Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Bule Beware

I was talking to my young friend Sabrina this morning and she mentioned how bules need to be careful about being charged a higher price for items, even at seemingly trustworthy establishments. Her friend, she said, had been charged 100.000 Rupiah for an umbrella at the minimart which should have gone for about 27.000. He was also ripped off at a national name pharmacy, Kimia. 

It's true, sadly enough, and happens regularly to tourists who are unfamiliar with the money or with what things ought to cost. It happens even to those of us who have been around for a while. Even when you've been here seven years, as I have, you have to remain aware and watchful. When I was at the gas station the other day, I gave the attendant Rupiah 100.000 for about 30.000 worth of gas. I was aware that he asked me whether I didn't have smaller money, but assumed, unwisely, that he was just trying to make his job easier or didn't want to give out his smaller bills. Obviously, I should have counted the money he returned as change, but I was kind of just on automatic pilot, pocketed the change, and went my way. Later on, I realized that the man had kept 50.000 for himself.  Too late to go back, of course, because he would merely claim that I was mistaken. It is unfortunate to have to slow up the line while one counts his money, but there you have it. Take care, or take a loss. 

I remember the pharmacist at one Kimia outlet giving this sort of thievery a shot perhaps a year ago, asking nearly double the correct price for a medication. I was aware of the proper price because I had often bought the same medication at another Kimia store. I pointed this out to him, but he stuck to his guns. "No, that the price here." 

"You mean this Kimia has different prices the other Kimias?"

No comment. Blank stare.

"Right. Not likely, man. I'll just buy it at my regular store." 

Balinese are generally very honest people. But in these sorts of 'transactions', I think the act is reasoned away as a sort of on-the-spot tax collection from a customer who is a foreigner and therefore surely wealthy. What is 100.000 Rupiah to him? After all, he has traveled around the world to play in my country, so … well, pay to play, right? He's already paying exorbitant prices at his hotel and his salon and his fancy restaurant, so what the hell. I may as well get a piece of the action, too. 

The moral of the story: Bule beware!  

Monday, July 16, 2018

Older Men

This is Vyt and Tina, whose wedding party I did make it to yesterday afternoon, despite sore back and threat of rain, and I'm glad I did, for it was a pleasure to visit in person again with my old buddy. I think the last time I saw him was on New Year's Day. 

You will note that Vyt is rather much older than Tina--although exactly what age Tina is, I do not know. This is one peculiar quality of Asian women in general and Indonesian women in particular--they tend to appear quite fresh and young up to the age of about 50 or so, and then some kind of biological or genetic process kicks in, they crash, and suddenly they appear not only their actual age, but older! Weird. 

Another peculiar, and much discussed thing about Asian women is their unusual affection for older men. No end of articles have been written about this. There is no simple, neat explanation. Rather, there seem to be a number of factors at work. One, of course, is riches. The Asian woman, a natural business person, sees a lucrative deal to be made, and makes it. It is not just a matter of how much the man is worth, but how much she herself, in her own estimation, is worth. And so they seek and secure a gainful situation. Love often comes later with the Asian woman. It can be learned, acquired. In fact, it has been said that Asian women do not know what love is, in the western sense. And that could be. Who knows? 

But riches are but one reason, sometimes playing a role in combination with other desires, and sometimes playing no role at all. One other attraction seems to be "status". Whether it seems quite correct or not (again, by western standards of what is correct or appropriate), the Asian woman assigns status to an engagement with western, usually white men, and she knows that her peers ascribe status here as well--to her, that is, as a woman. 

Related to this facet is the Asian fondness for Caucasian features in their children. Nothing seems so desireable as Caucasian features--light skin, a large nose, blue eyes, and so on. Curiously, light skin is rather famously sought after when it comes to the Asian woman's own skin, such that the use of "whitening" products is common, as is a reluctance to go out in the sun without an umbrella or some other thorough covering. This is partly because light skin is considered more comely and partly because dark skin places one in the category of a  lower class individual, a field worker. 

And then there are those, in poorer circumstances, who just want to get out of what seems a guaranteed life of poverty in their own country, given the restrictions of class and education and family and so on. The Indonesian woman is, if nothing else, logical, reasoning, even calculating--though, again, she will see it as a matter of making wise, beneficial choices, both for herself and for her family; for, after all, if she is successful in marrying a foreign citizen and immigrating to his country, she may then sponsor her family members down the road, such that they may join her as well.

But why the affection for men of an older age? This is particularly difficult for westerners to understand (or even to stomach, in some  cases), like "Eww, that guy is sooo old!" I can only guess at these things, but it would seem that the Asian woman finds something particularly attractive about the mature, or weathered facial appearance or the older man. Moreover, she is attracted to the emotional maturity and stability of the older male. In short, she does not care for spoiled, needy, self-centered young men, because the right to be spoiled, needy and self-centered is reserved for the woman herself!  Although Indonesian girls must face being a second class citizen in a Muslim or Hindu culture, they are at the same time commonly treated as royal princesses by their parents, especially by the father. There may therefore be a sort of transference of father figure to husband, along with the expectations that were regularly met by  her father.  Indonesian women do not like to be restricted or suffocated. They love to hang out with their girlfriends for hours on end, and not be questioned or accused or put on a schedule, and so the older man who is sure of himself, and able to amuse himself, and able to give a lot of rope without yanking it all the time, is highly appreciated. 

Indonesia, as I've mentioned before, is much like America 50 years ago and more. The central achievement for the woman is to marry and bear children. In this way, the woman satisfies her function in society, as well as in herself. What is sought most keenly, therefore, is a provider who is reliable, steady, and ready to settle down. Thus, the older man. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rockin' Round the Mosque

I went out yesterday to the grocery store, the one located in the mall, which I like because of its regular supply of fresh fruits and vegetables and its large selection of meats, all at a fairly reasonable price. The parking lot for the mall is actually a couple of blocks from the mall itself, so one has to park and walk either to the rear entrance, which will take you past a terrifically odiferous garbage dump, located, curiously, just feet away from the entrance, or walk a little bit father through the wide parking lot and to the side entrance. Halfway through this route, at a  preliminary entrance that leads, eventually, to the mall entrance proper, there is a loud speaker that regularly blares out old 50's rock tunes. The particular tune playing as I approached was "Rock Around the Clock". The odd thing at this hour, however, was the rock-n-roll was blaring against the backdrop of at least two separate mosque loudspeakers blaring out the midday call to prayer, resulting in a perfectly atonal catastrophe of sound, for not only did the call to prayer conflict jarringly with the rocking going on around the clock, but the two calls to prayer conflicted and contended with one another. Schoenberg himself could not have produced a more unpleasant composition. Ah, the many and varied sights and sounds of Indonesia! 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Bad Night

Twas a particularly unpleasant night last night--pain in both shoulders, neck, and right flank. I am out of Baclofen and my pharmacist tells me that she does not know when her supplier will have it again. She has also told me that I can no longer buy Xanax without a prescription. I had taken two Tylenol-PM tablets, but these seemed perfectly ineffective this time around. Moreover, I was having intense restless leg syndrome that was not happy with restricting the symptoms to my legs, but preferred to electrify every muscle in my body. Finally, after bouncing around the bed like one of those cartoon characters who sticks his finger into a wall socket, I could not help but laugh. What else can one do? Sleep was not an option for most of the night. I have been considering using another cartoon tactic tonight--namely, hitting myself in the head with a hammer. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Love at Twilight

This Sunday, if my back can agree to a fairly long motorbike ride (a fairly big 'if'), I will attend a wedding party out in the boonies somewhere for my friend and former next door neighbor, Vyt Karazija. 

This was a bit of a surprise wedding--having already taken place a couple weeks ago in Java--for Vyt is 72, has been on his own for a long while, and has been known as a bit of a hermit (like me). But hey, I guess this stands as a testimony to the power of love at any age. 

Vyt and I first became acquainted when we were both writing for the (now defunct) Bali Times newspaper. The Bali Times was a publication in English and aimed mainly at the expatriate community. We wrote front page editorial columns concerning life in Bali, politics (local and international), culture shock, travel, and so on. Sometimes the editorials would be humorous, sometimes humorless, depending on how we were feeling that particular week, I suppose. In reading Vyt's columns, I soon grew an admiration for his intelligence, his sharp wit, his thorough grasp of his weekly subject. 

Later on, when Vyt found that he would need to move from his place in Kuta, I referred him to the empty house next door to mine, where, as it turned out, he lived for about two years. We would often see one another coming and going, and enjoyed many pleasant conversations over the top of the low law that divides the houses. We agreed on some things, disagreed on others, yet consistently maintained a civil, respectful manner with one another. We also shared a mutual relationship with Sparky, the dog, and both felt his intelligence to be far superior to our own. 

Vyt likes to pretend to a hard, grumpy manner, but of course no one who knows him is fooled by this. In truth, he is one of the kindest men I have ever known, always ready to help, always ready to show concern and compassion. I once told Vyt, somewhat tongue in cheek, that he was the best Christian I had ever known--which made my friend, an agnostic leaning toward atheism, gasp with indignation. Lol. But he got over it straightaway. 


Watching videos this morning of an exchange of shouts and insults on the floor of the House of Representatives. Ah, back to the good ol days. The pre-1860 days, when congressmen were known to attack their fellows with a cane. What a shameful age we live in when the august chamber of Congress becomes an unruly kindergarten class. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Best Travel Blog

I post today a new badge from MyTherapyApp for Best MS Blog for Travel. I certainly appreciate the recognition, along with the kind effort to tailor Jim Dandy's derelict demeanor such that he might fit, albeit kicking and screaming, into a crisp pair of Bermuda shorts and a Panama hat and put him, hair combed and cheek cleanly shaven, carry-on carefully packed and weighed, onto the nearest boat or plane. Bon voyage! 

In her introduction to the blog, Tracey, at MyTherapyApp, quite appropriately puts it this way: 

The words ‘travel blog’ usually conjure up thoughts of budget-conscious, adrenaline-seeking backpackers traversing the likes of South America and South-East Asia, and everywhere in between.

Everyone Here is Jim Dandy, therefore, is not your typical travel blog. Indeed, its author, Richard Boughton, would probably raise an eyebrow or two at such a title.

When I left America in 2010, I left not to travel, but to arrive. And it has been my continuous effort in the seven, almost eight years since, to do just that. To arrive. I did not go out to see a reed shaken with the wind, nor a man clothed in soft raiment. I left home to find home, or in the hope that home would find me. I left the one place with a wife, bound, we thought--or I thought--for a new phase of our mutual marital venture. I ended up wife-less, a stranger in a strange land, ears full of babble, a disjointed, multi-language dialogue of past, present and future trying to decide upon a story--all set to the clattering of gamelan music and the wailing of the Muslim call to prayer, which themselves are cradled in the foundational song of Oregon's high cascades.

For me, this is what is rightly called travel--the full, sometimes treacherous, sometimes joyful exploration and experience of one's own winding road in life. Who knows what is around the next bend? We might have an idea, a reasonable expectation, but then again, winding roads have a way of their own, of rising steeply, or falling swiftly, or of teetering between unforeseen cliffsides. They transport us through the darkest forests and also to the most astounding vistas.

Oh Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder, 
Consider all the works
The hands have made . . . 

Travel is the continual effort to arrive, to become, to know.

My wife's idea of travel, as it turned out, was to see this place, and this place, and this place in quick succession, touching down for but fleeting moments, like a bee overwhelmed and distracted by the choice of so many flowers, such that the honey, the essence remains uncollected in the folds of the brightly painted petals. We were in Bangkok together, and in Penang, and in Kuala Lumpur, and God knows what other points of passing--and while I'm sure that the Buddhist temples were grand and stately (just as the brochure declares), I could not help but be the more impressed by the man who lived in the cardboard box which had originally housed a refrigerator--the man with the widest, toothiest smile I have even seen. And I could not understand what this man was saying. If only I had had more time.  What do the monkeys of Krabbe Island do when it is off-season and the tourists are gone? And the ownerless dogs who live on the temple grounds? What is the actual character, the deeper meaning of this world we glimpse between arrivals and departures? 

Bali itself, even after the better part of a decade, is daily new to me, and daily more completely fills its own canvas. I have been to many well known sites on the island, yet just as many, and more, are tucked away in my own little neighborhood, secret until you see them; and what is not hidden in the bush or at the end of the alley is cloaked in foreign words. Language therefore, rather than the jetliner, is the most direct means of transport into a foreign land, for language translates the darkness into light. 

There is a story by Mark Twain, from his book A Tramp Abroad, I think, where he tells of a voyage in the darkness. He has gone to sleep for the night, you see, but later awakens and determines that he has left something important undone (I've forgotten the details). Not having a candle or any sort of light at hand, Twain starts off on a journey through the darkness that becomes ever more fantastic, ever more baffling with every step. Although he had gone to sleep in the room but a short time previously, and should have known its every corner and nook, he finds himself hopelessly lost in a perfectly alien world. Furniture pops up where it should not be, and sharply skunks his ankles at that. A window pane is found where a door ought to have been. Strange shapes, which may as well be sentient as inanimate, confront him in his path, shouldering, sometimes warm, sometimes clammy against his skin. A bedpost has somehow turned into a brass hat rack, or into a half dozen hat-wearing heads. It's a funny story, hilarious, actually; but as with many of Twain's inventions, it has something compelling to say about man's daily (and nightly) conversations with his world.  

This is travel--the study through motion of mapping, identifying the character of the visage beneath the veil of darkness. 

I made a similar voyage around my own backyard just the other night--and although I have lived in the house for more than four years now, I had not yet so completely discovered my own backyard. I was looking for little bits of wood, you see, for the inspiration had suddenly come upon me to make a campfire, just as I had often done back in the Oregon forests. Generally speaking, one would not want to make a campfire in the Bali heat which simmers humidly even at night, but of late it had actually been rather chilly at evening and morning. I collected larger branches from the front yard first, cut earlier from a tree that had died, and then set out on my search for smaller sticks in the backyard. And who knew that there would be so many sticks, despite the absence of a tree? Yet, I found these twigs all along the edges of the walls, as well as clumps of dry brown grass perfectly suited for tinder. I found as well a large lizard--a tokek. I had heard him in the past, croaking at night, saying his own name, as Tokeks do--"Toe-Kay, Toe-Kay, Toe-kay--until they run out of breath, but I had never known where his home was--just there in a crevasse where side and back walls meet. Next, I saw a mouse run up the concrete wall. Who knew that mice could climb walls? Not me, until now. I found that one could actually hang himself by the neck if he tried to walk through the clothesline, indistinct in the darkness, and that the metal clothes rack, when taken by surprise, is able to wrestle with unexpected vigor. And oh! So that's where those cockroaches come from--that little hole beneath the lower slab of the porch! (I'll fix their wagon in the morning). 

In short, my backyard is a world its own, in miniature, and able to sustain its own sort of travel.

And so I made my humble fire, and sat for a time beneath different stars and the glimmering of memories that shine through the years and across the vast, many sided globe.