Bali’s main airport is big bright and clean with large traditional Balinese stone doors adorning the entrance. Already my first impression of it is more relaxed than mainland south east Asia, though I’ve not got out of the car yet so there’s still plenty of time to get harassed. Roads are smooth and traffic moves efficiently. Appearance is clean. I feel the way I felt when I landed in Aus for the first time- relaxed, looked after (I have a welcome pack from the school in the car and a driver taking me to a hotel they booked). I’m slightly awed, anticipating but trying not to expect anything.
The main road entering Kuta, Sunset road, which is also where I shall be working for my first month here, has a big line of palm trees running down its’ length and it reminds me of LA. Is this an affluent town? Perhaps not, a girl is begging with a baby in traffic, two actually.
I arrive at my hotel and jump for joy at the double bed before me, heading straight to the shower to wash away the last 36 hours of travel from my tired carcass.
On the way to the school from Kuta to Denpasar. There are lots of giant faded plastic-looking billboards, traffic and tight roads where the buildings appear to topple over on to you as you pass by. The shear volume of gargantuan signs for restaurants appear to me like cheap magazine adverts for coupons. Some are very run down buildings and some new. Some giant hotels and a great deal of over-development in an attempt to sell you a piece of paradise.
As we wind through twisting roads, accompanied by the tooting horns of a plethora of bikes, shrines and temples jump out of pavements next to shops, cafes and surf clothing outlets. Unfortunately Starbucks is here to greet me too. Roundabouts and municipal buildings are beautifully kept and ornate statues of Kings and warriors surrounded by painted concrete water and perfectly groomed grass. They are the best thing to look at in the city. I meet another teacher and we pair up, a silent pact of two newbies, let’s go for dinner together later in the evening.
Deepest, darkest Kuta is just like Patong. Hiding underneath a shiny sheen of clean footed and flip-flopped tourists with glowing skin, neon lights and pumping house music is an underbelly of poverty. Girls in skimpy dresses and people trying to make a buck where they can. Fat middle-aged sex tourists picking up skinny young Indonesian girls for an evening of void filling. Australian holiday makers in wife beaters making far too much noise. The men looking through the glass behind you while you enter your pin at an ATM. Imagine being so poor you can’t feed your children. So poor you are willing to allow people to sexually touch you so you’ll have security.
I saw a woman on the street selling bracelets, her son sleeping on newspaper by her side. I had just found out my wages here are terrible and feeling hard done by, laughed at, mugged off and completely stupid for my own sake. I walked past her and realised what an idiot I was. Here I was complaining about my situation and there was a woman unable to put food in her child’s belly just feet away from me. I went back and gave her the change in my pocket- a measly amount and one I didn’t understand for the currency sums I can’t seem to do in my mathematically blocked head. I didn’t take the bracelet she offered. Just closed her thin hands around the crumpled notes hoping it could buy her and her son a meal. She looked at me with the shocked tired ghostly face of a starving person. I cried all the way home.
|The view of next door’s temple from my transient home, Granny’s Hostel. A haven for free spirited travelers if ever there was one.|