, they grew comfortable enough to be freed from their cage into the gardens, and felt safe enough (I gather) to nibble away at the grass and carrots placed at their paws. One day I noticed their absence – and was informed that a creature much larger than them had.. umm… indulged in a bit too much nibbling himself, gobbling both furry creatures, skin and all. Ugh.

A few months had pIMG_0055-001assed since that tragic day when S – an annual visitor – showed up from Australia. She claimed that she would be staying for good, then settled into her room at the back of the compound and announced that big changes were gonna come…

Hmmm, I wondered what was in store. Two days hadn’t passed when she returned from Denpasar with Ketut’s eldest son. The staff was talking animatedly, so I could tell something was UP.

I asked S about her day, whereupon she invited me to see her new pet. What was it, I asked. A dog? No. A cat? Nope. Where to go from there..

Not a guinea pig or rooster, not a frog or bird. What on earth could she have hauled home from down south and stored away in her room?

I followed S to her room, and as I crept in after her, and knelt on the floor to get a better loIMG_0041ok, my jaw dropped: a monkey.

Not just any monkey, as S is quick to say; Darling (as she is now known) is apparently a sweetheart monkey from Sumatra. Although my Google searches didn’t bring up any monkeys even remotely resembling this creature, who was I to argue?

And so we now have in our midst a Darling monkey that has endeared herself to (some of) the guests and staff; that squeaks like a plastic toy squeezed too tight; that shrieks when S leaves her caged; that feeds on whatever the human species congregating around the table eats and leaves behind; that pounces uninvited onto the backs and shoulders of unsuspecting dawdlers; that stares right into your eyes as if to ask: when are you going to feed me some of that delicious fruit you’re eating?IMG_0633




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