Dissecting the Present

I saw this warning notice regarding touts on the back of a slick brochure for local tourist company Krishna Bali Tour:

“Please make a call direct by your self to have the true information and avoid diverting to the other personal. Some case happen because of diverting that make you feel disappointed and you blame us for the problem that we never done. Beware to the person who act and pretend helping you to contact us but you will never know with whom you are reserved”

Bali is an island of tourism.  And it is chock full of tourists, nearly 3 million per year.  But, according to this article, tourists are stingier than they used to be.  In the past an average visitor spent 300 dollars per day, but now that average has dropped to 100 dollars. 

Well, we aren’t spending less for lack of their trying to get us to spend more!  In the comments section of the above article, Lisa had said this to say about the relentless advertising:

“I am tired of being harassed by Bali shopkeepers and taxi drivers. This is the real reason I don’t want to spend any money in Bali. It has been ruined by overzealous touts. In 10 minutes I am harassed by over 30 different offers to look in their shop or for "taxi" or "transport". This why I don’t want to spend any money here.”

Lisa might be slightly exaggerating by saying in 10 minutes she has over 30 different offers, but not by much.  By my count, in one stretch of walking I was solicited for various services 27 times.  Not counting the dozen or so taxi’s who honked their horns at me in passing to let me know they were available.

But I can’t complain.  This time in Bali has been brief, just several days, but they’ve been pretty laid back.  Yesterday just hung out in the water most the day.  It is excruciatingly hot here.  Gotta be over 100.  Tried surfing and caught some waves.  Even was able to stand up.  Once.  It was a lot of fun and I wouldn’t mind doing that more sometime.

The last couple days I’ve mainly eaten local dishes.  Spicy soup-like stuff with various rices, noodles, chicken, and herbs plus who knows what all else.  Fresh cold tea from glass bottles.  Even tried a local desert of crushed ice mixed with avocados, pineapples and other local tropical fruits.  Topping off all this culinary delight I’m back to eating my diarrhea medication.

So later today I have two more flights.  Flying with the Brown family – our flights go through the night.  Then, tomorrow morning we land in Papua (formely Irian Jaya) where I’ll be for an undetermined amount of time…

Bali Walee

A Million Motorbikes.  “Taxi?” 

Oppressive heat.  “Taxi?” 

Short Statured Locals.  “Taxi?” 

Bali, a Pacifica Isle.  “Taxi?” 

No, I don’t want a taxi.

After five flights and a two day layover in Italy, I made it to Bali, Indonesia.  Now just two more flights to my final destination: the mountains of Irian Jaya where I’ll spend a month (or two) with a missionary couple through New Tribes Missions.

A plane unceremoniously yanked me from African culture to European.  Then another from European culture to Asian.  The total flight time from Italy to Bali was fifteen hours.  I’m caught up on my movie watching now for a lifetime…  and for the record, while Matt Daemon has been in some entertaining movies, he has also been in some lame movies too. 

Arriving in a new culture is always awkward.  Little things tend to throw me off…  like the driving on the left side of the road (and walking on the left side of the sidewalk).  The differences in language (Italian was similar to Spanish so I actually understood a little, but Balineese is all jibber jabber).  The shift in modes of public transportation (hitchhiking in Israel, busses in Egypt, minivans in Africa, motorcycles here).  The time difference… I’m now thirteen hours ahead of home.  The ridiculous currency rates (here in Bali 1 US Dollar equals nearly 10,000 Rupiah).  Sewage running underneath the sidewalks and the sidewalks having large chunks of concrete missing from them (which can throw you off quite literally as happened to me walking one night in Nairobi). 

When I quit my job last summer I bought a cheap, simple watch from Wal-Mart (it only tells time) and hoped it would last through my month staffing at Turkey Hill. Now, nearly a year later, it is still ticking! but unfortunately the time adjustment knob broke off in Egypt. Therefore, while in Ethiopia and Kenya I always added one hour to what my watch said. After awhile I got used to it and there was no big deal (though I felt sorry for the folks sitting next to me in public transport who would lean over and check the time by my watch and consequently do a double-take). Now, however, I have to add six hours to whatever my watch says, which is more confusing. Oh well, the brain is flexible. But to think, there are people who own watches so sophisticated as to have preset buttons just for time-zone adjustment!

Wasn’t sure what to expect landing in Bali and I was surprised.  Though that in itself is not surprising seeing as I’m probably one of the only people ever to fly into Bali without knowing where he was going or having done even an ounce of research into the place.  I did check the currency conversion rate in advance, but that was about it.

Coming in from the air, the first thing I noticed was we were landing on an island.  And not a very big island either, I could see the whole thing.  Since the airport is right on the water, the landing coming in was scary.  We kept getting closer and closer to the ocean and when it looked like we were skimming the waves and I had pulled out my safety card reviewing how to inflate my life vest, we suddenly punched through a tree line and crashed into the runway.  Ok, so we didn’t actually crash, just landed.

My two main preconceptions of Indonesia were 1) poverty and 2) Islam.  Turns out (for Bali at least), neither are true.  Most of the some 4 million inhabitants of Bali are Hindu, and the island is awash in money since it is the premier tourist destination for Indonesia.  I’m sure there are poor here, but the infrastructure at least is quite developed.

Even with the moolah floating around here on trees, that still doesn’t mean they know how to put together a functional bathroom.  In my experiences with developing nations, I’ve observed the most difficult aspect for them to get done correctly is the Jon.  For example, at the hotel I stayed last night my toilet had issues.  Then at the hotel I’m staying tonight (one notch higher) the faucet sink leaks… but at least the toilet here works and there is even the luxury of a shower curtain (quite unusual that, shower curtains are a distinctly US phenomena).

Balineese folks seem friendly and even speak a leetle eenglish.  “Taxi?” 

So taxi wanabees are everywhere.  I find the real taxis expensive (contrary to what I heard from an unreliable source in Italy) but somehow that doesn’t surprise me as they drive what appear to be brand-new vehicles.  My official airport driver yesterday had a thickish diamond ring around one finger and a thickish golden chain around his neck and was overall dressed like J. Crew.  He stopped to ask directions multiple times, and though these visits were at times lengthy he never once shut off his car.  I couldn’t help contrast this with the taxi I rode last week in Nairobi where the poor bloke in a rattle trap cruiser cut his engine at every red light.

Now I’m off to try finding a barber and get a haircut.  I already dropped off my dirty clothes this morning at a nearby Laundromat.  It wasn’t a self-serve establishment, they do everything.  And “everything” is supposed to be done by tomorrow.  Takes 24 hours apparently to get clothes washed around here.  Mom does a sight better than that, but she is inconveniently located at 9,584 miles away (I just Googled it). 

Saying I dropped off all my dirty clothes is the same as saying I dropped off all my clothes.  Except for what I’m wearing: a pair of shorts and a shirt I’m planning to throw away tomorrow after picking up my laundry. 

Oh, and the cost for cleaning clothes here is by the weight, which is a new one.  15,000 Rupiah per kilogram.

Yes, the currency is ridiculous.  “Why, I’d like a coke please.”  “No problem, that will only set you back 8,000 Rupiah.”  “What?!  That much for a measly coke?”