Friday, August 31, 2007

Under blue moon I saw you / So soon you'll take me

One of the joys of being in this little corner of paradise is that people come and people go. We have visitors in other words.

Some of course you’d rather not see…there was the former friend, invited over a couple of years back, to stay in our spare room, who announced the day she arrived that her sister was also coming, uninvited, to stay. And arrive she did, and was mighty demanding. The two of them sat in our garden demanding drinks, fruit and coffee until we politely suggested that the bus to Ubud was leaving rather shortly. A free room does all sorts of things to people. That smiling face in Auckland town becomes the freeloader from hell in Bali.

Goodbye and good riddance.

It’s a common complaint amongst we inhabitants of the outer fringes of Expatria (we are happily on the outer fringes and only visit the often crasser inner sanctum when we need a meal or a drink, feel the need to show said visitor around…you need to go there but only once)…the visitor who turns up, vaguely invited in a giving moment, who then won’t go away. We know of people who’ve had guests for three months (the change in the tourist visas to 30 days might have been a classic Indonesian trying to bureaucratically bite the hand that feeds move, like the VOA fee, but it has its upside).

Fortunately we seem to be past all that…we can only hope. In the past two years the visitors have been all dandy, although we don’t offer the spare room as readily. Its selective.

pear shapedYep, in June-July we had the annual parental, which is all good, and the last two months have had Renee and Phil through on their delayed honeymoon (although staying in Kuta), and now our Noosa contingent (ok they’re New Zealanders), Blake and Sandra, here for B’s big 40th……

Which meant fun, laughing, trips to Nusa Lembongan and Ubud, far too much drinking, eating and the rest, for the best part of two good weeks.

And then it all went horribly pear shaped.

First, young Sandra, after a couple of Bintangs at lunch, decided to head-butt an elderly Indonesian man at Makro, the hypermarket where we buy our coffee, milk and, uh…, Bintangs, amongst other things. Around the corner she goes and then BAM!, head on, into the poor old bloke, minding his own business looking for the soap or shaving cream or something I imagine…and it was the blood drawing sort of head-butt, like a billy goat, not just the nasty headache kind.

Blake, being a caring sort, rushed over to attend to the guy, inadvertently adding insult to injury by rubbing the man on his forehead, an absolute cultural no-no in Indonesia, and a grave insult. He groaned loudly then stagged away down the isle in the direction of the breakfast cereals, clearly very shaken. I’m sure I recognised his face a day or so later on the front page of a local Indonesian paper waved thru our car window…with a neck brace.

It gets worse though.

A day later we go to Denpasar to buy some of the ridiculously cheap Nikes, Converse and the like at the factory outlet there. After buying three pairs, Blake decides he needs cash and wanders off to the ATM in the car-park. We wait in the silver-grey Avanza. The silver-grey Avanza is not a unique vehicle, quite the opposite…there are literally thousands of the bloody things throughout the archipelago, all with darkened windows too.

We attempted, rather pathetically it seems, to personalise and define ours a little by putting a white and red “I Love Bali Dogs” (because we do) sticker on the rear window, and made it obvious to Blake that this was the thing that made our faceless silver-grey box different.

So, what does he do but get into the first silver-grey Avanza he sees, placing himself rear passenger’s seat of a car filled with a perfectly innocent Balinese family out doing their shopping at the mall. Who was more surprised? I guess it’s hard to say, but as Blake tells the story there was shocked silence until he made the decision to leave the car, whereupon the volume of noise in the car increased as he moved swiftly towards the next silver-grey box, which, luckily was ours.

Nusa lembongan We made the decision to move quickly before any thought was given to a potential car-jacking, or any other fuss could be made. But we could imagine the substantial shock for the family...this was in central Indonesian Denpasar…there are very few Bules….and then one pushes into the rather private space in your rather small car, then leaves without a word of explanation when he finds it inhabited by the wrong people…

Car-jacking, grievous bodily harm and cultural insult, all in three days; it keeps you on your toes, and we made the decision to tread carefully, avoid any men in brown uniforms and keep very much to ourselves, which we did by hiding at Moziac, although once again Blake managed to severely rock the boat, even up there in the mountains so far from the sea, with his written comments to the chef including an aside about the physical state of the bird that provided the fois gras. But I must say I concur on that, and refuse to eat the stuff….

So to the airport yesterday…we love these people, but had the decided feeling we’d been walking something of a tight rope, and we were able to let out a huge sigh* as they had successfully avoided the authorities (and Blake blended perfectly with the ockers at the airport when he took his shirt off, however briefly…it was a very smart move on his part) and we were able to deny any knowledge of earlier events if questioned in the future (although the restaurant was booked in my name…..)

The mayhem retreats……


*the above is not true at all, we'll miss them terribly...

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