Out at the carwash yesterday, a man abandons the little bench he is sitting on for one of the small plastic stools and offers the bench to me.
"Lebih nyaman bagi Bapak," he explains.
And so it is.
"Bapak dari mana?"
"Menerut anda di mana?"
Hmm. He's running out of reasonable countries.
"Asli dari America," I admit.
"America! Wah! Hebat!" Thumbs up. "America negeri yang bagus. Sangat kuat. Bapak serdadu ya?"
"Bukan. Bukan serdadu. Ada banyak orang di sana yang bukan serdadu."
"Jadi apa? Usaha apa?"
"Tapi sebelumnya, apa?"
"Kerja di rumah sakit."
"Bukan. Bukan doctor."
"Ada bisnis di Bali?"
"Nggak ada. Udah pension. Santai aja."
There are other men waiting on stools and my new friend turns about to call them over.
"Hey, dari America. Ini orang America."
They gather their chairs in a circle. Surely, I am about to say something fascinating. I wonder what it could be. But it turns out that just being an American is sufficient. Clearly, they have not been reading the news lately. Which makes me nostalgic for a bygone time. If only they knew.
"America mana?" one asks.
"America Utara atau America Selatan"
"Well ... North America. You know - The United States of America."
"Iya, dari bagian barat."
"Sering kembali ya."
"Belum pernah. Sudah enam tahun."
This meets with a general disbelief.
"Kenapa, Pak? Kenapa belum?"
There are a hundred reasons, most of which would be, pada dasarnya, disappointing, or disillusioning, or downright depressing. So I keep it simple, and do not mention the cost or the violence or the malaise or the hatreds or the poverty or the greed or the hard-heartedness or the clown at the top by whom the nation is currently being represented. I much prefer the stature bestowed by these men.
"Saya suka Bali," I say. "Suka sekali."
As things stand, what American wouldn't.