From Bali to Fiordland

By Alina Suchanski

From a tropical metropolis of Bandung, Indonesia, yoga teacher Dwi Ajeng made her home in a small town of Te Anau in Fiordland, New Zealand. Alina Suchanski tells the story.

Set among volcanoes and tea plantations is Bandung, capital of Indonesia’s West Java province. This city with a population of 11 million people was the birthplace of Dwi Ajeng Dian Mariani. Her father, Raden Andiman Soepangkat is a Javanese aristocrat and her mother, Edwine Bastians is a teacher of Javanese-Dutch extraction.

“My mum is an amazing person. When I was little, she would bring home poor kids, smelly and dirty, and she’d shower and feed them before sending them home again. For the last ten years, she’s been working at an orphanage with more than 500 children in Kalimantan in Borneo, teaching music. She plays piano, organ, and guitar and also teaches knitting and weaving,” Dwi says.

By Alina Suchanski

From a tropical metropolis of Bandung, Indonesia, yoga teacher Dwi Ajeng made her home in a small town of Te Anau in Fiordland, New Zealand. Alina Suchanski tells the story.

Set among volcanoes and tea plantations is Bandung, capital of Indonesia’s West Java province. This city with a population of 11 million people was the birthplace of Dwi Ajeng Dian Mariani. Her father, Raden Andiman Soepangkat is a Javanese aristocrat and her mother, Edwine Bastians is a teacher of Javanese-Dutch extraction.

“My mum is an amazing person. When I was little, she would bring home poor kids, smelly and dirty, and she’d shower and feed them before sending them home again. For the last ten years, she’s been working at an orphanage with more than 500 children in Kalimantan in Borneo, teaching music. She plays piano, organ, and guitar and also teaches knitting and weaving,” Dwi says.

Dwi has three siblings: an older sister Dian Rosari (48), a brother Alexander Chandra (45), and a twin sister Dwi Ayu Dian Mariana (40).

They grew up in a house surrounded by a garden with fruit trees, vegetables, and a fishpond, where their father – a keen gardener – did most of the work. As children, Dwi and her siblings spent a lot of time outdoors, roaming the surrounding mountains with friends, on foot or by bicycle, gaining strength and learning independence and resilience.

“Our parents didn’t impose boundaries or strict discipline, but gave us a lot of freedom. We grew up with no electronic devices and had to make our own fun. We played simple games, like ‘tokle’, which is a stick game. You dig a hole in the ground, place a stick across the top and flick it up with another stick. The person who catches the stick wins and gets to flick another stick,” Dwi remembers.

She went to a catholic primary school and a private high school. While still at high school, she met a boy, five years her senior and they fell in love. Her mother, however, thought Dwi was too young for a relationship and when her daughter finished high school, she sent her to Germany for further education.

“I was in Germany for six months, but I missed my boyfriend. Without telling Mum I went back to Indonesia and met my boyfriend in Bali,” Dwi confesses.

Dwi in her surfing days with Rip Curl in Bali

This act of teenage rebellion brought an abrupt end to the carefree life of the 18-year-old girl now forced to face the harsh realities of life. The couple were living together and were both working hard. Dwi got a job as a surfing instructor at Rip Curl, one of the largest multinational surfing companies in the world. She had no contact with her family except for her twin sister, Dwi Ayu.

“We were very close, so I told her I was in Bali,” she says.

Meanwhile Dwi’s mother was beside herself with worry. She was notified that her daughter left the school in Germany, but nobody knew where she went. She kept searching and asking anyone who knew Dwi about her whereabouts. Under pressure, Dwi Ayu let out that her sister was in Bali. With a population of nearly 5 million people, it would require a miracle to find someone there without knowing where to look.

Edwine went to Kuta – Bali’s famous tourist centre located on a beautiful beach – and walked door to door with a photo of her daughter, searching for her, until one day she knocked on Dwi’s door.

“I was nine months pregnant at the time. When I opened the door and saw my mum, at first, I was so shocked that I shut the door in her face, but a moment later I reopened it and we looked at each other, hugged and we both cried and cried.” The memory brings tears to Dwi’s eyes.

Dwi married her sweetheart and they had three children: Jassie, Salvatore, and Velocette. When Salvatore was born the couple moved back to Bandung, where Dwi started to work as a florist, making flower arrangements for large hotels and weddings. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t survive and after seven years together the couple separated.

Dwi went back to Bali to work for Rip Curl and was offered a job as a scuba diving instructor. After completing her dive master certification, she taught an introductory diving course for two years.

“I love sport. I did karate and basketball. Later I got into surfing, kayak-surfing, body-boarding, and snorkelling. I tried all water sports,” she enthuses.

But life often brings unexpected twists and turns.

Her love of sport nearly killed her when she had a diving accident. One time while she was free-diving, she felt pressure and pain in her ears and she panicked. “My ears hurt so badly, I thought they’d burst out,” she says.

She came up too fast and started bleeding from her nose and ears. Diagnosed with the decompression disease, she was taken to hospital. When the doctor forbade her from diving or engaging in any water sport, she turned to snowboarding.

To keep up her fitness she went to a gym, but didn’t like it because it was indoors. However, it was at the gym that she met two people who changed her life. One of them was a yoga teacher, Manohara who ran classes in the same building. Dwi noticed one of his classes and decided to join in. “I really loved his lessons. He was a wise man and I enjoyed talking to him. After a while he asked me if I’d like to be a yoga teacher,” she says.

Bali is the only Hindu-majority province in Muslim-majority Indonesia, with almost 90% of the population adhering to Balinese Hinduism. It is the Hindu tradition that yoga philosophy is based on, so it was little wonder that Dwi became instantly attracted to the idea of delving into yoga theory and practice.

Dwi Ajeng in the Splits yoga pose

She spent four months at the Ananda Marga ashram and yoga school in Bali where Manohara was one of the teachers. Her spiritual guru, who was teaching meditation at the ashram, bestowed on her the name ‘Aloka’ meaning ‘vision’ in Sanskrit. The yoga teacher course was very intense and both physically and emotionally demanding.

It was at the same gym which started her on her yoga path, that Dwi met Chris, an Australian marine maintenance engineer who took a shine to her. He had lived in Bali for 20 years running a boat transfer business. With Chris’ support and encouragement she finished her course, becoming a qualified yoga instructor.

After completing her yoga training, Dwi started to run classes at a large hotel, but wanted to open her own yoga studio. As luck would have it, her surfing buddy had a coffee shop called Mai Malu Café in a two-storey building in Denpasar, the provincial capital of Bali.

Dwi with her yoga mat on the beach in Bali

“I rented the room above his café, painted a big mandala on the wall and advertised my own Mai Malu Yoga Studio on Facebook. Lots of people came to the opening,” she says.

Initially Dwi was the only teacher, but as the popularity of her studio grew, two of her yoga teacher friends joined her. The business was going well.

She also had a small accommodation business in Sanur, Bali, named ‘Little Tree House’, which over time grew from one to five villas on the beach. To get the best out of her two businesses, Dwi combined them and started running Aloka Yoga Retreats. She worked hard for four years, teaching six yoga classes per day, every day. “I was meeting a lot of amazing people from around the world. I really enjoyed it. It was a good business, but I didn’t think about the money. The job was so rewarding,” says Dwi.

Eventually this busyness became too much, and she needed a break.

Chris and Dwi wanted to travel, and she picked New Zealand, because of her love of the mountains. Chris got a job with Real Journeys, a Fiordland tourist company. That’s how they landed in Te Anau.

It was a big culture shock to move from 1-million-citizen Denpasar – renowned for its highly developed arts including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leathers, metalworking and music – to Te Anau with a population of 2500 and Fiordland Cinema as its only place of entertainment. But despite Fiordland’s remoteness, low population, and much colder climate, Dwi says she likes Te Anau. “It’s quite different from Bali, very small and quiet. For me it’s my detoxing place,” she declares.

Her children, now aged 19, 18 and 17, came to New Zealand for a holiday with their mum. They went on a tour around the South Island, where the highlight for her was visiting Mt Cook.

Dwi discovered Te Anau Yoga Inc. on Facebook and joined the ranks of its teachers. Her classes, which combine Hatha yoga with a relaxing massage became an instant success.

She misses Indonesian food and always takes a small bottle of chili sauce when she goes out for a meal. She’s impressed with how little prejudice she saw in Aotearoa against the Māori and other cultures. “I have respect for New Zealand’s efforts to integrate different cultures and show no racism. Everyone is treated as equal in this country,” she says.

Dwi has worked hard to become part of the small Te Anau community. As well as teaching yoga, she’s worked at local restaurants. She has also taught yoga in Queenstown and Invercargill, travelling two hours each way to get to her classes. She has made many friends and earned respect and admiration from those who were fortunate to meet her.

 

 

Sources: 1. Bandung & 2. Bali, Wikipedia