Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bali Beach Bummer

Here I am in Bali, in between our Dili and Jogja stops. These will be our only two days of rest. I had grand plans of surfing this afternoon until a weird, inexplicable but entirely crippling crick in my neck decided to nix that plan. It came out of nowhere! I was standing in the bathroom, checking out my Bali-fied self (thankfully bought a sleeveless and airy sundress) ready to suss out a surf rental. Next thing I knew, I was lying prostrate on my bed, unable to stand up or even rotate my head. I just flopped around on the bed like a fish on the beach. Frustrating and so lame.

So I didn't surf but at least I got a morning of snorkelling in. I also roused myself for long enough to have a late lunch on the beach with Anne. However, my neck is at such an unnatural bend that I can't really see things properly. For example, I'm typing this sideways right now. I think I look totally weird like I'm trying to see something in the distance at a really specific angle. Anne says I look like I'm thinking. She took lots of photos as I was hobbling over to the beachfront restaurant, like a paparazzo, because she thinks the situation has reached a certain level of hilarity. My perspective is slightly different and 45 degrees to the left.

Pain notwithstanding, it's nice to rest so I'm still in a good mood. It's also nice to be in such a gorgeous hotel room, even if it is a bit of a prison right now, what with all the completely perfect weather outside. To think about what this place costs compared with the completely overblown price of our moldy and electrically-challenged hotel in Dili is outrageous. In the Dili room, I'd walk around and smell cheese. I'd think, Where is that?! and start sniffing. I never found it but it would intermittently present itself. Ugh. I just know there was all kinds of weird mould everywhere. I hope it didn't give me something where the symptoms are mysterious neck pain and nausea (I think the nausea is just from the boat ride this morning - choppy water).

Even with the contrasting luxury here, I miss Dili already. It was a very intense experience and I can't stop thinking about the gangs. Driving by groups of teenage boys, just standing on a street corner. Everywhere. Some of the younger ones had the necks of plastic water bottles cut-open and strung around their own necks. I found out that they are home-made slingshots (you cover the mouth of the bottle with a balloon). The boys all have fancy hair, mainly with variations on a sides-shaved kind of look. There's something about that look that suggests danger, and not in a Queen Street kind of way. Even little boys would have mohawks.

I'm fascinated by these kids. There are hundreds of gangs in Dili, a city without a single traffic light. All these groups, operating in the cover of night, standing around brazenly during the day, clanging their pots to signify that trouble's about to happen. Like gangs at home, they aren't purely malevolent. They operate by their own codes of conduct. One of them raises money to pay for funerals. Many of them work to protect their own hoods, like a neighbourhood watch. The martial arts gangs work on meditation and perfecting their moves, but of course if they're provoked, they will kick your ass.

All these perceived grievances, these alliances, the rivalries. All these beautiful young men just continue to fight it out in a land that nobody's watching. They have so little to begin with. I wonder what the fighting gives them besides a sad but necessary sense of identity. I can't stop thinking about them.


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