Greg Hattons diary of our week in Bali
OK, so I guess it’s fair to say that last Monday I was a little worried as we piled in our maxi taxi headed to Sydney Airport. Why? Well we were headed to Bali. It’s a place I didn’t know too much about to be honest. I went there with my family in 1985 and only had fleeting memories of counterfeit cassette tapes and street sellers with model wooden fishing boats and carvings. I remembered my brother had his bags packed two days early to leave because he hated the heat. But aside from that I didn’t know much at all.
I had been researching a different side of Bali for the last four years. I was interested in the legal system and in particular the fate of nine young Australian drug traffickers. I had started performing Sam’s play Bondi Dreaming in 2008 and was keen to understand everything I could about the situation these people found themselves in on the 17/04/2005. So armed with all this information and the media’s take on things my feet hit the ground in Bali. I felt like I was entering the lions den but very quickly all my fears faded away, as over the next seven days my perspective would change in ways I’m only just coming to terms with.
We arrived and were picked up by our drivers and headed to our accommodation. The streets were hot, humid and very busy. The first thing that struck me were the number of scooters – I mean there were thousands of them. The second thing was the total absence of road rules. Scooters whizzing past both sides of the car ducking in and out it was insane. I remember thinking “There is no way in hell you would catch me on one of those puppies”. Little did I know that by the end of the week I would be darting around corners and shooting down side streets like the locals.
That night we met with a lady who Nick and Sam had been emailing from Sydney. She is a carer for some of the international prisoners and spends a lot of time with the Bali 9. We were invited into her beautiful family home. She offered us a beer and we all sat down to chat. Soon it became clear that we would indeed be able to enter the prison at some stage. There was a church service in the prison chapel on Wednesday that we would be able to attend. Andrew from the Bali Nine runs the service and invites pastors from around the world to pray for the congregation of prisoners and guests. Sam and Nick would also be allowed in tomorrow to meet the guys in the communal visiting area.
Early morning we left Sam and Nick and headed to breakfast. Our driver took us to a pseudo Bondi Cafe, very nice but from that moment I think we all vowed that we wanted to eat what the locals ate. Sam and Nick returned after their 3 hours in Local Prison Kerobokan (LPK) clearly moved by their experience.
You can see Sam’s video diary here,
Nick’s video diary here,
Nick’s video showing the tee-shirt he bought from Muryan here
Sam and Nick had met another couple from Melbourne who had moved to Bali to provide legal and ongoing support to the guys inside. The next morning we would all have the pleasure of meeting this amazing couple. We rehearsed the play that afternoon in a cool space the guys had organised with a local drama teacher.
Morning arrived with me bleary eyed as I had not slept much at all. I was very keen to get inside LPK and to meet the guys. We headed out early to meet in the car park. The prison was surprisingly close to where we were staying about a ten minute drive or 5 min scoot. We arrived and met with the church group then handed over our ID and mobile phones which were collected in a plastic shopping bag and handed to the guards as we entered the last metal gate. We were greeted by Andrew who was wearing a blue shirt and he immediately put his hand out. “G’day mate I’m Andrew” he said with his strong Aussie accent. “I’m Greg, nice to meet you.” I replied. He had a firm grip and looked very healthy. He greeted Christian, Wayne and Tom then we all moved out into the yard towards the chapel. Scott met us at the gate shaking our hands as we entered. We walked past the maximum security tower and down a walkway to the chapel. It was small about a standard classroom size. Plastic chairs and an overhead projector with song lyrics, the band was set up and ready to roll. Andrew welcomed everyone and we all stood up and sang. The service ended a couple of hours later and as we were all shaking hands I saw Martin sitting with his wife. I had met her outside before we came in. I said ” Congratulations on the wedding”. He smiled and said “Thanks”. Even though I didn’t know him, I felt proud of him. Andrew sat down and we all chatted until it was time to go. We said we would bring them some McDonald’s tomorrow and said our farewells.
Sam and I took off to the only Maccas around in Kuta. We jumped in a cab and the hour and a bit round trip cost as about 8 bucks. Gotta love this place. We met the other guys outside LPK, but little did we know that something big was about to happen! We sat around in the visiting area and delivered the boys their food. It is about the size of half a tennis court with hundreds of people all sitting on the tiled floor. A gamelan player sits in the corner banging away as the overhead PA system calls out numbers of people that have to leave. Andrew and Martin sit with us and chat for an hour or so. As Andrew takes a bite from his burger I suddenly felt the ground shake a bit, I thought it was a bus or a train racing past outside. Then Andrew said ” Earthquake”. To be honest I didn’t believe him at first but before I could think it through the ground started to shake, violently! It lasted for less than ten seconds but each shift in the earth got heavier and heavier. Almost all the people in the visiting area jumped up and started panicking. Running for the only door out which was blocked by guards, I grabbed my shoes and ran….in circles. Where the hell was I gonna go? Then it was over as quick as it had began. Andrew was laughing his head off. I look down and see that Tom had not moved one inch. I said ” Tom how cool were you?” he looked up and said “I’m sitting under an arch, best place to be.” I was impressed.
When things calmed down, we went out to see the art room and met Myu. He is printing Tshirts in a screen print workshop he has set up, really impressive. I was a printer for many years and was able to help him with a couple of things. He is a great guy and doing amazing creative work.
Watch Nick’s video diary of the art Workshop here
Alon and Christian played chess with Myu till sadly once more we had to leave.
On Thursday night we had organised for all the people that had helped us to come to our villa for dinner. We did a reading of the play so they had a better understanding of what we are doing. It was a fantastic night and we were so relieved when they all loved it.
After such a hectic and emotional few days, it was time for a bit of fun so we hit the road on our bikes and did some exploring. In the evening we did a workshop for a group of about 20 kids from a local school. They were mainly kids of expats and it was a great experience to see them get excited about acting and directing. Some of them were really talented too.
Sadly we went into the prison for the last time. We were greeted warmly by all the guys. I felt really relaxed even though the place was far busier on Saturday than during the week and it was very crowded. Andrew again was the centre of attention. He is a great story teller and his laugh is infectious. I chatted with Martin and then played chess with Myu for a while until we went to the workshop again where he showed me his latest design’ “School of hard knocks 2011”. I didn’t want to leave and we all hung around until the guards had to almost push us out the door. We headed back to our villa.
That night we went out to celebrate Alon’s 30th birthday and blow off a bit of steam. I have to say Christian had us laughing at every turn on this trip, truly one of the funniest blokes I’ve met and a pleasure to travel with. Same goes for Sam, Nick, Wayne, Alon, Rod and Tom. I wouldn’t have wanted to be there with anyone else and I have them all to thank for an amazing experience.
A day of farewells – we watched the Wallabies bow out of the World Cup and said farewell to our new friends. They were so incredible to us on this trip and I look forward to seeing them in November when they will be our guests at the show. We boarded the plane exhausted and I know I will never forget what happened last week in Bali.
Inside LPK, I saw more friends than enemies, more laughter than tears, more love than hate, and much more hope than despair.
I learnt so much as an actor and as a person on this trip. I know our show is in much better shape for having gone to Bali.
I will be returning to Bali as soon as I can, so maybe in the future I can try and give something back to a place that gave me so much.