An odd assortment of artists, jewelers, musicians, poets and even a champion weightlifter have teamed up and gone into the restaurant business.
Senang Hati Restaurant in Tampak Siring – just down the road from the Bali Presidential Palace – opened little more than a year ago and is, says its cooperative of owners, doing well, so well the restaurant hosted its first international wedding Monday when Koren Lewis from Sydney and Papua New Guinea-born Benjamin Duigi tied the knot against a backdrop of orchids.
In full Balinese wedding regalia, right down to lipstick and eyeliner for the groom and a river of gold bands encircling the arms of the bride, the couple and guests ate and made merry under canopies of paku pipid, or decorations made from coconut leaves, in the restaurant’s gardens.
Now this may come as little news: There are dozens of wedding venues across the tropical tourist island. The difference here lies in the histories of this one odd cooperative.
Each of these people has a severe disability; between them they have almost the full complement of possible physical disabilities. And that is where the idea of cooperation comes in.
According to the restaurant’s manager, 35-year-old Ayu Made, who has since childhood been confined to a wheelchair from a polio infection, the group plays to each other’s strengths and accepts their varying limitations.
“Some of the chefs cook from wheelchairs. Others who may have limited use of their hands simply chop up vegetables slowly – some of us might be able to do a job fast, and others more slowly, so we just plan ahead on our timeframes for preparation of the food,” says Ayu Made.
Smorgasbord presentations get over any hurdles people may have in the wheelchair table waiting department, adds Ayu of the restaurant that developed quite by accident a year ago.
“The idea developed when we had some guests to the [Senang Hati] foundation here. We prepared a meal for them to lunch with us and they then gave us some money – a donation to offset expenses. After that we thought why not make a business, we can sell our food – the guests all said they liked the food, the tempeh and tofu, and as they were vegetarians they said it was perfect,” says Ayu of Senang Hati Foundation’s foray into the restaurant game.
“Some of the cooks are in wheelchairs, others are amputees, some are on crutches, so from all of these people we work together and we can achieve this. Some of us are cleaners, others are waiters, we have different jobs for different people,” says Ayu of the restaurant that is open for lunch Monday, Thursday and Saturday.
Given that many of the Senang Hati Foundation members have training in different branches of the arts, the restaurant also holds performances during lunch.
Kintamani-born brothers Rudi and Wayan on Monday performed a mask dance, with 12-year-old Wayan stealing the show with his range of expression.
“I can’t walk,” says Wayan in perfect English. He was perched in his wheelchair next to his older brother, 23-year-old Rudi, also wheelchair bound.
“I had polio as a kid, but Wayan was born like this,” says Rudi. “It’s not hard for Mom and Dad because we can do anything,” pipes up an irrepressible Wayan of his farming parents, who both brothers say are very proud of their achievements.
Wayan studies English at the foundation and is very near fluent, while Rudi is a jeweler. Both young men say being able to perform during events at the Senang Hati restaurant does more than boost their confidence, it proves they are born of those ‘who can’.
“Here at Senang Hati we don’t get a lot of donations to support the foundation so we all work, it’s one of the reasons we opened the restaurant, and we also sell our products, paintings, jewelry, lots of things. So we are more independent without a lot of donations. The government gives each of us 3000 rupiah [33 US cents] a day for food, alone we could not survive, but by pooling our money we can live ok – we have tempeh and tofu daily,” says the brothers, made up and costumed in gold and black sarongs for their performance.
Also performing in the wheelchair dance was 33-year-old Ayu Nyoman, younger sister of restaurant manager and Senang Hati publicist Ayu Made.
Stricken with polio at three years of age, by the time Ayu was in fourth grade she was unable to walk and no longer left her home. Those were the start of the long black years for Ayu.
“When I was in class four I started to fall a lot and my parents worried I would be hit by a car. I did not have a wheelchair or anything at all so I stayed home. If I saw people passing by I would close the door so I was unseen. I was embarrassed. I wanted to kill myself, why was my life so hard? I drank flyspray [to commit suicide] but it didn’t work. Before Senang Hati I was only half alive. I was just wanting to die. The difference between now and then is like the difference between the earth and the sky. Today I will dance and after that I will be happy to meet people. I am so busy these days,” says Ayu Nyoman who recently returned from a speaking engagement in Kupang, West Timor.
Husband and wife team Angelie and Sugianto recently celebrated the birth of their first child. Angelie works at the restaurant as a chef and Sugianto carves fine bone jewelry. Both have been wheelchair bound due to polio since childhood.
“We can still make a good life, strong and independent,” says Sugianto who recently took second place in the Denpasar weightlifting championships with a lift of 80 kilograms.
“A lot of us that got polio were told not to have the vaccinations, that was back when we were kids. We were told doctors were using the same needle for all the kids, so infections were passed on. At that time people were dying of the virus – a lot of friends and family had polio. These days, yes it’s better to have the vaccines because doctors use fresh needles for each person, this is really important with diseases like HIV nowadays,” says Sugianto of the reason there are so many extraordinary people running the restaurant in Tampak Siring.
The Senang Hati Foundation
Established more than a decade ago, the Senang Hati Foundation is a group of people who came together to make life for the disabled better.
According to foundation chair Putu Suriati, most members had lived their lives in isolation, unaware that there were so very many others with disabilities. Once they discovered each other at an art exhibition many years ago, there was no stopping them and Senang Hati was born.
Today the foundation has a shop in Ubud selling their products. The foundation also runs its restaurant, has a salon, runs tours, has sewing, computer and English courses as well as dance and music training, sports such as swimming and weight training and runs its own dormitory for members at its Tampak Siring headquarters.
These extraordinary people have done this by themselves, scratched and scrimmaged every step of the way. Australian Vern Cork met the foundation members in its earliest days, he also was wheelchair bound with what had been diagnosed as motor neuron disease, the same illness affecting the great academic Stephen Hawking.
“What has been achieved here is remarkable,” says Cork during Senang Hati Restaurant’s first wedding event. He was there to celebrate as a very old family friend of the groom, Benjamin Duigu.
“We heard about this place from Vern, he has been a friend since I was a little kid in Papua New Guinea. Vern has been involved with the foundation since the beginning, so my new wife Koren and my connection here was made,” says Duigu just minutes before his wedding reception.
“We came here last year and it just seemed the logical place to do this; to have this celebration in this environment where so much life is celebrated. I hope this can show others acceptance of friends across borders, to show we are all not limited. I hope everybody will understand this – particularly people in Australia,” says Duigu, who was born just three months after PNG’s independence was achieved and is keen to promote the achievements of the Senang Hati Foundation.
Development Acceleration Unit for Papua and West Papua (UP4B)Lt. Gen. (ret) Bambang Dharmono says his team plans to invite representatives of all Papuan people, including separatists, for a dialogue.