Coffee Spills, Hungry Dogs And Serviettes In Bali

May 22, 2011

I must be hard to please. For me, Bali is a place where, no matter how good things get, they’re never 100% satisfactory. I feel like I’m getting short-changed at least 25% on every life experience.

If I roll up to my agent’s office armed with ten of the mandatory documents, letters and affidavits needed for my KITAS renewal, I will always need to go home and unearth two more obscure pieces of paper before the convoluted process can even start. If I am told that it will take ten weeks for the process, it always takes at least two weeks longer. When, after the inevitable delays, I am finally instructed to pick up my new KITAS, it won’t have a Multiple Entry/Exit stamp. “Oh no sir,” the ever-helpful man at Immigration will say, “that will take another two weeks.” Naturally, it’s not ready for another three weeks.

If I want to buy six stubby holders, there will be four in stock. If I absolutely, positively need my pembantu to work on a particular day, there will be a ceremony on that day. The computer at the office where I pay my electricity will go down only during the time I am there.  My hand-phone’s network works reasonably well for whole days at a time, then inexplicably overloads and fails only when I need to call a cab to the airport.

My obviously unrealistic expectations can’t even be met at restaurants. One of my regular places has good food and friendly staff and, most importantly, an abundance of serviettes for those messy senior moments. But its coffee tastes like crushed scarab beetle wings – and it only comes in small cups. On the other hand, my favourite coffee shop has the best coffee in Bali,  which they serve in big cups. But there are no serviettes.

Now this is a problem for me, because the classy cups at this place have tiny, ungrippable handles designed by someone with no concept of either the anatomy of the human hand or of the physics of levers. So for me, picking up a full cup usually means a spectacular downward rotation of the cup and consequent spillage into its saucer. Or on bad days, into the lap of a nearby patron. Crushing the handle laterally to the point of pulverising the porcelain might produce enough friction, but my hands are too weak for that. So my saucer fills up, and every time I lift the wet cup, coffee pours into my lap. Little as I care what people think of me, even I draw the line at looking as if I forgot my incontinence pads.

Of course, sometimes it’s not Bali at all. Sometimes there is no-one to blame but myself. There I am, full coffee cup by my right hand, sugar added and ready to stir. The obligatory cookie that comes with the coffee is not to my taste, so I generally save it to give to one of the local dogs, which, knowing my schedule, is there waiting for a hand-out when I arrive. Depending on how hungry it is, it sometimes even sings to me while waiting – a peculiar solo of whines, yips and howls which are eerily evocative in their yearning. It sits next to me, staring at me with soulful eyes which telegraph a message of love, faith and commitment. I just know this dog worships me, and would never leave me. Unless I run out of cookies of course, whereupon it is off without a backward glance. I reflect that this behaviour could almost be a metaphor for life amongst the locals, but charitably squash the thought.

So today, the cookie has been eaten, but just to keep my hairy friend around for a few minutes longer, I absently scratch and massage along its spine. Unfortunately, thinking I am a true multi-tasker, I also try to stir my coffee at the same time. You’ve all done that thing where you try to rub your stomach with one hand while patting your head with the other? OK, then you know what happens next. The lomi-lomi-like strokes of my dog-massaging left hand, together with the orbital motions of my coffee-stirring right hand promptly cause a massive failure of my neural system. Only Yogis and drummers can operate different limbs independently, and I am neither. Unfortunately, it is my coffee hand operating system that fails, causing a spasm that just about empties my cup over the table, my book, my phone, and yes, my lap. Damn.

And of course, there are no serviettes. Their presence might not have prevented my bout of neuro-muscular ineptness, but it sure would have helped in the clean-up. As I said, no matter how good things get, they’re never 100% satisfactory. But you know – that’s Bali.



  1. Oh Vyt, you poor male you.
    Were you never a boy scout?
    Be prepared, man.
    Take your own personal mug or cup to the preferred coffee shop. Take your own serviettes.
    I like my booze in a very big glass and I therefore leave a very big glass of my choosing at places I like to eat at.
    It’s not that hard and really doesn’t cost too much.
    Get in touch with your female side for a minute and organise your tiny life just a little bit.

    • Oh no, then what would I have to write about?

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