Sunday, November 14, 2010

Getting Established in Sanur Kauh

Location: Sanur, Denpasar, Indonesia
Do not be fooled: the highway, Ngurah
Rai By Pass, is never this empty.
I know, you'd think the
rampant spelling errors
would send me into
paroxysms, but no. They're
only amusing.
Right, where did I leave off? Hotel Yani? Like I said, it's a nice budget hotel. You've got to bear that in mind when you stay there: it's only $22/night. When you remind yourself of that, then you can be impressed by the garden interior and the lush breakfast buffet. If you got a $22/night room in the US, you'd have a train running outside your window and there would be evidence of at least two murders that transpired in your room within the last three months. You would not want to use the bed and even breathing deeply would be kind of sketchy.

Hotel Yani is nothing like that. You've got a clean bed, a TV with local reality/talent shows, a shower that comprises the whole of the bathroom, and they even give you two free bottles of water every day. (NOTE: Do not drink the water that comes out of the tap, anywhere in Bali. You will get used to plastic bottles as though your life depends on it, "ha ha ha.")

Our driver has a smoke while we check out one of the more
posh apartments Denpasar has to offer.
We missed the first night at Yani due to SFO's flight delay but had to pay for it regardless. We stayed two more nights, the second of which was not planned but worked out. Being that we had to find other digs, however, Rebecca and I spent the better part of that Saturday going around town, chasing down apartments. Blue Bird Taxi is one of the two predominant taxi services (Ngurah Rai being the other, but everything's called Ngurah Rai around here) and we lucked out with a particularly patient driver willing to shuttle us around in the oppressive heat--when it's hot to a Balinese citizen, you know it's truly hot--and check out apartments and homestays. He had a great grasp of the local map--some drivers don't, and it's difficult to describe our way home from school some nights. But there was nothing we could tell this guy that he didn't already know: give him a street or part of a name and he's there. In addition to tipping him for his help (NOTE: Never tip taxi drivers, warungs*, any kind of service staff), we got him an ice-cold Coke to help endure the day.

The lobby to Rama Villas. They have
a laundry service, a pool, AC in every
bedroom, and they offer massages.
At long last our decision was with Rama Villas on Jalan* Tanjung. I found wi-fi access somewhere and posted one last desperate e-mail to the other language tutors heading to Bali or already here: we needed a roommate. At least one, two would be nice--my wife and I took the ground floor bedroom with its rather luxurious canopy/mosquito netting and a lovely partially outdoors bathroom. Seriously, one of the showers has no ceiling so the sun can shine right on your head first thing in the morning. Anyone who wants to peek at you has to climb a tall concrete wall topped with shards of broken glass and barbed wire (the really nice places have barbed wire, you can tell). The place would cost us Rp. $7 million (US$784) for one month, nearly $400 more than we had hoped to pay. Truly, the head of our school and the Lonely Planet Guide each told us we could find reasonable accommodations for $3-400/month. Sounds scandalous to Americans, I know, but we didn't feel like showing up and throwing huge fistfuls of cash at any interested party.

Christian, Rebecca, Chris, and Sam getting lunch.
(We're trying to tell the waitress to hold the camera
button down instead of releasing it.)
I don't have an iPhone but I do have an iPod Touch, and I must note here that it came in extremely handy for communicating. Mine doesn't have 3G but lots of places offer free wireless, so all I had to do was stand near a hotspot and I could check my e-mail. In this fashion I was able to send out an e-mail burst to the other students and see if anyone needed a place to stay. Most had already made accommodations but three people did say they'd like to check the place out, so the Saturday we moved in we also had our first visitors. Simon, "Sam," is from England and Christene, "Chris," is Australian. Chris already had a place she was staying in but she could only rent it for a two-week spot and had to find another place to live. She went with that option and Sam stayed with us, getting the upstairs room consisting of a bathroom and two single beds. At first the AC wasn't functional but Rebecca had a look at it, deciphered its remote control, and got it thankfully operational for Sam.

All four of us decided to make a day of it, however, and Chris showed us Hardy's, a very prominent and handy store for expatriates and locals alike. On the first floor there's a discount/clearance rack for clothing, in the back there's an extensive grocery store (with two aisles labeled "expatriate needs" like we're a third gender), and the two floors above are full of all sorts of miraculous necessities and extraneous baubles.

We got lunch at Cafetaria [sic] Amsterdam--I'm trying to eat local dishes while Chris finds great comfort in Western food--and perused the crazy Asian shirts we were hoping to find. Over the next two weeks we would return to Hardy's for much of our shopping, including groceries... though it's a well-known fact it's simply much cheaper to get something to eat at a warung than to buy your own food to make at home.

I was trying to pick up some green onions to throw into our eggs and noodles but wasn't having much luck identifying anything, as the vegetables didn't look quite right and I can't read Bahasa.* A young mother next to me chuckled briefly before asking me if I needed any help. I asked her what the stalks of thing were I had in my hand.

"Oh, those are seasoning, like for curry," she said. When I asked if they could be used in eggs or noodles, she laughed and offered to cook dinner for me at her place, because "Are you cooking for yourself?" I said I was cooking with my wife and she said we could both come over. I smiled brightly and said "maybe."

The Indonesian "maybe" is a miraculous thing. To a Minnesotan, it's uncomfortable to have a complete stranger offer to make dinner for you and your company, perhaps as early as that night! But the offer isn't entirely to be taken at face value, I've been given to understand, though if I were dense enough to follow up on it, she would be gracious enough to go through with it because Balinese are a very friendly and generous people. And if I'd seen through the gesture (or hadn't) and declined, that would have been offensive. But they have this device and it's artful in its simplicity and efficacy: "maybe." With that word I thanked her for her offer and assured her (at least on a hypothetical plane) that the offer was desirable and she was a good person, yet it's a polite way to back out of such a situation.

She grinned warmly and went to retrieve her daughter and finish her shopping. When I saw her later, she grinned and waved and did not rush over to give me her address. We'd said all that needed to be said.


  • warung - A food-seller, anything from a small cart with wheels to a very nice restaurant.
  • jalan - Street (gang: alley)
  • Bahasa - The name of the Indonesian language.

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