Thursday, December 19, 2013

jalan jalan

"Where are you going?" 

Walking down the street in Bali can be a challenge, since Indonesians rarely walk far, preferring to hop on a scooter. Plus a slow-moving tourist represents a chance to sell something. 

I don't mean it unkindly. An extra dollar goes far in this part of the world. But the daily barrage of friendly questions is  exhausting. And I hate to be rude or lie. 

"Where you going?" often followed by "Where you stay?" and "Where you come from?" without a breath in between. Often the same person will ask the same questions hours later. No one cares where you are going. 

Four little kids sat down next to me on the rocky beach, wearing ragged shirts, pretending to be making conversation in English, before pulling out bracelets and sea salt to sell. 

It's a weekday. They should be in school. I can afford the dollar or two but won't buy. 

"What's your name?" "Where you from?" 

Last time I said "America," the young woman serving me breakfast replied "Obama" and smiled shyly. There aren't many Americans in Indonesia because of the distance and price of a ticket. We tend to go to Thailand instead. 

I expect to see more in Ubud, thanks to the Yoga Barn and my neighbor Michael Franti and "Eat, Pray, Love."

In the mean time, I'll be chatting with friendly Amed residents, who can't believe I'm not married. Except for the fisherman with five kids who says his wife is never happy. 

"Where are you going? Transport?"

I shake my head. "Jalan, jalan." 

(Walking, walking.) This always makes them laugh, a bittersweet laugh that I speak their language but will not buy.