Letter from Bali – X
Before we get started I just wanted to say… who knew?! They look different but who would have thought they taste different too?! Calico and tabby? Sweet and sour! Mmmmm and chewy too, pass the peanut sauce! And those little black ones with the white paws, so cute and crunchy! No but really everyone, take a breath and give a thought to the hard working folks in the fur trade, lets give them a big hand right now, good on you… do you know how difficult it is to match up those patterns?
This is in reference, of course, to the poll in Letter VIII about what to do with our surplus kittens and let me tell you – you people are just sick! Sick I say! Shame on you and your western bourgeois sentiments! No, we disregarded your heartless taunts for clemency and we fired up the barbecue just fine. This is the jungle, baby, and the food chain will be observed!
In Bali there is another food chain and when we saddled up on our first family scooter ride together we found ourselves very near the bottom of it, just above those tourists on their self righteous mountain bikes and a bit below the guy pushing the food cart down the middle of the road. So far we’ve only managed four of us on a bike together once, a step behind the guy in this picture. We went out riding in the rain though which has to be worth more madness points, although we lost some again by all wearing helmets (sorry). I’m planning on carrying a few 20 foot bamboo poles with me the next time and then I’ll be a real road Indonesian! It’s all about respect.
The rain around here is no joke. Yeh so what? Europe is in a big freeze, the shelves are empty of bread – you’re breaking my heart! Spare a thought for the poor folks lying by the poolside in the tropics… I’m getting rained on. After lunch they sweep in, large ominous grey skies and then flick a switch and… il pleut.
This phenomenon is due to run for three months, it goes on after lunch for a few hours and same again in the middle of the night. This is forgettable in almost every respect except for the unforeseen affect it has on the local wildlife, unforeseen by me that is. Four days ago we were only one week into the rains when I came to a gravel churning stop on our moped that almost put my good lady wife over my shoulder and across the handle bars. All this Newtonian anxiety was because I came face to face with Naja Sputatrix, all slithering 5 feet of him crossing the road and my long dormant but finely honed hunter-gatherer reflexes kicked in, immediately recognizing my tenuous position on the food chain, and opening the adrenalin vaults and a couple more besides.
The Indonesian Cobra (common cobra they call him here, common in the ‘not unusual’ sense) – language is a funny thing you know – ‘breeks’ is a Scottish word for trouser that might have been derived from the Latin braccae for a Celtic form of pant. As Augustine himself once said, “Who the fuck really cares boys?”. True enough Auggy old son, but in this instance it might be combined with another colloquialism of the north, ‘shatma’, which refers to an act of giving deeply of and from oneself. Letter from Bali IX covered most of that in too much depth already. All that needs said here is that when you hammer the brakes on a gravel road to avoid running over the fanged horror of your dreams, in your scooter and flip flops (you, not the snake), I draw on a rich language tradition when I say that I ‘shatma breeks’.
No, I didn’t get a photo. The bastard didn’t give two hoots for me, it turned around and went back into the wet bush to chase rats displaced by the floods, as was itself, as was I, torn away from my bed by the pool. And life’s grand adventure goes on.
We’ve had two other visitors since the rains came. A pair of water monitors (varanus salvator) showed up, they’re like wee Komodo dragons and they are the top predator on this island among air breathers that don’t require bike licenses. They grow big and they’ll eat chickens and dogs and kittens too if I hadn’t beat them to it. Now here is another funny thing about language, you see one of them fell in the pool at the deep end and sunk so we ran over for a look. I thought he was a goner but I was buggered if I was going to jump in to save him, teeth and claw and all that. He sunk like a stone and just sat there on the bottom, looking all in utero. After about ten minutes of talking about what to do about him we thought to fish the body out with the pool cleaning stick when the bugger took off like Flipper the dolphin! He folded his legs and arms in and swam like a greased eel! He shot through the water and jumped out and hoofed it up a tree and over the six foot wall! So that is why water monitors got their names and I’ll not be taking another drunken midnight swim for a while without giving the place a once over with my flashlight – my paranoia is now set to ‘Kim Jong Il’, only one notch below ‘Clinton/Wikileaks’.
As usual I haven’t got to talking about what I wanted to and now it’s late. The school term ends this week and there is a shuffle of families going on. People are leaving and people are coming. You get this a bit ‘back home’ but nothing like this. This is a merry go round.
That’s what I wanted to talk about, expat life, the question about ‘what is home?’, that question and more than that. How do people find new homes, make new lives. This place is full of folk trying to or wanting to, or succeeding, or failing. Whether you love or hate the place doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference either so before Christmas comes maybe we’ll get to that? In the meantime you can look at pretty flowers – the world can never have enough pretty flowers. These were all from the Ubud botanical gardens and yes, they do have lots of orchids.
And no, we did not really eat the cats. Not all of them anyway. Miaow.