Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September 16, 2008 - Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

Last night I declared that I had to spend today shopping. Sten's and my wardrobes are just in shambles these days. Everything, literally every piece of clothing we have on board, is either stained, or torn, or unraveling. The prices in Bali make this a great place to find some new things to cover our bodies. So we headed south, to Kuta and its strip of surf shops. I picked up a few shirts, while Sten found a new pair of board shorts and few buttondowns.

Shopping (or really doing anything that takes you out on a public street) in Bali is like running a gauntlet. Every space big enough to wedge in a few shelves and cover with a roof is filled with the same crap: wifebeaters (singlets for our Aussie and Kiwi readers) hats and beer coozies emblazoned with the Bintang Beer logo, shorts, sarongs, pillow cases and bags made out of batik fabric, necklaces, lamps and coasters made from shells, crocheted water bottle carriers, rayon sundresses, beaded sandals, "Rolex" watches, sunglasses, t-shirts, and key chains in the shape of dongers. As you walk by the hawkers call out their litany of enticing phrases:
  • look, look, look
  • cheap price
  • honeymoon price
  • morning price (I don't get this one - wouldn't the afternoon price or the 5 minutes till closing price be cheaper than the morning price?)
  • bring you luck
  • you bring me good luck
They ask you where you are from and try to engage you in conversation to delay you long enough to entice you into their store. The most effective tactic seems to be to keep your eyes averted and keep moving, even as they reach out to touch your arm or hands. It feels rude, but you simply can't stop to talk to each person who tries to talk to you here. As you keep walking by, the ladies in particular seem to have a way of continuing to call after you that suggests that you are a bad, greedy person for not buying the tacky stuff they are selling, or maybe that is just how it sounds through the filter of my Catholic guilt. The ladies hawking massages and pedicures have a way of looking at your hands and feet that suggest that your nails are in a terrible state and that you really have no business being out in public with them looking so ratty. We've each said "no thank you" precisely one million times during the past few weeks. It is getting a bit old. The only thing I can compare it to at home is trying to have a family dinner while the phone keeps ringing with telemarketers calling to try and sell you something. Only this is much worse.

Sten broke his Maui Jims last week. Luckily he has a pair of cheap sunglasses that he picked up in Panama to get by with until his Maui Jims are repaired. With so many cheap pairs of sunglasses available on the street, it seemed a good idea to pick up another backup pair for him. Sten found a pair he liked at one of the stalls. The sales guy started the haggling at 170,000 Rupiah (approx. 20USD). Sten just put down the shades and started walking away. By the time they reached agreement at 20,000 Rupiah, Sten was standing across the street. Agreement here is usually signified with a handshake. One favorite sales technique is to grab the customer's hand and start shaking it at a number that the sales person likes, but the customer hasn't agreed to yet. So by being across the street, Sten avoided that particular trap. But when he started to hand the sales guy four 5,000 bills, he claimed they weren't worth as much as a single 20,000 note. After Sten started to walk away again, he relented and finally finished the sale, handing over the shades.

Between surfshops, Sten found a photo shop that could do the passport photos we needed for our Thai visas. The photographer took us upstairs to take the pictures in the studio. It was so hot and airless up there that we both immediately beaded up with sweat. We figured that the beads of sweat would help us be more recognizable when we arrive in Thailand during the wet season. Back downstairs, they processed the photos with photoshop. The end result was like a trip down memory lane. In my picture I went from having natural 30 something year old skin (replete with a sheen of sweat, clogged pores and crows feet) to looking like my pre-teen self - having just bought my first bottle of Cover Girl foundation from Saywell's drugstore and thinking that I was supposed to apply it with a putty knife, resulting in evenly colored skin with bubble gum pink undertones. It's good to be thirteen again, if only in my passport pictures.

It seems that every block in Kuta contains a store selling DVD's of new releases, for less than we paid in New Zealand for blank recordable DVD's. We sorted through the shelves at one store and came up with a stack of DVD's that we were interested in. For $11, we walked out with 14 new movies, including a new Steve Carell comedy called Dan in Real Life, which was filmed at Suzy's cousins' house in Jamestown, Rhode Island. After a sushi feast at Ryoshi in Seminyak, we went back to our hotel and watched the movie. It was really fun to watch it with Suzy, as she pointed out the changes made to the house for the filming and the similarities between the way her cousins and the characters in the movie use the house. She and Sten both pointed out other familiar locations used in the filming. The only drawbacks to our movie night were that we didn't have any popcorn or Junior Mints, and that the views of the Jamestown bridge and Beavertail Lighthouse made us all a little homesick.

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