5/21/18: Bombarded With Kindness In Java, Indonesia

I went out for a short run this morning. The first mile or so was absolute hell. There were so many cars and motorbikes, and there is really no room for pedestrians so it was actually a bit dangerous. At one point, one guy on a motorbike did a fake-out, pretending to almost crash into me. When I jumped back in surprise, he and his friend started cackling at me. Assholes.

I hung out in the hostel until around 11, checked out, and got a Grab bike to a cheap warung near Divine Earth, where I would be meeting with Liat again to continue our interview. (Our first interview was cut short due to an emergency.)

I got some eggplant, tempeh, tofu, and greens.

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I was going to also get food to take away and eat for dinner on my way to Java, the island next to Bali, but I didn’t want the same greasy food twice so decided I’d try to find something later.

I got to Divine Earth a bit earlier than our 12 o’clock appointment, so I got my laptop out and blogged for a bit. At 12:30, there were still no signs of Liat so I emailed her assistant, Natalia, to make sure we were still on for the interview. She replied right away, telling me they were waiting for me at Earth Cafe down the road. I’m not sure how I missed that communication, but I quickly packed up my stuff and headed off to Earth Cafe.

When I got there, Liat was in the middle of something so I went downstairs to wait in the cafe. I wasn’t in the best mood because I was stressed about leaving early enough to get to Java before it was too late at night.  But then I talked with Adrian on the phone, and our short convo really cheered me up. I needed that.

The interview was over by 2, and I ordered a Grab bike to take me to the Ubung bus terminal.

Every single person here thinks I speak Indonesian. Bus drivers, grab drivers, mini mart staff, you name it. Then I have to awkwardly admit I have no idea what their saying and I feel bad.

It happened again on my ride to the bus terminal– my driver started speaking to me in Indonesian but I had no idea what he was saying. When he realized I don’t speak the language, he laughed and apologized.

He was actually so nice! He wasn’t sure if the bus terminal was operating, so he asked a random other biker if he knew. The guy was pretty sure, but the driver told me that if it wasn’t open that he’d take me to another bus station. When we got to the station, he asked a few others who were hanging around if there were buses going to Gilimanuk, the port I needed to get to on the west end of Bali. One guy pointed at a bus, telling us it was going to Gilimanuk.

I got off the bike, paid my driver, and walked toward the bus. Before I got on, I asked the guy how much it cost.

“70,000.”

I knew he was trying to rip me off because I had read online that it should only be 50,000 IDR ($3.50).

“It should be 50,000, no?”
“Ok ok 50,000.”

Well, that was easy. Phew.

I got on to the old, decrepit bus and waited 15 more minutes before we got going. I assumed we would be parked for a while since it was pretty empty when I got on, but I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly we left.

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We picked up more people on the street along the way. This happens everywhere in SE Asia, but it seriously puzzles me. How do these people know a bus is coming? Do they wait until a bus rolls down the street? How do they know where it’s going? Are there bus stops? How does the driver know to stop for them? I never see them wave the bus down.

I stared out the window for most of the bus ride, and I saw a more “real” side of Bali. It was actually really nice. There were lots of rice fields and terraces, people working in the fields and on the roads, endless warungs (all selling the same exact food), and crazy traffic.

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A few hours into the ride, everyone suddenly got up to look at something ahead. I assumed it was an accident. We drove by a bunch of motorcycles and people milling around.  It seemed like the entire town was on the road.
Then we drove past a child lying down on the road with a tarp over his/her body. It was really sad… I’ve never seen a dead body like that. Just on the street. I really couldn’t believe my eyes. Why didn’t they get him/her to the hospital? Why didn’t they move him/her? It was really so sad.

We got to the Gilimanuk port at 7. I surprisingly made it 7.5 hours without dying of hunger. That lunch was really filling.

The kindness continued– random people pointed me to the ferry ticket office (the ticket cost 6500 IDR, or about 50 cents), then the ticket scanner people were really friendly, and the boat staff were also really smiley and helpful.

This port was also WAY nicer than the one on the east side, Padang Bai. There was a proper ticket scanner, turnstile, and walkway to the ferry. And on the ferry, there were nicer TVs and even a safety video.

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Inside the ferry

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While I was on the walkway to the ferry, an Indonesian guy asked me where I was going. I told him Java, and he told me he’s from East Java. He guided me to the seating area of the boat, and we sat separately for the boat ride.

Once the boat was close to the dock in Java, he motioned for me to follow him down to the exit. He was with his brother, and told me they were going to take public transport to Banyuwangi, where I was going, as well. It actually worked out perfectly because I had no idea how I was going to get from the port to my homestay.

I showed him where I was staying on Google Maps, and he told me it was really far away from the city.

We walked up to the public transport, which was really just a taxi in the form of an old truck. The taxi driver didn’t know where my homestay was. My new Indonesian friend told me it was really far away and to just go to his hotel since it’s cheap and closer. I didn’t really have a choice since the driver didn’t speak any English and I didn’t see any cabs. I agreed to just go to his hotel instead. I hadn’t paid for my homestay room yet anyway, so I wasn’t losing money.

They introduced themselves as we made our way to the city. Fandy was the English speaker and old brother, and Bagus was the younger brother with limited English skills. Fandy asked me where else I was going in Java, and I told him Jogjakarta, Bandung and Jakarta. They told me over and over again how dangerous Jogjakarta is, and how I have to watch my money because I might get robbed.
Then they asked me how long I’ve been in Indonesia. When I told them 3 weeks, they were floored. They couldn’t believe I was traveling alone for that long. I figured I shouldn’t tell them I’ve actually been doing this for 5 and a half months lest they have a heart attack.

We got to the Hotel Anda and paid the 80,000 ($6) for the room. The brother came in to my room a few minutes later with a water bottle and chocolate bar that he had bought at the mini-mart for me. How sweet!!

I walked down the street to get food. I feel so foreign here— there are absolutely no tourists. It’s crazy. But I’m pretty sure everyone thinks I’m Indonesian, so I don’t feel as vulnerable as I might if I was 100% white. The perks of being mixed race!

I walked into a shop that said “nasi goreng” (fried rice) on the front. Always a safe bet. (The actual name is Yu Mah.)

 “Nasi goreng with vegetables only, no meat please.”

They didn’t really understand me at first, so I tried to rephrase it a couple times.

“Just vegetables. No meat.”
“No ayam, no chicken.”

Eventually they got the gist.

The lady started cooking, first picking up an egg and pointing at it.

“No egg, please.” 

Then she picked up a container filled with vegetables.

“Yes, vegetables please!” I said as I gave her the thumbs up.

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My girl cookin!

She asked me what drink I wanted. I didn’t really want one, but she was so sweet and the drinks were so cheap that I ordered one anyway. I went with the apple smoothie.

The food was good, but a bit oily. I feel like if I live in Indonesia long enough and eat at enough warungs (local restaurants), I’m going to gain weight. There’s a LOT of oil in the food here.

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It was crazy cheap. My meal with both fried rice and a smoothie was $1.50 (75 cents for the fried rice, 50 cents for the smoothie).

When I was back at the hotel, I noticed that there was no blanket on my bed.

I went to the lobby and asked for a blanket. They didn’t understand me, so I hugged myself with my arms. They thought I was saying it’s cold, and I told them, “No no, do you have a blaaan-keet” and did the same thing with my arms. Because of course if you say the word slowly enough they will magically understand!!  And also I didn’t know how else to demonstrate a blanket.

The charades didn’t work, so I just went back to my room. I guess I could handle one night without a blanket.

I got ready for bed around 10 pm. There really wasn’t much to do around here other than sleep.


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