Posts Tagged ‘visitors’

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When Security Sanctions Sabotage Smooth Sending

April 14, 2012

My guests have left;  the last minute rush to collect belongings before they head off to the airport is over, and peace once more descends upon the villa. All nooks and crannies where overlooked items might lurk have been reluctantly scrutinised by the temporarily-resident Teenager (as requested by his mother) and declared, “like, totally empty” by the exasperated youth, who appears to find the whole notion of double-checking to be completely redundant

“Are you sure you’ve checked that you have everything?” his mum asks, which is the trigger for the obligatory teenage eye-roll and an expressive and prolonged “Maaah-a-um!!!”, a wail which first descends, then rises in pitch. This is apparently teenage verbal shorthand for “I just can’t believe that I am fourteen years old and you still don’t trust me to do the right thing and you’re implying that I’m a moron who can’t do anything right and I can’t BELIEVE you’re picking on me like this!”

So it’s half an hour before my guests are due to fly out, and I’m quietly relaxing in the villa when the phone rings. Not my phone, mind you – The Teenager’s phone. It’s sitting on the table, vibrating and emitting all kinds of bright colours and complex sounds, as expensive smartphones are wont to do. “Yeah, I know, I left my phone. My bad. Anyway, it’s not my fault; it’s the same colour as your table.” Having established that the responsibility for his misplaced phone is purely mine because of my inconsiderate choice of furniture, he calmly requests that I nip over to the airport and return it.

My bemused explanation that he has already passed through passport control, and is actually in the departure lounge, and that his plane leaves in twenty minutes, and that it will take me thirty minutes to even get to the airport is met with disbelieving silence. He is massively disgruntled. I am philosophical – to me it’s just a phone; to him, it’s a digital lifeline to his friends. “And it has all my contacts!” he moans.

Next morning, I discover that his idea of ‘scrutinising’ his room at the villa does not extend to checking power-points, where the power supply for his mum’s computer is still plugged in. He apparently ‘borrowed’  it for a late-night Facebook session and ‘forgot’ to put it back. Sigh.

I stay philosophical. I would have been happy to eventually send the phone to him (after a suitable delay in the interests of a good dose of Adlerian consequential punishment), but I can’t leave his mother with a rapidly-depleting battery for her work laptop. I call DHL, the international courier service, who tell me to package the items securely and bring the parcel to their office. Fortunately, their branch office is only minutes away.

An hour later, after modifying a cardboard box, wrapping the bits and pieces in bubble-wrap, securing the box with gaffer tape, wrapping the whole shebang in brown paper and vast quantities of sticky tape, I present myself at the Legian DHL office.

“You have wrapped the parcel”, says the chap on the counter, frowning. I agree, I have wrapped the parcel. “You must open it now so we can see what is inside.” I stare at him. “But you told me to package it securely!” I protest. “Yes. Easier for you to carry”, is his response.

Fortunately, I don’t open it before telling him it contains a phone and power supply, which turn out to be items apparently equivalent to the devil’s spawn, and which can not be accepted by them under any circumstances. He explains that it has to be taken to their head office, for an exorcism, or “security checks”, or some-such nonsense. Head office happens to be located at the airport, in the cargo road side street off the main terminal road. I am rapidly losing my calm, philosophical demeanour.

Forty minutes later, having fought my way through traffic, I arrive at the aforementioned cargo road. But it is no longer open, being blocked off by a large set of  corrugated iron gates and various ominous-looking notices. Feeling a tad snarly, I ride into the forbidden area anyway, to be immediately surrounded by a phalanx of security guards who eye my little brown paper parcel with deep suspicion. I explain my mission, but they insist that I can not enter this area, even though my ultimate destination is only one hundred metres up the street, which is ‘closed’ despite being visibly open.

The guards wave me back the way I came. I request explicit directions to the DHL office, and their response is more arm-waving and an elliptical “follow the road”. Thanks guys, I’d figured that part out for myself. I am nothing if not resourceful.

So I follow the road and end up at the entrance to the airport itself, where an amused security chap tells me that I have missed a small gang off the main airport drive, which leads to the cargo road I am seeking. I tell him that I didn’t see any signs. “No, no – there are no signs!” he laughs. I feel like assuming a foetal position on my bike, rocking gently and sucking my thumb, but I resist the urge to be immature about this.

“How do people find businesses on the cargo road if there are no signs? I want DHL, but that’s where the main Immigration Office, all the cargo shippers and the police station are as well”, I whinge plaintively. He laughs again. “They don’t!” he says with a cackle. “They all end up here!” He then informs me that to get back to the invisible lane, I have to go back through Tuban and circle around for another attempt. I calculate that will take about twenty minutes, or forty if I miss the damn thing again. I go home instead.

On the way, I fulminate about the madness of an airport reconstruction project that is so chaotic and badly-planned that not only do people have to spend extra time navigating an incomprehensible, unsignposted traffic layout just to make their flights, but that makes surrounding businesses become almost inaccessible. I grizzle to myself about visitors who leave things behind in a place where simple problems morph into bigger problems while one is trying to fix them.

I conclude, bad-tempered, nasty person that I am, that I don’t really care that someone needs their phone or computer urgently, and resolve to send the forgotten bits in my own time, and only when I am good and ready. Besides, people are way too reliant on their computers anyway – let them suffer; why should I put myself out anyway?

So after a total of two hours in hot traffic, I finally get home – only to find that my laptop battery has inexplicably died, and my power supply is overheating. Oh no! My laptop! My life!

Karma can be a real bitch sometimes.

 

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Respect (just a little bit)

September 7, 2009

I haven’t had a good rant for a while, and it’s time. Maybe I’ve gone native, but some of my fellow bules, here in Bali for their 10 day jaunts, are starting to bug me. What is it about visiting Bali that makes some people believe that ‘respect’ is a concept that is voluntarily surrendered somewhere just past the Denpasar Visa-on-Arrival counter and reclaimed once they have passed through Immigration back in their home country?

It’s certainly not the Balinese people, who are amongst the most respectful, beautiful, tolerant and patient people on this earth. It’s not the hotels and villas that provide a warm and welcoming environment for their visitors. No, it’s not Bali itself that is to blame – it’s the visitors themselves.

 It’s an age-old problem –  for some visitors, geographical and cultural displacement seems to trigger behaviour patterns  which are inappropriate, unseemly and downright insensitive. Much of this behaviour seems to flow from a belief that local cultural and social norms (and even laws) are irrelevant.  At the same time, there seems to be a parallel conviction that the mores and laws of the visitors’ home country should apply to the locals while the visitors are here. The paradox is that the worst offenders also believe that they are exempt from the social conventions of their home country during their stay.

When we have visitors who reject both the local customs and their own, yet demand total conformance to their own (albeit temporarily shelved) cultural values, we have a recipe for misunderstandings at best and social disasters at worst.

Seen recently:
A young lady, amply proportioned, wearing a tiny bikini top (which was a structural engineering marvel in itself), G-string and a transparent and very short sarong loudly berating a local who was reluctant to admit her to a temple in which people were praying. Now that may be decorative on the beach – if exaggerated gender markers are your thing – but totally inappropriate for a temple. Required reading: Temple Customs 101; Choosing the Right Clothes for You 101; Respect 101.

Then there was the overbearing ‘helpful’ visitor who barged in on two strangers who had just concluded a T-shirt purchase and dragged them away shouting “What? You just paid 90,000 for that?! Come with me and I’ll show you where you can get it for 30,000!”. The understandably upset vendor was summarily dismissed with a few choice Anglo-Saxon expletives, but still had the grace to keep his “Bloody bugil” response to a mutter. Required reading: Caveat Emptor 101; Bali Verbal Contracts 101; Keeping Your Nose Out of Other Peoples’ Business 101; Respect 101.

And of course, night-time brings out the the absolute gems. At a nice restaurant, the large, drunk, barefooted, sweaty, dirty-haired, singlet-over-huge-beer gut-clad lothario attempts to summon a waitress. As she tentatively steps forward, he raises his hairy leg to point past her with the sole of his foot, bellowing “Tee-Dack – not you fatso, the cute chick behind you …!” When the aforementioned cute one reluctantly comes over, he pats her on the head with one hand, on the bum with the other and loudly propositions her, taking offence when his romatic advances are rejected. Being of a somewhat decorous nature, your observer manages to prevent himself from vomiting in his scotch. Required reading: Hygiene 101; Balinese Taboos 101; Sensitivity 101; Travel Brochures to Anywhere but Bali; Respect 101.

I could go on; many of you will be pleased that I choose not to. Why do these eruptions of bad taste and cultural insensitivity happen? Is it that some people don’t see it as important to find out more about their destination before they leave home? Is it that they don’t care? Is it that the Westernised enclave of Greater Kuta promotes a form of tacky blindness that transforms normal people into cultural buffoons?

I don’t profess to know. But what I do know is that even if the perpertators of these disasters ignore all the required readings above, they should at least try to develop the most important quality one needs to survive and flourish in any culture – respect.

Then, and only then, in accordance with the best karmic traditions of this beautiful island’s culture, will I afford them respect in return.