Friday, April 28, 2017


Bought some bubur this morning at a little spot in Denpasar. Great! I could live on bubur. Bubur is a sort of rice porridge, with chicken, or pork, or seafood - whatever you like - along with spices and kerupuk (a thin cracker that becomes soft in the porridge). But anyway, when I went to pay the two young men running the place, there was a fat woman standing there too. I smiled at her, but she did not return my smile. Very unusual for an Indonesian. As I walked back to my bike, I could hear her scolding the two young men. "If it's a bule, you ask for more money!"

This is quite common. Every penny counts, and the locals figure that we foreigners have more pennies than they. It seems to them, I think, not unfair, but only fair. I wish that their conceit was correct - that I, as a bule,  must be rich. Unfortunately, it's not. Every penny counts to me too. 

Tamu is what the Balinese call us - literally a "guest". Doesn't matter if you actually live here, you're still a tamu. The more generally used word among Indonesians is Bule, which means, simply, foreigner, although it has its various connotations, which can be either positive or negative. A young woman, for instance, might say that she wants to find a Bule for a husband. On the other hand, it can be an insult, like Bule gila!, or crazy foreigner. There are restaurants with Bule prices and there are restaurants with local prices. There are those like the one I visited this morning that will charge the local one price and the foreigner another. 

Now, I could have gone back and disputed the matter with this woman at the bubur stand. I could have told her that I understood every word she said and that her attitude was unfair and prejudicial and that it was not a good thing to teach dishonesty to the young men working at the stand. But the thing is, we who are from the West have been generally taught not to disrespect women for any reason -- unless it's our wife :). (Just kidding). Now, had my wife been present, the poor woman would have gotten both barrels. It has certainly happened before. One time, a parking attendant asked me for 5000 rupiah rather than the usual 2000. Suffice it to say that he was sorry once my wife got wind of it. 

But the fact is, we are guests here, forever - we foreigners, I mean - and there are any number of reminders almost every day - whether they come in the form of undeserved deference, the different rules that apply, the different costs that are exacted, or what have you. We are a minority, we are strangers, we are guests, we are bules.

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