Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I had not heard of so much as one incident of theft here in Bali until yesterday when someone stole my friend's bicycle. He had left it unlocked in front of his house, but this is not an uncommon practice. I will often leave the doors to my house unlocked so that friends can go in and out. I regularly leave my laptop on a table at the beach while I swim. I very rarely lock my helmet into the scooter seat, but just hook it onto the handle bar.

Of course one theft does not an epidemic make, but it is disturbing nonetheless. All it takes is one person without conscience I guess.

More disturbing than the theft itself, however, is the advice given thereafter by a neighbor here to the effect that all things should be locked and watched during the days preceding Ramadan, as, according to him anyway, Muslims will often steal and sell things in order to raise money to go home for the religious observance.

One needs hardly comment on the absurdity of cause and effect here.

In Bali I have never felt anything other than utterly safe and secure. Any person, man, woman, or child, can walk down the long, unlighted alleyway to the Circle K store without being accompanied by fear or suspicion. If you approach the group of young men, for instance, gathered around their motorbikes, they will simply greet you, move aside if need be, and maybe ask you where you are from, how long you will stay, and whether you like Bali.

Time and time again I have walked alone, anywhere, everywhere--in the alley, on the beach, on the front street or the side street, and have not once felt threatened or unsafe. When you pass someone--when someone passes you--you don't glace his way warily or walk faster, or hold on to your wallet or purse. On the contrary, you exchange a friendly greeting, maybe stop a moment to talk.

The isolated theft, therefore, seems all the more insulting, all the more out of place, and all the more unfortunate. We are not insensitive to such things, as is the case in America, nor do they seem just part of the way life is. The people of Bali have not yet come to that sad state of mind. And happily they yet have a long, long way to go.

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