I met Eve because I never wear a watch. Of course there were the really cool reasons I ended up with everything paid for in Bali 2007 anyway, even if it was to always skip the Ubud Writers festival. Anyway, one of the few times I actually was present was spent queueing in line for Kiran Desai’s book signing, and at that point I turned around to ask her for the time. Suddenly four hours had passed. We were far away from the festival, walked and found a library, and I had to pack and leave for the airport. For the longest time, I didn’t think I’d ever get to see Bali again. Two years later, I walk into her house to spend the night, and it was like immediately being in the best part of it.
I thought about waiting till the sun came up before taking photos of her house, but I was already fumbling for my camera in my bag. I didn’t realize I hadn’t eaten anything all day until she made me Indomie cup noodles for supper.
We talked about books on her bed till 3am then she said she’d sleep with her mother, who still gets sad about sleeping alone sometimes. Her family wakes up on time to eat breakfast together. It was the first time I’d done that in awhile. We had muffins and really strong coffee. Her mother shared Indo-Malaysian gossip, and her brother asked if Too Phat would be reuniting soon. They speak Bahasa Indonesia fast, but I can catch it all. A wild bird joins them for breakfast every morning. It’s pretty and very shy.
Eve takes the long way to work for me. I like Denpasar immediately, because it was the first time I felt in a place where locals lived as well, and as themselves, not as a tourguide or a masseuse. Even from the last time I was there, Bali was starting to look like one big tourist shopping theme park, so I was pretty happy Denpasar introduced itself.
The last time I met Eve, she was telling me about how she backpacked around Germany (Europe?) alone, and was super young and bubbly. “I’ve had to play a grown-up since then,” she told me in the car. Her father passed away last year, and she had to take over the family business, despite having a totally unrelated degree (interior design, from Jakarta). She lights an incense stick for him before she begins work every day.
After work we had a long lovely and late lunch and she took me to lapangan Puputan Badung at sunset, a big field where local old men played chess and young boys flew kites, played ball and skateboarded. There was a story to the flagpole and the statues which she told me, about a Dutch invasion. I’ll google it later, but I have her version of it on video.
One thing I noticed is that men there love their chess. I see old and middle-aged and young men playing it everywhere; in the streets, in parks, in their shops, in the thick heat and hustle-bustle of Kuta in the day, and the dead Kuta at 4am in the light of 24 hour Circle K stores. Their chess games are pretty rapid, sometimes they bet 50,000 rupiah a game with foreigners, and in the park I was in, people all come to hover. They ask me where I’m from, since I’m the only girl standing there watching the game, and then they ask if I know how to play. I know how chess works, I’m just no good at the foresight and insane number of stratagems chess players keep among themselves. I want my 50,000 rupiah to stay in my wallet, so I take a few photos and run back to Eve. Her brother buys dinner by the road and brings it to the dinner table with his girlfriend. While waiting for him the evening news plays footage of the Jakarta bombings over and over again. The food is delicious, they throw up a storm equivalent to a night market when I offer to pay, and then throw me into the car to drop me off at Kuta.
I was early. A man offered to pay for my drink at the restaurant-pub outside the hotel. He asked for my name, and when I asked in return, he tells me to ask the waitresses. “Sexy Peterrr,” they crooned on cue, and I tried not to roll my eyes. He’s British, and came to Bali one day and never left. That was 20 years ago. He says he still stays in the hotel where I’m due to put up tonight, he’s building a house “over there”, and his beer is like on automatic refill. The waitresses whisper to me in Bahasa that they carry him home sometimes. His brother was stationed in Borneo during the war, and when he found out I was from Malaysia, he went into a long monologue about colonization and its consequences. He tried to credit his race / colonization for my English. I tried to explain my mother’s afro rocking the States in the 70s had more to do with that than his brother in Borneo or whatever. He kept saying that “our intentions were good though,” and was hurt when I struck a conversation with the owner of the bar afterwards in German. I stuck myself to her speaking toddler German until the KL crew rolled out of the van at the hotel.
I didn’t tell them that I found out before taking the plane last night about Germany being a bust. I thought it would be better if I kept the rejection news to myself. But I didn’t say much throughout the trip, now that I think about it, and I threw myself into walking around and taking photos (which always cheers me up). I hope I didn’t come off as odd or cold. I know I was quite deep in my own world sometimes. I told the Austrian girls who I befriended at the airport before departure in KL about Nusa Lembongan and how I was looking forward to it. They made a note of the place too and said they’d try check it out. I didn’t get to go to Nusa Lembongan, but when I came home I checked Facebook and found out Andrea and Alexandra were on their way there. It was a nice feeling to know that they really did go check it out.
So Bali and I are not done yet. But having only Bali, Bandung, and Singapore on my passport so far, I’m going to have to sandwich another country or two first between this trip and my next.
Thank you, Eve, for putting me up! Your family was amazing and if you ever come here, I promise you I’ll be all yours.