Bali Life, Richly Lived

Bali Life, Richly Lived

By Richard Boughton

Jalan Pasar is the street we live on. Market Street – aptly named given that this particular neighbourhood branches out from the central hub of Sindhu Market itself, wherein the local people ply their goods, from produce to livestock, fruits to chickens, bottled sodas to dried bananas, rice cakes, candies, peanuts, onions, melons large and small, jack fruit, tomatoes, potatoes and durian, spilled out in abundance from booth to booth and crowding the path that winds through the square.

Along the way little children peep out from cave-like dwellings – no phone, no pool, no pets, but lots of cigarettes. Hello, mister, they gleefully call out, expending in two words their entire comprehension of the English language. Mau ke mana? (Where are you going?) Ownerless dogs trot along as well, sniffing our heels, summing us up and then going their own gaunt way. Chickens cluck along the weed-lined walls and baby chicks race through the gutter-way, dyed pink and yellow to please the eye (I used to think they were born that way).

In the distance a Hindu chant can be heard, and in the greater distance, through a loudspeaker somewhere, the Muslim call to prayer pokes in the humid air like a summoning of bugles to battle.

The air is alive with voices both still and shrill, of beast and of man, of gamelan gongs and bells, of scents both fresh and foul, lingering in the sideways, the gangs, like old friends and foes. God, I love Bali. My heart both quickens and slows to the pace.

Yesterday we bought and carried our lunch home – three plates of chicken, rice, corn cakes, and tempeh, costing us a grand total of US$4. This is something that continually amazes us. We write back home about it.

This is the day market, but at night you will find the place altogether transformed. The booths containing raw victuals have now been replaced by tables of prepared food, and surrounding these, stemming outward like spokes, are racks of clothing, table tops full of sandals, purses, panties and bras, paintings, plastic toys, decks of cards, CDs and DVDs, women’s shoes, condoms, boots, mittens (for motorbike riding, mind you), plates and bowls and pottery work. Featured in the night market are two or three stereo systems with the sound turned up as high as it will go (although I cannot tell you why).

As can be imagined, the morning market differs from the night market in as far as morning brings necessity while night brings relaxation and entertainment. In the morning people buy; at night they look. In the morning they haggle; at night they chat. It is business in the morning, society at night.

It is not good for the bule to go alone to the pasar, for it is well known to every local person that every bule has banyak uang (lot of cash), along with a burning desire to spend this as quickly as he possibly can. It does not matter to him, for money grows in his wallet like grass in a yard, and no matter how much he pulls out, more of the green stuff sprouts up in its place, an endless bounty. Money means nothing to the bule, for he comes from the gold-paved streets of America and Europe, where the deer and the antelope play, and the skies are not cloudy all day.

There is not a person here, as far as I’ve been able to discover, that does not want to go to America. It is the land of plenty, the land of opportunity, the land of rap music, the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Little do they know how very far away America is, even from America.

But we all want to escape, to find the greener grass, the pot of gold, somewhere over the rainbow.

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