Finding a Ride in Bali


I never meant to walk into Desiís place; I didnít ask for what I saw in there. Finding transport in Canggu, a quieter Balinese surfing village north of Kuta, had proven to be a burden and all I wanted to do was hire my own motorbike for the day. Instead, I had spent half the day on foot frequenting local warungs and was deeply exhausted by the constant bartering. But such is the nature of Bali with its wonderful way of offering you something you werenít ever quite looking for. And so, I find myself at Desiís cursing those roundabout circumstances that navigate your way to realization, while quietly despising my young Indonesian tour guide for his cleverly constructed innocence and strong knack for emptying my wallet.

Ketut is eight but is very delicately built. His ribs open like a gate when he breathes and his feet are eternally cased in dirt. He would be sad to look at if his postcard smile didnít abolish all thoughts of deprivation. He is extremely cute but has very little tact.

ďThis Desi not good motorbike but cheapĒ, he says as he points through a broken archway to Desiís home.

Inside the dimly lit room an almost naked Indonesian girl fumbles with a large blue and white capsule. It sits amongst discarded condom wrappers and half drunk Bintangs on her makeshift cardboard dresser. Her room is stale and wet, the walls bleeding the smell of rotting flesh. Loose and scattered pills of all shapes, sizes and colours intertwine themselves with her life; lining yellow-stained sheets, sitting in empty eggshells, swept across clothes now resting on the floor. This third world cavity is in complete pharmaceutical pandemonium.

I am immediately uncomfortable, but so is she. Desi sucks back the tablet and massages it down her throat, steering itís way through swollen lymph nodes and a dry, scabbed interior, all while battling the flood of an unrelenting bodily sweat. Earlier this year I had read that HIV AIDS in Bali reached over 7000 people, most of them being sex workers. I didnít think too much of it at the time, but now it was standing right in front of me. I gag a little while I wait for her to notice me.

ďWhat you want? I give you good price, hundred thousandĒ

All I wanted was a ride. I didnít want to see the small bald patches where her hair was thinning. The plethora of unlabelled vitamins, what I assume are to account for the loss of white blood cells. Hearing her gasps as she fiddled with make-up, undoubtedly the return of pneumonia.

ďUm, motorbikeĒ, I say hesitantly.

At this point Ketut was nowhere to be seen, much like the option of finding my own transport that day. There was only one thing for rent in that room and just like everything else in Bali, it wasnít exactly what I was looking for.

B Lee-Waller

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