Bali, Hi - Eight months in Bali

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Temple at the Monkey ForestA couple of months ago I saw a posting on an email list about some cottages on Bali that were being offered cheap for long-term lease. Well, cheap by San Francisco rates, where annual rents equal the gross national product of, well, Bali. I answered on a whim. The next thing I know I'm taxiing down the runway at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpassar, Bali for a six-month stay in the rice paddies. Did I say six months?

Part I
We're all Wayans on this tour bus

You can really tell a lot about a country by how they greet you when you get off the airplane. In Hawaii they smile, put a lei around your neck, and you know your stay will be pleasant. In Taipei the first thing you see when you get off the plane is a big sign that says: ďDrug trafficking is punishable by death in the R.O.C.Ē Now thatís what I call a drug policy. On Bali you stand in line with 3,298 Aussie tourists sweating. Get used to it. The sweating and the Aussie tourists.

Part II
Welcome to the 'hood

Traffic here is incredible. And I had the hardest time getting used to the money. But at least Iíve learned to raise my eyebrows to say ďHiĒ instead of waving, which is how they do it here. If I come back to the states walking in a crouch, smoking a cigar, and raising my eyebrows at everyone on the street donít be alarmed, just try to cast me in a remake of Duck Soup.

Quit monkeying aroundPart III
When in Bali, do as the monkeys do

As you enter the Monkey Forest the first thing you see are big signs telling you not to feed the monkeys. Sitting beneath them are women selling plastic bags of small bananas so you can feed the monkeys. I saw monkeys playing, monkeys eating, a monkey drinking out of a water bottle it probably stole from someone, and a couple of them having sex. Yes, there was hot monkey love going on in the temple.

Part IV
This is only an alert. Right?

Thereís nothing like being in another country and getting an official government email that says, ďThe Department of State is extremely concerned about the possibility for violent actions against United States citizens.Ē Sure some American sailors were killed by terrorists in Yemen, but is that any reason to try to get my sarong in a knot? I feel safe here. How could you not with so many shrines everywhere? Besides, we have Sun Go Kong, The King of the Monkeys!

Come on baby, light my firePart V
Living la vida local

Iíve been adopted by a Balinese family. I was only here about ten days when my landlord Kadek invited me to his villageís cremation ceremony because his mother was one of those being cremated. Burning things is a popular pastime here. They burn the rice fields, they burn the trash, they even burn my laundry. I'm one of them now. Except I don't throw my trash everywhere.

Part VI
I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

It's amazing how you can get used to being in a developing Third World nation. Sort of. The electricity goes out pretty much every day. The telephones are pretty reliable, though god help you if you want one installed. And the Internet, well, letís just say it exists.  But at least plenty of things are "Export Quality."

Part VII
Give us this day, our daily rice

It's Thanksgiving and there are no turkeys to be found. If I wanted to be like the Balinese I'd eat nasi campur three times a day with my hands. But I think I'll stick with Chee-tos chicken grill flavor. After all, the package says: ďChester Cheetah makin kerin aja! Chee-tos Snack yangÖ.KREESSH!Ē and that's good enough for me.

Goa GajahPart VIII
Is that your final answer?

The favorite game here is Dua Puluh Pertanyaan or Twenty Questions. You can be anywhere, minding your own business, and someone youíve never seen in your life will walk up to you and ask, ďWhere are you going? Where have you been? Where do you live? Are you married? How old are you? Do you have any children? You want transport?Ē Itís not that the Balinese are nosy, theyíre just curious. Okay, theyíre nosy.

Part IX
I'm dreaming of a white rice Christmas

Itís a couple of days before Christmas and thereís little question itís going to be a non-event. What do you expect on a Hindu island in a Muslim country? Of course we can always hope that Santa will drop off some hot Balinese woman who doesnít want an instant family or a green card, but the truth is Iíd have a better chance of running into Richard Simmons, Jr. sarong shopping on Jalan Raya.

Part X
So many palm trees, so few dates

There are three caste systems on Bali: the traditional one, the one for prices, and the strictest, most inflexible, and inequitable one: the social dating castes. It's not easy being a male tourist around here. I'm starting to think I'm a member of the outcast.

Part XI
Lake BaturDon't start the revolution without me
Iíve been here four and a half out of my six months and Iím trying to figure out what to do next -- stay here for another month or two, go to Chiang Mai, Thailand, head back to the U.S. or, well, something else. But how can I leave now? I might get the chance to be around when a government is overthrown!

Part XII
Size may not matter, but sometimes longer is better

Iím extending my six-month stay. It might be because the time has flown by and I havenít gotten around to doing half the things I intended on doing. It could be that as bad as the infrastructure is here the power still doesnít go out as often as it has been in California. But I suspect itís actually because I have a nickname now.

Part XIII
Oops!....I did it again

Iím in Singapore General Hospital, laying on a gurney in the observation area of the Emergency Room with an I.V. in my arm, when La Vie En Rose comes over the PA system. Whatís wrong with this picture?

An oga-oga on Balinese New YearPart XIV
Strangeness in a strange land

It's hard to say who's stranger, the Balinese, the tourists, or the expats. One calls the traditional healer on the handphone to see about having a black magic spell removed. Another pays to play Whack-a-Mole with the dolphins. And the last, well, sometimes they decide to start a cult. Or at least one did, anyway.


Part XV
Bali, Bye!

After 8Ĺ months I finally left. That was 2Ĺ months longer than I intended, 6Ĺ months longer than Iíve stayed anywhere else during the past four years, and if my math skills havenít deteriorated from the heat, humidity, and mildew, eight months longer than I thought Iíd make it during my first week there. There are definitely things I'll miss. And things I won't.

 


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  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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