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Silence is Golden

Expatriate American in North Bali Pays the Price of Violating Nyepi the Day of Silence

(3/25/2012) A report in The Bali Post outlines the risks foreign residents in Bali run when they choose to ignore local customs and traditions.

A villa in the village of Kaliaget, Seririt in Buleleng regency has been sealed and blockaded by angry villagers after its 62-year-old American owner chose to ignore the rules of absolute silence and leave the confines of his property of Nyepi, March 23, 2012.

Members of Banjar Alas Arum blockaded the man’s villa at 10:00 am on Saturday, March 24 - the day after Nyepi, using wood and bamboo to bar access road to the property.

The villagers closed the road when the villa’s owner and the villa manager where inside the property, effectively blocking their ability to leave the property. The irate villagers were demanding an apology and a sizeable compensation be paid by the villa owner who violated the peace of Nyepi by leaving  the villa to purchase milk.

At 2:30 pm on Nyepi day the villa owner, identified only as Claude, drove his car onto the empty street of the village in a direction towards Lovina.

Members of the banjar and the local neighborhood watch (pacalang) came to the American's house on Friday afternoon where, according to the village chief, Claude refused to politely receive them. This was seen by the villagers as an insult to the entire village. The irate villagers then decided to close the villa’s entrance.

Village leaders demanded that Claude follow the tradition of the village that stipulates anyone breaking the silence of Nyepi must pay the cost of a pacaruan ceremony. Pacaruan ceremonies are held in Bali to pay homage to Tri Hita Karana – a central theme of Bali-Hinduism that maintains balance between God, man and nature.

The manager of the villa eventually came to the local community center (banjar) where he pledged local customs would be honored and the Rp. 5 million (US$555) cost of the pacaruan ceremony paid. Villagers, however, refused to open the barricades blocking access to the house before the cost of the ceremony was actually paid in advance and a formal statement of apology issued.