Saturday News

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
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Trip End Dec 27, 2005


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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Saturday News

I've become so dependent on cell phones, and my Nokia 9500 in particular, that it took me three days to notice that there was no phone in my room here in Lombok. No TV either, but that's not a problem.

Anyway, to make a local call at a reasonable rate (I don't have the same affection for my phone service as I do for my phone) I have to go to the open air dining area and use the only phone in the place. Again, not a problem, just an interesting note.

In Bali, which is a step up the cultural sophistication ladder, I had to ring the front desk and have them make calls for me. Actually, that left me feeling aristocratically important. There is something to be said for having someone place your calls and making the called party wait while the caller is roused from their lethargic state and put on the line. I know, business executives and politicians probably will object that they are being productive during this time, but, really, how difficult is it to hit a button in your contact management program and be connected? And isn't there some tactile sensibility to be gained from the instances when you get a busy tone, no answer, or voice mail? For the record, I don't accept any of these responses when calling a corporate customer service or help line. But I digress (which is my style, for better or for worse).

Here's another downside of paradise: it is filled with bugs. For some reason, that little detail is left off the travel brochures and guide books. Not just the pesky, malarial and dengue fever carrying mosquitoes that we expect, but all sorts of ants, beetles, moths, lizards, and assorted unidentified creatures. The ants here are the fastest I've ever seen. They are all a reminder that the original function of a four-poster bed is to hold the netting which keeps them at bay while we take our repose. How forlorn a naked four-poster has always looked to me, even before I consciously made that connection.

Now, people living in such environments have turned bugs into features (computer pun intended). They eat them. At least some of them intentionally. It also seems that picking out any but the most egregious food invader is not good etiquette. Certainly not in front of your host. You should be thankful for the added protien, which is sometimes in short supply.

Outdoor eating invites these unwanted guests, but you get used to it. As a Wisconsin woman told me about her Peace Corps days in Africa, "They wear you down. Eventually you get used to them crawling around your eyes, and just minimize the aggravation." At my current stage of travel tolerance, anything smaller than a grain of rice is acceptable collateral damage. But give me a week in Myanmar and that may change. I have to wonder how Todd is doing up around the Cambodian border. Last week he wouldn't join me in the pa (goat innards stew) or fish maw soup. And I'm not sure he took me seriously when I pointed out the pile of edible water beetles in the Mae Sot market. Then again, he has to be a bit more careful about his food and he could stand to lose a few pounds to boot.

Which brings me to another observation. I have been eating large amounts of food, all local, and am losing weight. In fact, the rate of obesity is so small in Thailand and Indonesia that you really notice someone who is overweight. At least in my case, no parasites or Typhoid to blame it on. I mention the latter because I had drinks with an ex-pat last night who is recovering from a recent bout of it. I never thought of contracting it as a real threat, but there it is. Knock on wood (the real teak and mahogany here) I haven't got sick in the least. My theory is that eating enough chile pepper with meals will kill anything else I ingest. It works so long as I can convince the cook that I really do like my food sangat pedas (very spicy). They see me as typically American and ratchet down the heat level.

And now for a night of bar hopping. Lest you think I am succumbing to the same bizarre behavior exhibited by Jim in his final days (if you are reading this, I must assume you know me, and therefore know that I have never bar hopped on my own in my life), my purpose in canvasing the local watering holes is to show Jim's picture around to old time ex-pats in the hope someone remembers him.

[excuse me a moment while I chase a small crab scuttling along my bedroom floor - that's one invertebrate too many in my room.]

While driving around the vicinity of Gunungsari today (where the village hunters who discovered Jim's remains live), we came across several Sasaks (the locals) who recalled seeing him around. It was an eerie feeling. Here were people far removed from my usual reality, half way around the world, remembering my friend three years after he died, and I was randomly meeting them on the streets.

So the proprietors of this cottage suggested that I take my photos down to the Saturday night gatherings of ex-pats at some of the bars they frequent in Senggigi. This was one of the higher-risk activities my friends and I have discussed in the past about investigating Jim's death. But now that I am here, and have seen the response from locals, I can't pass it up.
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You certainly have a way of describing a situation that makes me feel like I am right there experiencing it with you...I appreciate your attention to the details of an experience, and the thoughtfulness with which you describe its impact on you...

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