Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas in Sanur

The first thing to remember about Christmas on the island of Bali is that there is none to speak of. There does exist in general among the local folks an appreciation that a time of year has come upon them wherein Western folks are wont to celebrate, but the exact nature of what these folks are celebrating remains a point of but sparse knowledge and even sparser interest. Ideologically, I mean. There is much already about the Westerner that is unusual, deviant, and this strange parade of colored lights, pointy hats, flying reindeer, and a fat man in a red suit is just one further facet to the mystery, glittering and winking in so many directions that the center of the subject remains enigmatic.

It is, however, at the least common denominator, an opportunity to sell, and so new booths spring up on the beach front, warungs are strung with lights, hung with gold and silver garland, and young girls don red hats with white fleece, and call out with renewed expectation Shopping? Shopping? Come looking at my shop, just looking Mister, yes?

The sensibilities of the West, no matter how unsearchable, all smell of money, an extravagant penchant toward purchasing the most extravagantly worthless items and carrying these away to their own countries for storage in closets or sale in garages. It is the need for needless things, both the will and the wherewithal to waste, that most endears we Westerners to the Third World shop owner and street merchant. It is known moreover that the vacationing Westerner is more acutely inclined than ever to divest himself of riches--to empty his pockets of so much superfluous padding--otherwise known as money--that he may return home victoriously, lighter in both coin and spirit than when he came. Spirit, in other words, is purchased in the form of the bauble and trinket, tucked into the suitcase and carry on, and transported over the thousands of air miles to big houses in small suburbs--little museums of temporary meaning--to dazzle the less fortunate and provide substance for the owner until such time arrives when these things--for they are only and after all things--are drained of lively association, have lost their edge, and have become at last quite purely just as ordinary as they were to begin with, no more precious to the purchaser than they were to the purveyor.

Thankfully for the traveler and the tourist the world is full of exotic islands of every shape and size, and fuller yet of new baubles and trinkets, and so the spirit is renewable through the many years, essentially inexhaustible, a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.

Thankful also is the shop owner and the street merchant.

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