Sunday, June 1, 2008

7 Days in Bali (Day 4)

Day 4 in Bali

Gamelan factorySaturday. I declare this to be a day of sloth and relaxation. I don't want to bargain for, photograph or explore anything. Just give me pure rest and hedonism. After breakfast (I don't even recall what sort of "egg any style" I had this morning) I loafed around the hotel lobby catching up on newspapers.

As I read an informative Jakarta Post article about why Gus Dur, the Indonesian President, should not visit Australia, I am conscious of my name being called. I look up to see Wayansu gesticulating from her shop across the road. "Bed cover!", she mouths through cupped hands. I had told her the other day that I wanted to buy a plain bedspread, partly in truth, but largely to get her to put away the selection of sarongs and dresses that she was trying to get me to buy. Little did I think she was going to order a bedspread in. I felt obliged to visit and inspect.

A word about Wayansu. I introduced her earlier as the sister of Dini, a friendly woman who sold a multitude of victuals and assorted wares in her little shop across the road. Wayansu, her elder sister (kakak in Bahasa), operated a nearby clothing shop, a small place with an ordinary collection of (mostly women's) clothes. What Wayansu lacked by way of range and quality of goods she made up for with unabated solicitation. She took up position at the corner of the hotel driveway early each morning, waiting for the guests to emerge. She knew that noone could reach the main street without passing her and she sat on a stone slab near the entrance, waiting for a catch, much like an angler waiting for a fish. I managed most of the time to slip by without being hooked, but this morning she had finessed me by producing an object that she knew I wanted.

Temple statue, Yeh PanesI trudged over to the shop, exchanged the customary pleasantries ("selamat pagi" all around) and waited to be shown her aquisition. Looking very pleased with herself Wayansu produced a bedspread from a large plastic bag. It was (how can I put this gently?) a rather brightly coloured object, covered with flowers, swirls and fiddly bits. I would be denied admittance to my home if I brought it back. "Bed cover" said Wayansu, in case I did not know what it was. "Yes," I replied, "But remember I said I wanted plain one". "Plain one?" echoed Wayansu. "Noooo. This one good one. I get you this one from my friend." How to do this nicely? I tried to explain that I really didn't want anything so colourful, but would look at a plain one if she could get it. Wayansu ignored my statement. "How much?" she asked. "I give you good price. Morning price, for good luck."

Dini and Rika had now joined us and we were also being watched by two young men from the photo shop. They all told me what a beautiful thing this bedspread was and how lucky I was that Wayansu had found it. I diplomatically agreed that it was an aesthetically perfect object, but it simply wasn't what my wife wanted, and they didn't want me to get into trouble with my wife, did they? These protestations were completely ignored and Wayansu clutched my arm and persistently asked "OK, how much you want? How much you want?" It was clear that the only way to bring this unsatisfactory encounter to an end was to walk away, which I did. As I turned Wayansu uttered what I assume to be a string of Balinese epithets, probably directed at my race, gender and parentage. The others tittered and went back to their shops.

So much for my day of relaxation, I thought. Might as well check out progress with my trousers while I am out on the street. Forrest was not there, but his assistant Tommy was. He predicted that the trousers would probably need adjustment, and they did. Not too much. The "jeans style" cut was pretty good, and they just needed to make some minor changes to waist and length. I arranged to come back the following day. I emerged from the tailor and glanced furtively down the lane. I was delighted to see that Wayansu had hooked a couple of other hotel guests. This gave me the opportunity to sneak back to the hotel without another encounter. Pure cowardice on my part, but this was supposed to be a day of rest. She didn't miss my passing, however, giving me a quick "When you come back my sop?" as I edged by. "Later," I lied.

Gamelan instrumentsRetreating to my room, I decided to catch up on my journal. I have only recently taken up the discipline of keeping a travel journal. It was when I tried to recall the details of past trips that I realised how much memory fades over time, so I now make notes as I go. I have found that the best kind of journal is a Winsor and Newton Visual Diary, a stout 120 page booklet consisting of good quality, unruled drawing paper. This makes the diary a little more expensive than a standard exercise book, but being drawing paper, you can use the pages to sketch as well as write. Everything goes into the journal. Notes, scribblings, photographs, menus, travel brochures, receipts, business cards and tickets. They all add up to a mnemonic record of a trip, each article bringing back a memory of a place, a person or an incident. Looking back on a journey, recollections can be triggered not only by the notes you write, but entrance tickets, sales dockets and the like. I even have one of those Balinese napkinettes pasted in the journal. And that reminds me of another necessary tool - a good glue stick to cement in your gathered shards. Don't rely on local glue, bring it with you, along with a good pen or two.

As I pasted in the "Highlights of Bali" brochure, the map of Bali reminded me of our tour guide's likening of the island to a chicken. Not only are the Balinese fond of chickens, he said, whether to eat or to bet on in cock fights, but the whole place physically resembles a chicken. If you look at a map of Bali you can imagine the chicken's head to the left, with its beak near Gilimanuk. The wings are to the north, around Singaraja, the old capital. The area from Negara to Tabanan is the chicken's crop, appropriate because this is an area rich in grain. The stomach and heart are the centre of the island, near the sacred mountain of Batur. The region from Denpasar to Kuta is the chicken's legs, the Bukit its feet. To the west, the Karangasem region is the tail, the coastal indentation near Candi Dasa its sphincter. Finally Nusa Penida is the chicken's egg, fittingly of the chicken, but not really part of it. I am not sure what Tana wanted us to do with this piece of geographical similitude, but it made for a good story. He was full of bon mots like that, and I only hope he will be the guide on tomorrow's tour to Batukau.

The remainder of the day was spent in splendid laziness, reading, snoozing and lying in the sun. In the evening I somewhat guiltily forewent local fare for pizza. I must say that the pizza at Pizza Hut was quite delicious and very filling.

The Indonesian news on TV put me to sleep in no time. Counting the reported conferences was as soporific as counting sheep.

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