NEW YORK—Claus von Ronnex-Printz has a smooth, youthful face, one that would not have revealed his age if it weren’t for his ivory goatee.
“If you are happy, then you look younger,” he said.
Ronnex-Printz watches people passing by his booth, where he sells Indonesian arts and crafts at the Union Square Holiday Market.
His neighboring business owners eye passing customers closely. But Ronnex-Printz, 58, keeps up a mellow demeanor. He occasionally scrapes his “ribbiting frog,” a wooden frog made from Bali monkeypod trees that produces frog sounds when scratched.
People stop in their tracks and stare. Ronnex-Printz lets out a resounding laugh and starts conversations with customers.
Ronnex-Printz is not a religious man, but he believes in karmic connections.
“Everything you encounter is related to karma,” he said. “Our existence isn’t about waiting for the afterlife. Karma is something to be concerned with in this life.”
He said good things happen to people who have respect for other people. There’s no need to vie.
He and his wife are not eager to make a booming fortune.
His wife had left a computer programming job to start their small business, Bali Made, while Ronnex-Printz ended a 15-year-career as a documentary journalist.
Ronnex-Printz and his wife could be making more money, but they are content with selling local Bali goods because they know they are providing a market for Indonesian villagers.
They opened up shop in 2000, shortly after they met in Bali.
Ronnex-Printz and his wife visited poor villages in Indonesia, and felt compelled to start a fair trade business.
“I ask them how much is their selling price, how much they need to take care of a village,” Ronnex-Printz said.
They sell clove ornaments made by blind Balinese villagers who use a metal mesh to feel while putting the cloves and pearls on, he explained.
“It is important to support the social causes of that local community,” he said. “It’s not just because we are kindhearted. It’s bad karma if you don’t.”
What Bali Does to People
He met his wife in Bali on New Year’s, where he spent the night before on a black sand beach. When the sun rose the next morning, he turned to his right and found a beautiful woman sitting next to him.
“There was a vibration in the air, something I cannot quite explain,” he said. “ I just knew she was the one.”
He had gone to Bali to film a documentary on green turtles for the World Wildlife Fund, while his wife was on a 14-day trip as a tourist. The two ended up staying in Bali for four and a half months.
“That’s what Bali does to people,” he said. “It is a powerful place filled with different alignments. It’s amazing what people experience here.”
Childhood in a Danish Castle
Ronnex-Printz was born in Copenhagen, but he grew up in a castle in Northern Denmark.
When Germany occupied Denmark during World War II, his grandmother converted their home into a safe house for Jews in Copenhagen.
After the war, his grandmother decided their family needed to go somewhere far away and start anew.
So they moved to the island of Fyn, where they lived in a castle. It was called the Koerup Castle. His grandmother rented the castle out as a hotel for 15 years.
And that was where Ronnex-Printz grew up: a childhood filled with exploration, adventures in forests, and caves on the island.
As a teenager, Ronnex-Printz realized his ideal career would be in journalism. He was interested in the pursuit of freedom, and enjoyed talking with people very much.
He was a documentary journalist for 15 years, working for news agencies such as the national broadcast of Denmark.
His reporting brought him to the crisis in Israel, jungles in South America, and sweatshops that used child labor in Bangladesh.
Ronnex-Printz recalled seeing 4-year-old boys being forced to dismantle alkaline batteries, as acid burned their swollen fingers. He recalled seeing child prostitutes and dead children in the streets.
“That memory burns,” he said. “It sits in your brain.”
But he thinks of these grim memories as a catalyst for empathy.
“We all feel pain. But after you feel pain, you understand how to not bring pain to other people,” Ronnex-Printz said.