Letter from Bali – III
There is an eclectic mix in today’s ramblings. If time permits we might touch the staff… question, bathe in the subject of Indonesian toilets, sneak a visit to immigration and visas, fill up on the rice question, renew our acquaintance with energy and, since that is quite the workout, give the doctor a visit. We’ll see how far we get…
We begin with a brief mention of staff. Staff are a feature of the expat experience in this country. It is a coin with two sides.
The benefits are obvious: Cooking dinners? Doing dishes? Making beds? Cleaning toilets? Truth be told I have scarcely ever done any of these things! Bali, however, has transformed me into an even lazier bugger. Let the rest of humanity fret over the laundry – I have moved on. I hardly wipe my own arse anymore.
I don’t know exactly how many people we employ. There is a housekeeper and a gardener, both of whom came in the contract for the house. It didn’t strike me at the time that we don’t actually have a garden to speak of – apparently this isn’t a problem. I see these fine folks every day. We don’t sleep together but we do live together. Then there is our driver so now we’re up to three. (As for the need for a driver… well, a family of four on a motorcycle – no problem! – I soon lost that argument. And if you are going to rent a car in Bali then a driver is only about 30% more, is a bit cheaper than your gas/petrol bill per month, and eliminates any road problems with police or insurance. You do the math.) It is when we start to add the night watch and the pool guy that I lose count. I put money in envelopes for everyone but exactly who everyone is I haven’t quite got a handle on. I am confident in saying that for staff we hire more than three and a half people but likely less than five. Are we strange? Is this a madness of excess? Not around here it isn’t.
I feel spoilt and wasteful – I really don’t mind doing dishes… when I have to. But if I did get my hands dirty and sweep the floor then four and a bit people would not get paid out my pocket and yes, they want the work! What do they earn? Roughly C$1800 a year. It is shameful. When the grass has been cut I get the gardener to sew soccer balls in a windowless shed out-back. Welcome to the third world.
This is the other side of that staff coin. Having the poverty of others in your face every minute of every day. Now you can’t pretend it doesn’t have a name and what’s more – you’re complicit! That is the worst part but there are other thorns. Kiss your privacy goodbye! You thought kids were bad? And lest I forget, I like my bum wiped front to back, front to back. I just can’t get used to this side to side bit and my Indonesian isn’t good enough yet to fix it.
I’ll skip the bit about toilets. I can do that later. You wouldn’t believe it anyway. I’ll skip the Immigration bit too – I’ll save it for another day (a solid rant about corruption and bureaucracy that could likely fill a whole letter I would think). I happen to need my visa stay extended this week too so I don’t want to get in the shit with them right now either. What is left?
Rice, energy and doctors. It will all have to wait.
This is a week of firsts: After streams of abuse this blog was set up and spam e-mails are now a thing of the past. I also spotted my first snake within the walls of our charming abode which precipitated a change of family duties – from now on it is the children who must go into the bushes to retrieve the football.
I shall leave you with a picture of a denizen of these parts, another neighbour of ours. I saw one the size of a dinner plate. A lunatic in Birkenstocks advised me that they are quite shy. That’s alright then.