I’m reminded of a bully I used to work beside at a Bistro, way back in time and space, in Canada. He was the chef, and I waited tables. He would get off on trying to bring me down, with various and constant emotional manipulations. Little insults, controlling behaviors. On days when my mood was unconquerably bright, he didn’t bother to even try to emotionally attack me. I’ve found the same with street touts. At the times when I most want them to leave me alone, they will twist the knife harder. Once I was trying to avoid a very rude tout, and he would not leave me be, so I ran around and away from him. This was like putting blood in the water, and a nearby guy came in to bite. “What you looking for?”, he demanded. As if it wasn’t plain that I was running away from another tout. As if my whole body was a question that he was waiting to answer with his “help”. “Peace and quiet”. I answered. “Oh! You can’t have!”, he informed me. He seemed to think that the ground of Bali belongs to the Balinese, and possibly also other Indonesians, and I was in the way of his right to the money that was hovering over this ground, that happened to be in my wallet.
The fact that I live here in Bali doesn’t give me any rights of existing, of having my own space. My space is seen as something they can get inside, at their will, because I’m not from ’round here.
If there is ever a reason I chose to leave here, it may be the air pollution. It is unhealthy, and unnecessary. There is little sense that the air is a commons that people share and have responsibility for, nor understanding of negative health effects of pollution. When I see a pile of burning garbage and smell the plastic fumes, it feels as if someone is peeing on my pants. My air is my space, and it has been invaded and polluted. The locals don’t feel that way about it. The air belongs to no one, and is not harmed.
I wonder if people would burn less plastic if they knew that the fumes lower sperm count in men.
I don’t know a solution to that problem of plastic. I admit to not sequestering and burying my own.
Minor language bothers: “How long you stay Bali?” is a question that is not tense specific. It at once means how long have I been here, and how long will I stay here. He is often used for both he and she. “Can” is used instead of “can not”.
One last cultural trait that I don’t expect to ever be assimilated to is agreeing to do something or meet somewhere, while from the outset never intending to follow through, or only vaguely entertaining the possibility of it. As I’m not from this culture, I don’t have the same skills to finely read what a person is trying to say to me – I have to rely on what is meant by their words. So when yes means no, I’m at a loss.