I woke up late this morning, having had but one small beer at a bar in Seminyak last night. Walking out of the house I looked up and saw the high billowing, brilliant clouds that are the hallmark of tropical islands. I realize with another quizzical smile that, by some really convoluting twists of fate that I actually live and work here. Much more fortunate than the English guy who gets to live on a semi-deserted paradise island in the Barrier Reef.
The shrine and offering stones in the enclosed garden here are bereft and abandoned. The grace and beauty of offering flowers to propitiate the local gods is such a delight that I'm tempted to ask Wayan, my across-the-street neighbor, if she would be so kind as to feed the gods at the same time she comes to clean house every morning.
As always, the sun is high in the sky by an early hour. At 10am it has already struck shrine that sits on a platform above the garage space in the house diagonally opposite mine - its everdark stone a strong contrast to the clean blue sky behind.
I have some work to do in the office. Once done I bike over to the laundry stall to pick up my last batch of laundry. As I walked up, the woman attending the stall jumped up from the mattress on which she had been lying, suckling her young infant. The baby refused to let go, mewling when she tried to adjust her garb so as to maintain modesty while letting the baby continue to suckle and serving me at the same time. It was an effort she barely managed.
Four shirts, one T-shirt and two pairs of socks and two pairs of underwear, all done in a day and costing 17,000 rupiah - about 1.80 USD. I think its does elsewhere too, as the listing of items has a laundry in Denpasar marked on it. Not bad at all.
I returned some minutes later with the next batch. This time the old crone who was there the first time had returned. I saluted her with 'Siang!' (afternoon!) and shook her hand, as I would in other cultures. Seems to work - she cackled with humor and said something in Balinese to the same attendant.
Another scramble from mattress, but this time without baby attached. My bran is elsewhere and I actually take the bag of laundry back in my hands, so she has to lunge out and take them from me. The old woman reeled back in mirth. I'm getting terrifyingly forgetful...
I decided to see if I could find my own way to the bungalow I will be renting from the end of next week. It lies in a complex of small bungalows just off Jalan ---, the road that heads to Denpasar. I missed the entrance the first time, but carried on for a kilometer or so more as the road itself was a delight of artisan stores of all types and manners. Wooden carvings jostled with stone relief, ceramics, furniture. All for the local market and export. Behind the soft, dark browns of sun bronzed carvings, verdant fields of rice grass growing tall, palms curving their frond heavy trunks in the light wind and the constant light, bright blue of the sky behind.
Reluctantly, the road being so interesting, I turned around and headed back to find the entry to the bungalow complex. Found it second time around, headed in, located the bungalow I'm to stay in and introduced myself to my future over-the-way neighbor, who was most bemused by the immediacy and intrepid style of my walking up and saying 'Hi!".
I biked over Sunset Road down Jalan ----, over the intersection with Raya Seminyak and headed for the Cosa Nostra pizzeria, as I was hungry and tempted to see if their pizzas were any good, given there is a large pizza oven installed in the corner. Maybe its the time of day, but yet again there was no one seated and eating. So I decided 'not today' and headed back up the street, past the bars and towards Raya Seminyak.
The cellphone rang, I pulled over and as I did so two women seated at a table at the Warung Austria called out 'its your girlfriend!' It was Ilham, so they were way off. Call over, since the two women were still joshing "you like sweet girl? or you like a beer?" It was done with such a humorous touch I asked them "hey you still serving food?" "Yes we are" "Good, Im hungry!"
Went for grilled chicken and french fries, along with lemon juice and a 'Copi Bali', which is the local mix of roast coffee and maize. Rough but flavorsome. Katie, the younger of the two, decided to sit herself opposite me and ask the usual - where from, how long will i stay in Bali, do i like it ... At the end the conversation was about culture, origins of Europeans, difference between the gods and God, beauty in Brasil and the cost of becoming a ladyboy in Thailand.
We also talked of how Moslems and Islam is viewed in the world, Katie and Lulu both being moslem. As I find everywhere, there is always great frustration that Westerners they meet are so fearful and suspicious of anyone moslem - that all are blamed for the actions of the few. The feeling of raw injustice is everpresent. Lulu, the elder, chimed in with her thoughts from time to time but it was Katie who led the conversation.
Katie comes from Lombok, the island to the east of Bali (Lulu too, I think). Pleasantly beautiful and quite alive, Katie came across to Bali three months ago to look for something 'better' than in Lombok, which is a little surprising as Lombok's tourism is growing also nowadays. Better turns out to be a waitress in bistro owned by an Austrian and managed by quite a hard faced woman, who turned up during the course of my lunch. Katie is intelligent and interested in the world: I hope she does better than where she is right now.
After lunch I went in search of the facial and massage parlor, the owner of which I had met yesterday evening. No luck - the address was a fiction and another turned out to be a restaurant. I gave up and went shopping in the Bintang supermarket instead, buying stuff to keep me going another day.