Adjusting to Asia

Man, it’s hard to get used to Bali.

Everywhere I walk, someone is asking me for something and trying to get my attention. Not in a poverty way, but in a ‘buy my stuff’ kind of way. Aside from the beach and Barb’s home, all I’ve seen of this country is row after row of shops selling different shades of the same color. Shirts, sunglasses, massage, pedicure, scooter rental, the list goes on.

I went for a bit of a walk this morning after breakfast to see what I could find. At one point, a woman approached me and said, “Hello, how are you?” She stuck her hand out. Instinctively, I matched it to shake her hand (mistake). The grip was strong on this one. She started asking questions about my life and how long I’d been in Bali as she tied this little bracelet around my arm. I said no (in both English and Indonesian) that I didn’t want a bracelet, but she kept on. Then she said, “I need to cut this extra bit, come with me.” and started to drag me down this alley. At this point, all of my little alarm bells started going off. Where was she taking me? She sat me down on a stool in this little concrete box. I was sitting next to a scared-looking caucasion girl, who was getting her nails painted. There was a gruff man standing outside; he looked at my wrist and said, “She got the bracelet on you, eh? You’re in trouble now.” The Indonesia lady snipped some of the extra material off the bracelet, and reached for some kind of manicure cream. I took this opportunity to stand and get out of there. If I knew how to apologize in Indonesia, I would’ve. She called after me as I joined the street and continued walking. I ripped the small bracelet off quickly, as I didn’t want to look like a mark for other peddlers.

Indi would probably have told me to stay there and get whatever beautification they were offering, as I would be providing for their family, etc. I don’t quite buy into that. The folks in THIS part of the country see a ton of tourist dollars and I’m sure a lot of the folks are just as meek as I am. Perhaps I need to shake off some cynicism, but I am fairly sure these folks rake in quite the haul for Indonesian standards.

That being said, I did buy a Hawaiian shirt (shout out to Charles!) and some shorts. It became quickly obvious that we weren’t adequately prepared for the hot SE Asia climate. Indi got some new clothes as well so at least we’re in comfort.

I don’t want this post to give off a total vibe of “OMG, Asia! Get me out of here!” The beach was lovely, the weather has been great, and most of the folks have been very friendly. The culture is entirely different and every moment here is an eye opener. I am given the opportunity daily to strengthen myself.

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