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Balloons, Broken Broadband and Bill Payments in Bali

August 14, 2010

So here I am – back into the swing of Bali life after swanning around Lithuania for several weeks. Set against a broader world canvas, the parking insanity here suddenly seems almost normal. Lithuanians park wherever they want to – sometimes in the middle of a road – simply because they can. In some ways, Bali seems more organised and less of a frontier country. Here, I haven’t seen as many incidents of restaurant fire-bombings by competitors aggrieved by the success of others. Or of people building houses on someone else’s land, then shrieking about their self-granted squatters’ rights. Nevertheless, like Bali, Lithuania is beautiful and the people are friendly and hospitable.

It takes maybe a week to adjust to the 4pm gridlock in Jl. Double Six – and everywhere else – because of fools parking their 4WD behemoths on both sides of the road, and motorcyclists with the IQs of dog biscuits then double-parking on the outside of the aforementioned fools. When the inevitable truck arrives, the resulting infarction lasts for hours.

It then takes me another week to realise that my already woefully slow internet connection has been drastically degraded even more since I left. Yes – it’s the same lunatic, censorship-obsessed fringe element that we already have in China (and soon, Australia) – technically inept buffoons who think nothing of reducing the effectiveness of an entire county’s IT infrastructure in order to impose their own view of ‘morality’. I am saddened by the erosion of pancasila by extremists, but I guess that they feel that prevention of accidental erections is worth it.

But the real indicator that I am truly back in Bali is my re-connection with the quirky business practices here. My Indonesian friends, in the process of opening up a new shop, decide that some printed balloons might be a good promotional idea. I offer to source these. Silly me. I find a balloon shop. “No, we cannot print on balloons, we just sell them”. So I find a printer who tells me: “No problem, we can supply and print balloons.” I tell him that I will take fifty. “OK – you go out to buy balloons now?” he says. It’s not worth arguing about the logical disconnects in this conversation, so I go back to the first shop to actually buy the balloons, then come back to the printer. He scrutinises each balloon minutely and pronounces them suitable. He tells me to come back in three days and ushers me out of the shop. “Don’t you want to know what to print?”, I ask. He reluctantly agrees to record this, even though I can see that he regards this as useless information. As it turned out, it was.

I come back after the agreed period and he hands me my bag of unprinted balloons. “Can not print”, he says, “Balloons not flat. Stick in machine”. So I go back to the balloon shop, where they don’t want to take the balloons back. “Used”, says the man laconically. That’s OK, I think – everyone needs a bag of balloons.  I might accidentally stumble on a party somewhere. I ask him for a business card, just in case I am crazy enough to buy more balloons in the future. The card is double-sided, and one side says “Latex Balloons Printed Here”. I raise my eyebrows at him in a mute question. “Yes”, he offers. “We print balloons”. I breathe deeply and tell him I’ll take fifty. “You want 50 more?” he says, scenting another sale. “No, I want 50 printed“, I say, my voice rising a notch.  He looks genuinely remorseful. “Ahh, sorry. We cannot print on balloons, we just sell them”.

I recognise a Ground-Hog Day when I see one, so I  quietly capitulate and go off to do something inspiring, pleasant and straightforward, such as paying the water bill. The nice man at the office looks at my previous bill, smiles and says that no water bills can be paid after 2pm. It is 2:01pm. My pleading leaves him unmoved. The next day, the same nice man says that, despite my having paid the bill there each month for the last four months, I now have to pay this one way out in North Denpasar somewhere. Bemused, I ask why. “Because it is overdue. Cannot accept here now.” He then adds helpfully that it was due yesterday. I stare at him. He smiles at me, and kindly writes down the address I should go to – a Jalan Bedahulu. My street directory shows me that there are about twenty-five streets of that name, all in one large block in Denpasar. The place is nearly half-way to Bedugul.  It would have taken about two hours to ride there in heavy traffic, so I do the right thing and go and have three Bintangs instead. I don’t care – let them chase me for the money, or cut off my water, or deport me – I will just go with the flow.

Strangely, despite the culture shock of transitioning back to Bali from Europe, I feel at peace being back. After all, it was partly the anarchy, the freedom and the lack of logic that brought me here from over-regulated Australia in the first place. And after today’s adventures, I really feel that I am truly back in Bali.

But I still wouldn’t mind getting my old, unthrottled, unfiltered excuse for broadband internet back. Maybe I will if sanity prevails once more amongst those who impose their personal and religious mores on the rest of us.

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4 comments

  1. Been a long time reader of your blog, love your style of writing and your accounts of learning how things work here in Bali. May I ask who you are using for internet service? I am in the process of switching and weighing out all my options and am not looking to get one that is censored. Thanks, Dana


    • Thanks! I use a Mobinil USB modem and the ISP is IndosatM2. As far as I know, 6 service providers here have been ordered to censor according to arbitrary lists, including IndosatM2. Any browser I try has been behaving badly since the ‘filter trials’ commenced 2 weeks ago and connectivity has slowed to a crawl. I too am looking for an alternative, not because I particularly want to access “undesirable” sites, but because I am incensed at the authorities wrecking the speed and convenience (such as it was) of my internet experience purely to serve religious agendas.


  2. Hahahah! Only God knows why an angel’s action would end up unappreciated …!


  3. Oh, ok I was thinking you were on a more “permanent” connection such as Telkom Speedy or one that is installed in the home. I would like to be able to use some of those “3G” providers as they seem to be reasonably fast and cheap depending on which one you have, but I do too much downloading and would eat through the standard 3GB limit pretty quickly. Hopefully you got the unlocked 3G modem so you can just throw away that IM2 card and find a faster one



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