Featured Writer: Rebecca Fisseha
Roundtrip airfare from Wenzhou to Bali costs just under one grand. (Especially if you didn’t miss your initial flight out because you thought 01:00am Tuesday meant super late Tuesday night, as opposed to super early Tuesday morning. So let’s pretend, for the sake of saving face, that I do know how to read a ticket and that I did make my original flight.)
Plus costs of transport for inter/intra-island hopping by boat and bus, plus accommodation at $10/night homestays (except when deciding to splurge on a $50/night palace) plus food, drinks and whatnot will come to about an extra of the same.
You save up your money, travel the however-many hours, unpack and, after a day of exploring and being smilier and chattier than your at-home self, find a spot for lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant table right on the beach. Pick one:
If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy your meal undisturbed for about thirty minutes. If you’re unlucky, you’ll barely have sat down before a hawker sets her sights on you and comes stepping through the debris deposited on the beach courtesy of the nonstop waves. Her arms and sometimes even the top of her head are piled high with the dreaded souvenir kitsch. From the look on her face though, you could swear she was just coming over for a pleasant chat. And that’s how she starts. “Hello, how are you?” – in such a way that it’s impossible to not reply.
If you want to party hard you go to Kuta, if you want to absorb local arts you go to Ubud, if you want to see an active volcano you take a drive in any direction, if you want to drink that coffee brewed from civet shit you go to a spice plantation, if you want to escape all forms of motor transport you go to Gilis Air, if you want to surf you go to…I don’t know but you get the idea. No matter where you go in Bali, though, the one thing you can never shake is the hawkers: “Taxi?” “Transport?” (the males) “Massage?” “Sarong?” (the females). It’s obvious that they’re just as tired of parroting it as you are of hearing it, but it’s a reflex they can’t afford to suppress.
As a Third World person vacationing in a Third World country with a First World passport and a mindset yo-yoing somewhere in between, your reflexes are a touch confused, however. You know that if they make one sale, they’ll eat today. If they make two, they’ll eat tomorrow. You also know that if you act deaf and look blankly in the opposite direction or – this is for advanced levels – if you continue exactly what you were doing as if there were nobody and nothing there, they’ll go away after about five minutes. The longer you’ve been on the island, the more you find yourself doing the latter and feeling less like a complete shit after each time. To help yourself feel better, you silently repeat to yourself that you have a right to be undisturbed, a right to refuse even the acknowledgement of eye-contact or a firm “No thanks” (because even that will be understood as an opening) considering all you’ve done and sacrificed to get here.
You repeat that mantra to yourself – it’s my right to ignore them, it’s my right to ignore them, it’s my right to ignore them – while they keep up their own mantra directed at the overfed foreign god, willing it to respond, endlessly chanting: “Good price. Good price.”
Whether they go away or not, whether in peace or not, you will yourself to continue with your oceanside meal, anticipating a picture-perfect sunset from the looks of the skies.
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