For the past three days the sky has been dumping inconceivable amounts of rain on Bali. It is supposed to be fully into the dry season, which according to the locals never varies time wise, but the volcano in Iceland seems to be interrupting world weather patterns in addition to being an irritating road bump on your European vacation itinerary. And so riding my wee little motor bike to work takes on a whole new level…. poncho on, face mask down, avoid the lake sized potholes that have now become actual lakes. The rain here feels hot and kind of like it will tear the roof off your house after a couple hours. You can barely hear yourself talking to someone next to you it is so loud. It is stunning in its drama, and the dogs run even more crazily than usual into the street, agitated without a place of shelter. One Balinese man I work with says that he only listens to music in the summer when there is no rain.
The dogs in Bali can be frightening or charming depending on the day. As I said before, they are always in the street, usually copulating, if not fighting. Sometimes you will see a small pack of mutts with the odd designer dog trailing behind, running wild. Apparently there is a group here trying to round up all the puppies at the beach, where the parents drop them off for good, in order to spay and neuter them to combat the problem, and hopefully temper the rabies issue that has been growing the past year or two. We have one really cool mother dog who hangs out real mellow on the property where I work and looks after her little puppy, which looks nothing like her. Milkman’s baby? I missed getting a photo of the pup, but I got a pic of the mom keeping her cool on the porch… There are also chickens everywhere in the street. Often times you will have to steer your motor bike around a mother hen walking her babies across the road, or a rooster doing the dance of manhood. A couple of days ago I came upon a group of old men betting on a cockfight in the middle of the road. My moto scared the cocks off sending everyone running to control them and get the game back in order. In addition to the mildly disturbing cockfighting circuit, there are also a number of little shanty shacks that house pool tables or alternately, ping pong tables. Maybe if I stay long enough I can get in on a game or two.
Last night, in the name of research, my employers took me to the Oberoi. The Oberoi is really the first fine hotel and restaurant to be on the beach in southern Bali, and is considered to be the best example of classic Bali style and fine dining. With two hours notice the executive chef prepared us a 12 course tasting menu that was pretty perfect. Quite a special experience. My favorite was the tableside coffee wood smoked artichoke heart with coconut-heart of palm salad. Yum. Service in Bali is in a league of its own in terms of being gracious, attentive, and almost invisible. I’m not totally sure how to fit myself into the Balinese working style yet though. It is common place here for people to borrow your things, stick their fingers in your food, and spend much more time diplomatically discussing than hustling. This is the downside of the relaxed life, the challenging workplace.
Today I spent the morning scootering and walking around Ubud, checking out the shops, markets, and cafes. My new favorite thing in Bali is fresh turmeric juice with lemon and honey. Really a treat. I ate some weird Bali fusion cuisine for brunch, which deserves no mention here, then went into a row of jewelry shops. Bali is a country of crafters, and the shops here are pretty amazing. The baskets, the batik, the metal smithing. It is also a country of copiers. It is amazing, you can give a book to a copy house, and days later they will hand you back a perfectly aligned, bound, black and white copy of your original book. There is also a series of bootleg shops that look completely identical to the originals (such as dolce and gabbana, ralph lauren, etc.) right down to the advertising on the wall. It is theorized by some that even though the store and the company is a bootleg, the clothes are the same product; most of them are made in Indonesian sweat shops anyway! So the bootleg is only kind of a bootleg anyway. Interesting….
In response to a request for more pictures of my actual self enjoying Bali, I have put here an embarrassing photo myself doing my best cop impression. Over and out!