After an extensive and lonely sojourn from you, I’ve come back from my vacation reinvigorated and ready to write again.. On my travels with a tulip, we encountered many new faces, familiar faces and each other’s faces. The stories, events, meals, conversations, and experiences were fantastic. We got to see so much, do so much, and still find time to party the right parties.. Just some thoughts scribbled down..
“Malaria’s not so bad” he tells me, in a “tumbler with some ice cubes, soda and a squeeze of lime.” I hesitantly laugh while my fingers continue to scratch away at the welts pussing mosquito puss from my skin. I have been in Bali for three days and have already invited the burgeoning insect populace to feast on my blood, skin, scent, whatever it is those bastards find so appealing in me.. The tulip accompanying me swears in her sweet sounding language, cursing their antennas, legs, pincers and whatever makes them, them.. Rubbing me down in Citronella she consoles me to brave the tropical air and enjoy my time.. I reign in my anxiety, polish off the glass of ethyl and ice, bid our conversation goodbye and thank modern medicine for the soothing effects of anti-anxiety medication.
Although pleased with our neighborhood eateries and nightlife, we take a shabby recommendation from a shabby cab driver, and saunter over to inspect the harassing vendors, taxi drivers, questionable warungs, pushers and pimps by Kuta beach.. The economy is recovering from the recent tragic events but the numbers are still hurting – a fact evident in the aggressiveness of the vendors we stroll by.. “psst hey, somesit?” we continue to walk, a little shocked at how beautiful parts of this island are and how crowded and toursitically depressing this bit is.. You do what you have to do, and if it’s roping in the dumb tourists and making 5 times profit on a sale, then so be it. “Yes?? Transport? Taxi? Somesit?” what the hell is he saying? Ibu heads into stores and by touch distinguishes the cotton sarongs from the blends, but our bargaining skills have not yet developed. “Hello you buy? Sarong? T-shirt? Dvd? You come you look you buy, I give very special price, you come, you handsome, you come and look, you buy pretty girl pretty sarong, only 250 thousand rupiah”. Getting frustrated by the congested streets we soldier on looking for something to attract our eyes.. “heycoolguy, somesit?” I stop and turn, what the hell is he saying? Finally it dawns upon me, this shady looking fellow is trying to see if I’d like to procure some (“some shit”) in this dark and dodgy alley he’s directing me to.. Politely turning down his offer i march on. We were not happy being lumped in with the same category of tourists snapping their photos standing on streets and getting eyed by the local sellers – however, we never once felt our safety being compromised in any way or form.. Thankfully, finding a recognizable internationally branded star bucks did make the trip worthwhile; Gulping our afternoon pickmeups in our cab ride back, we were very pleased with our quaint and hip Seminyak.
After our flirtations with a Batik factory, stalls of “justloooking,” shot in the dark lunches, and feastings on the strangest of nuts - crackers – seeds – legumes - drupes and capsules, we make our way to the mountain village of Sidemen. The drive moved us away from the more developed towns through little townships and then farm country. Through the windiest of roads, stomach curling ups and downs and narrow paths Mr. Putu gets us to our little hotel, a charming little project blessed with breathtaking views of the valley, rice paddies, the mountains and the sea on a clear day. I lament the lack of air conditioning or fan in our room, worry continuously over the abundance of insects in here and yet still enjoy the view, the fresh air and where I am. Our traveling companions (2 New Yorkers harboring the same apprehensions about insect bites as me), ibu and myself embark on a trek with a guide through the rice paddies in which I get my entire foot stuck in a muddy paddy. Trying not to think on what I just stepped in, the guide led me down to the river where I washed my foot… Coming from an arid climate, it felt good standing on some rocks, submerging my foot in the rushing waters of the Unda river. The whole experience just reminded me of a lot of different scenarios of washing by the river, mainly a story my dad used to tell us when we were kids. Waking up the morning after a couple of bintangs, a vegetarian dinner and a whole lot of mosquito coil smoke filling the room felt even groggier than your traditional hangover – mosquito coil smoke is tough on the noggin.
Traveling with a photographer was an experience and a lesson.. Ibu whipped out her 8 mega-pixel monster and shoved it in the faces of the locals happily snapping away. In an attempt to ease my fears, she would contest “They are extremely camera friendly, don’t worry” to which my reply would be molded around a possible scenario of some very agrarian locals living in the most basic of huts on a rice paddy wielding their machetes because some foreigner got in their faces.. Breaking away from our hike I would have to trek back and onto someone’s farm while she stood their taking national geographic photos of farmers going about their day.. or when I’d have to give the school teacher an apologetic nod because ibu was being mobbed by all these school kids who wanted their photo taken “HELLO!!PHOTO!!” Although I did share some of the photo taking duties, I was constantly reprimanded for my misuse of light.. All that aside, without her incessant searching for the perfect picture or possible future project, I don’t think I would’ve come home with so many great shots, and for the record, I did take some nice pictures – especially the ruins at the Ujung palace – I manipulated the light and bitch slapped it into the perfect shot...
I became the proud father of two frogs that lived in our outdoor bathroom.. I even named them, Hamzah and Mamdooh.. We had such a great time together, greeting me every time I went to take a leak or shower, those two swimming around, croaking about – I even sang to them while I took a shower and for the most part they liked my voice. Then when the weekend came around I cut them some slack and extended their curfew, but Hamza never came home, I started getting really worried by Saturday evening.. Then come Sunday morning and Mamdooh was nowhere to be seen either, his favorite spot was bare.. Let me tell you, trying to raise two frogs right is a full time job.. you do your best, then one day you wake up and find out that they never came home from the night before probably out drinking with the frogs from the cale villa, I never liked that bunch to begin with. I knew they would eventually outgrow the peeing on the lillypads and tadpole insecurities, but it was just so sudden, just so sudden,,, sigh..
snippets: Learning the requisite lingo before you go really helps with the locals, don’t worry if you don’t remember much, end of the day, we all speak the same language: futbol. The best way to eat strange fruit is to have a local show you how to cut it up and what to eat and what not to eat. The best way to overcome the shyness of traveling with someone you’re intimately involved with but haven’t really crossed that line, you both need to experience a little Bali Belly together. You should never feel too bad about wanting something familiar while you’re on holiday, especially if it’s from an overpriced global coffee chain. When you learn how to say I don’t want chili in my food in the local language, they actually listen (“Saya Tidak Mau Cabe”), most of the time.
all in all, a wonderful time