Yesterday's story, continued...
Because of the time difference, they woke up before dawn. Laying in her bed, she noticed that the sun was coming in the window at a different slant than she'd ever seen before. She realized that, to her, the world felt slightly upside-down. Outside the window, she could hear quiet voices speaking in a language that she didn't even know the name of. It was going to be an incredible day.
She and her friend, Georgia (an old fashioned name for a modern, organized executive), dressed and decided to go for a walk to find the beach. How she and Georgia had come to be on this trip together, at all, was something that still puzzled her. Georgia was ten years her senior, and had a degree from Harvard. She was perfectly comfortable with herself--to the point that she no longer felt the need to travel in girl herds, go to social gatherings out of obligation, or stay up past 9:00 at night. Her native language was Spanish, but her eyes were light green. She was a myriad of puzzles to me. But, she had never traveled outside the United States either, and so we were both savoring in the newness first adventure, together.
Leaving the archway of their hotel, they passed into the quiet, almost deserted roads at dawn. Part of her wondered if this was a good idea. They were quickly attracting a following of stray dogs. Something in her head wondered about wild dogs, and she tried to remember if she was supposed to look them in the eye or not look them in the eye? Or just pick up a big rock and pretend to throw it?
As they walked she noticed something that she had read about in a guidebook; on the doorsteps and curbs of homes, there was a small, green basket woven from palm or banana leaves. Inside the basket were variations of long rice, a pale cookie, some flowers, and a stick of incense. Offerings to the gods. This struck her as beautiful and touching. She wanted to crouch down next to one and hold it in her hand. She felt no urge whatsoever to pull out her camera to take a picture--something that would be as futile as trying to take a picture and capture the feeling of a friendly ghost.
Having meandered down a road of empty market stalls, she and Georgia abandoned their attempt to find the beach so early, and retreated back to their hotel for the free breakfast--wild dogs still in tow. Breakfast was served on a raised white platform, under a red tiled roof. There, on a table, were plates of papayas, mangoes, bananas, and passion fruit. There was a single plate of cold, undercooked scrambled eggs, and several dishes of noodles with various sauces. Her guidebook had said not to eat unwashed fruits, so she got a plate of noodles and poured a soy sauce looking sauce over the top. It had little red chiles floating in it. Having not eaten anything but a lychee flavored candy since the airport in Seoul, she plopped herself down a table with Georgia and a girl from Australia, and plunged her fork into the noodles. With an eager twist of her wrist, she bent to take a bite of her breakfast, inadvertently sending a few small drops of the sauce toward the corner of her eye. Suddenly, her eye felt like it was on fire. She tried to calmly rub it with her hand. She continued to nod at something the Australian was saying about the beach. Then the back of her hand was on fire. Tears started pouring down her cheeks, and soon her whole face was burning. Pushing back her plate, she stood up and stumbled toward her room to find the sink and some water to rinse off her face. She decided, if this was the reaction, she probably didn't want to eat. Who needed food anyway.
After Georgia returned from breakfast, they set off again into the now busy market. The change was astonishing--the streets buzzed with small motorcycles loaded with men, women, children, fruit, and construction materials. They wove fearlessly in and out on the wrong sides of the street among Volkswagen Vanagon taxis. It seemed the whole world had come to life in the hour that they'd been eating breakfast.
Following the directions from the Australian, they made their way toward the beach, where they stood gazing out at the Indian Ocean. They basked in the sun, tried not to gawk at the muscular and tan topless sunbathers (were girls supposed to look like that? Then why didn't they?) After an hour of laying on the sand, napping of some jet lag, they decided to brave some of the nearby market stall selling bright bolts of cloth, carved wooden shoes, and ripoff designer watches.
In the first place they stopped, she saw an emerald green sari skirt with gold and pink woven through it. Running her fingers over the thin cloth, the two shop workers snatched it from her hands and wrapped it around her. They giggled at how tight they had to pull it to get it to fit, explaining that Americans were just much bigger than the Balinese. She asked "How much, in American dollars?" and they said "Fifteen." Pulling out her purse, she counted out the American money, since they had not had time to exchange any money into the local currency. Taking the money, their eyes lit up, and suddenly they were showing her bracelets and necklaces and more skirts. Retreating with just the green skirt, and thanking them profusely, Georgia kept smiling--finally explaining that you were supposed to barter in Bali. Those women had just hit the jackpot of an American girl who just paid what was asked, without driving down the price. They had probably made three times on that skirt than they'd expected.
But at least it really was beautiful. And fifteen dollars didn't seem like much. With her green sari over her arm, they headed back to their hotel to plan.