Musim Konkret

DSC01156Bali’s dry season typically peters out by now, when the rainy season is ushered in with monsoon-like showers that can sometimes last up to a day or longer. However, this year’s dry season has outlasted even its prior incarnations and some say that it has now officially reached far beyond its acceptable expiry date. That is to say, many of the island’s rivers and streams have (all but) dried up, the fields are parched, and water is reaching a precipitously low point – some would say crisis levels.

I’m no climatologist, but my sense is that another factor is playing into this havoc. I’m going to wager that nobody’s given much thought to the current- and after-effects of a season that outlasts all other seasons, a season for all seasons if you will – and maybe other micro-seasons in between. My hunch is that it may even account for Bali’s prolonged drier-DSC01151than-dry season.

For lack of a better term, let’s call it concrete season – translated loosely into Indonesian as musim konkret – (a.k.a cement season, cinder-block season, construction season, neverending-over-development-season etc). On this island, it’s inarguably the Mother of All Seasons.

Personally, I know at least a few locals who are diehards of this season. Bring it on, they say.

“I don’t like trees and nature,” says Putu the (generally) Soft-Spoken Driver, who still lives in a leafy village just north of Ubud, and enjoys leading treks through the rice fields, “Terlalu banyak pohon, tidak cukup uang. (Too many trees, not enough money.) I love concrete and cement, and I really love Kuta!”

DSC01134I’m caught off guard, simultaneously dazed, confused and verily on the cusp of asking him to pull over and let me out.

“What?!” I ask this one-time-cow-truck-transporter, “you love Kuta???!”

It might help you to know that Kuta, in I-Love-Ubud parlance, often translates to: “Argh, that hellhole of dirty beach and of towering cement eyesores called villas and hotels?”

In other words, in Putu’s estimation, konkret = Fantasy Island.

These days, here, there and everywhere, musim konkret is in full swing, in some cases in the unlikeliest places.

Take the sleepy hamlet of Tabolah (Sidemen), an hour’s drive from Ubud, where I’ve spent many a weekends, safely ensconced in wifi-free quarters, blissfully immersed in books, writing, yoga, walking, composing phrases and concocting ideas while gazing off into the lush greenness of the jungle-y hillside across the valley.

Though the rice paddies have managed to thrive, dried out fields and streams are in abundance. Wilting chili peppers. Crackled long beans. Only papayas are bearing fruit in a spectacular fashion. Dry season has lingered here too, causing farmers to cringe and worry at the everlasting absence of rain.

DSC01276In this little corner of Sidemen, nature’s crops may be in short supply but god-awful cinderblocks – telltale signs of musim konkret – are bountiful.

Sights, sounds, smells too – enough to make drivers like Putu cackle with joy. Bags of cement (semen in bahasa, don’t get me started). Concrete mixers. Cinder blocks piled high. Bamboo poles – for scaffolding only. More rumbling motorbikes. More sawing. Drilling. Hacking. Hammering. Sanding. Banging. Slicing stone (scratchy chalkboards anyone?). More banging. And for good measure, yet more banging.DSC01140

I try to drown out the noises by burying my nose into a book. But I’m too distracted by the rhythmic banging. When it comes to a temporary stop, I add the missing coda: cha-cha-cha.

But after the mid-morning break, the generator is cranked up and groans back to life. That seemingly momentary stillness is broken, the banging resumes and I’m sunk into a funk. I’d planned this Sidemen getaway to immerse myself in its ever-present lushness, unwittingly parachuting myself into its midst instead. Where is the respite from this perpetual grey-walled, vista-stealing existence?

If all goes well, when the seasons do finally change, may we blessed with a steady supply of rain showers to replace – or at the very least give us a break from – the relentless downpour of konkret.

Somebody’s Home Sweet-Cinder Home


  1. I was thinking about Indonesian rain yesterday – those marvellously exotic, warm, plump stair-rods of water that bounce energetically off every tin roof – making a sound like the timpani section of an orchestra. and watching the steam rise off the plants and ground. Perfect! hope it rains soon xxx

    1. Yes, I know what you mean about the sounds of timpani – so well put, Lottie! I too hope that hujan will soon pour down in bali-buckets.. the ground and all nature’s creatures are thirsty for it 😉 xo

  2. Sad to think of that beautiful landscape being blighted but then I guess they are after the same jobs, money and lift out of poverty for their families that we enjoy in the west. It’s what you lose and gain in the process. Great post though – I could almost hear all that banging here in Scotland!

    1. Thanks Alex.
      Still… it’s heart-breaking to see so much nature decimated in the name of what the West calls ‘progress’…
      I hope all the banging (here in Bali) isn’t waking you up!

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