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Bali break yields a lifelong friendship

Thursday, 1st March, 2012

FIRM FRIENDS: Chris and Shirley Malthouse consider Balinese friend Wawan Yudiwanta part of the family. FIRM FRIENDS: Chris and Shirley Malthouse consider Balinese friend Wawan Yudiwanta part of the family.

By Erica Visser

When Chris and Shirley Malthouse first visited Bali some years ago they never thought the trip would lead to a lifelong connection with a man thaat the couple now consider “like family”.

Balinese local, Wawan Yudiwanta, was working at the motel where Chris and Shirley stayed during their trip and the three “just clicked”.

Four years on and Chris and Shirley have paid to fly Wawan to Australia where he will stay at their home until Saturday before three spend two weeks in Adelaide sight-seeing.

“About four years ago we went to Bali and the motel we stayed at, Wawan was the duty manager there,” Chris said.

“He made us feel very welcome. Wawan showed us around and was very friendly.

“We’ve been back about five times in the last few years and he’s like family to us now.”

Sitting in the Malthouse family home it is easy to tell Chris isn’t exaggerating.

Pictures of Wawan’s children hang in the living room and Shirley has already packed two suitcases full of toys and other gifts to send to Bali.

Chris and Shirley informally sponsored Wawan and his family - wife Arini and sons Deedan (6) and Joddy (2) - and the chance to finally play host to their long-distance friend has a surreal sense about it.

“We’re very happy to have him here. We’re starting to do some sight-seeing, Chris is even taking him underground to the mines,” Shirley said.

“It’s like a cultural exchange...or a cultural experience. In Bali they’ll bend over backwards to help you and we wanted to give something back, to return the hospitality.”

Wawan said that he had always wanted to visit Australia. He had never been overseas and strict laws meant that organising a visa and the flight was difficult, even with Chris and Shirley’s support.

“I always wanted to come to Australia but I did not think I would before. I didn’t have the sponsorship,” Wawan said.

Wawan said that the outback was not far off what he expected and does not appear too shocked by the cultural differences - the view from the Malthouse’ front yard is saltbush and red dirt, while back home it is of “pure jungle” and even a volcano.

Shirley beamed as she spoke of plans to bring the rest of Wawan’s family to the country and, of course, the Silver City.

“It’s really hard to put it into words...we’re just really happy,” she said.

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