Visitors at my Bali villa

August 31, 2009

It’s busy in Bali at the moment. The streets and restaurants are full, there is a buzz in the air and local traders actually seem happy. And, being holiday season, my villa has been overflowing with guests for the last few weeks. This has necessitated a change of lifestyle for me. Let’s face it – I am a confirmed hermit, normally curmudgeonly in nature and solitary by inclination.

But suddenly, my home has life! There is music, company, conversation, shared drinking … in a word, normality. And you know, it’s not too bad. My guests bring news from what was once home, new perspectives on political discourse, and tales of bureaucratic stuff-ups and travel woes that are strangely similar to those I have experienced here in Indonesia. Last week’s classic:

Jetstar: Sorry Mr. M, there are no direct flights to Bali from Melbourne on the day that you require. You need to go via Darwin.
Mr. M : OK, that’s fine.
Jetstar: So you will be on a domestic flight to Darwin, then an international hop to Denpasar …
Mr. M: Will my surfboard be checked through?
Jetstar: Certainly.

So, a few days later, my esteemed guest checks in at Melbourne with a 1.95 metre surfboard and some hand luggage.

Jetstar: Sorry, you can’t take your surfboard on this flight.
Mr. M: Huh? You said that bringing my surfboard to Bali would be no problem!
Jetstar: Correct. You can take it on the international flight from Darwin to Denpasar, but not from Melbourne to Darwin.
Mr. M: (Knowing he will regret asking, but does so anyway) Why not?
Jetstar: Because it’s 1.95 metres long and won’t fit on the plane – the  planes on the domestic leg are smaller, and will only take 1.9 metres. But you can take it with you from Darwin to Denpasar, because the cargo hold is bigger.
Mr. M: So how do I get the board to Darwin?
Jetstar: (Drops into ‘that question is too hard’ mode – i.e. good eye contact, body language and facial expression denoting well-trained sympathy – but zero verbal response)
Mr. M: (Stress factors now affecting speech ability) Well, why didn’t you tell me this before?
Jetstar: (With impeccable logic) You didn’t ask …
Mr. M: (after a pause to allow the steadily rising angst levels to dissipate) OK, can I leave the board here for two weeks until I come back?
Jetstar: Of course.

At this point there is a carefully timed pause (developed, I suspect, through years of practice) where a sense of relief is allowed to thoroughly permeate the customer before the check-in clerk says:
Jetstar: (Casually mentioning a figure which is three times the value of the said surfboard) Of course, sir, there will be a daily storage charge …

I know it’s childish and petty, but I take perverse pleasure in discovering that our local bureaucracy and customer service ethos is not limited to the archipelago. My guest managed to impose on a friend to pick up the board from the airport the next day, but it didn’t do much for his equanimity on arriving here for a surfing holiday sans board.

Nevertheless, Bali quickly worked its magic – and within hours he had settled down and proceeded to settle in for a most enjoyable stay.

Almost all of my guests are just as easy to get along with as my surfing friend. But not all. I am still recovering from the one who arrived hungry and penniless from a nearby city-state and expected me to house her, feed her, clothe her and generally act as combined ojek, pembantu, restaurant and ATM. It seems that my offer of a spare room in the villa for a few days was interpreted as including of all the benefits listed above. Fortunately, a hapless bule of my acquaintance became besotted with her on Day Two of what felt like a 30-day sentence in Kerobokan prison, but was actually only five l o n g days. To my vast relief he entertained (and paid for!) my scary guest for the rest of her stay. Life provides lessons which one must learn, or be doomed to repeat them. I learned this one quickly.

So, what will I do after this influx of guests is over? I can go back to my quiet life of introspeksi diri, Bintangs, massages and the internet. I can continue working assiduously on the seven deadly sins, of which I already have Sloth and Gluttony absolutely nailed. I can go back to Googling obscure snippets of useless information. Did you know that the Latin word for gluttony is gula? So appropriate for Bali …

Soon I will have my villa and my hermit-like existence back. But people, when you are all back in your far-flung lands, I think I will miss you.


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