To quote Poison: every rose has its thorn.
I know, I know, I know. I’m in Balinese paradise. There are palm trees lining the streets, amazing street food everywhere, the kindest people greeting me with enormous smiles everywhere I go, and my hair is as curly and blonde as it’s ever been. You probably think this means that I don’t have any problems right now. And, I guess that I don’t. But that doesn’t mean that every moment in Bali has been absolutely magical. As with any other developing nation I’ve visited, Bali has presented me with a handful of challenges that have been simultaneously entertaining and mind-numbingly frustrating. Here are some of the somewhat-unique #thirdworldproblems that I’ve faced while finding my way through one of my favorite places on Earth:
Plumbing. I’m not exactly sure how to put this lightly, so here goes: the plumbing situation in Bali is less than ideal. There is a lot of growth happening in Denpasar and Kuta right now and I suspect that this growth is translating into a legion of unfortunate plumbing issues that are affecting the entire urban area. Suffice to say that I have become relatively accustomed to making sure I go to the bathroom before leaving a nice restaurant and am no longer surprised if water stops running halfway through the shower. I’m also becoming rather adept at dodging streams of water gushing from construction holes after a rainstorm and can spot a sanitary public restroom from a mile away.
Traffic. The stories I was told about traffic situation in Bali before arriving seemed (at the time) to be a series of urban legends. ”There’s NO WAY that it could POSSIBLY take two hours to drive 10 kilometers!” I thought. I was wrong. It almost always takes two hours to drive 10 kilometers. The roads are a mess because of construction, scooters dart in and out of traffic, and cars regularly drive on the wrong side of the street (whichever side that is). I’m not entirely certain why lines are painted on roads at all, because nobody seems to use them as a guide. Bali’s traffic situation makes the worst traffic I’ve ever been in seem like a day in paradise. It’s real-life Mario Kart. And it’s terrifying.
Roosters. Before moving to the urban beach oasis that is Seminyak, I was woken up by a rooster every morning at about 5:15am. The sun rises in Bali at about 6am, making its rooster population the only species I’ve encountered that does anything earlier than necessary. Roosters are the worst animals on the planet.
Little devils. Everywhere.
Floor toilets. “But, Brooke… you’ve already talked about plumbing,” you say. I know I have. But floor toilets deserve a category all their own. Born and raised in the Western world, I didn’t know much about using anything but a traditional toilet, with a handle that flushes and clean water that magically fills up the bowl. Then, I visited South Africa and Kenya and learned about dirt hole toilets, which was bad enough. Until I came to Bali and encountered the Bucket Shower Floor Toilet Room and my entire world was rocked. Floor toilets are manual devices, in which you use buckets of water to flush. So confusing. So much work. I won’t miss them.
Puddles. Back home, puddles are something that I jump in whenever equipped with my purple Hunters and a reasonably waterproof coat. I love jumping in puddles and have always thought of it as the only redeeming part about a rainstorm. In Bali, I learned very quickly that puddles are not meant to be jumped in. The puddle problem swings back to the nasty traffic / plumbing situation happening in Bali’s densest areas. Poor infrastructure on both fronts leaves the island littered with highly suspect puddles after each and every rainstorm. You couldn’t pay me to walk through a Balinese puddle in two pairs of Hunter boots.
Confusion about the exchange rate. Two hours ago, I took out $1,500,000 in IDR from my bank account. I have over ONE MILLION DOLLARS in Rupiah in my purse right now. I am a millionaire. I am going to spend $100,000 IDR on lunch today. How much is that is US dollars? I have no idea. Something like $10. For soup and sweet potatoes and iced coffee and mineral water. And it was delicious. And I’ll sit here using their internet until the rain stops again. And the tip is included in everything. ONE MILLION DOLLARS? What? I’m confused.
Stacks on Stacks on Stacks on Stacks on Stacks of Bills.
Life in slow-motion. To say that I live a relatively regimented life back home would be something of an understatement. My calendar is pretty much booked out from 6am-bedtime three weeks out. It’s May 23 and my next free day after Bali is in the middle of July. I might be a slightly extreme example of the hyper-scheduled American, but I don’t think I’m that different from a lot of people I know. I live by my schedule and try really hard to be early whenever possible. If I’m on time to work, I feel like I’m late. If I’m late to brunch, I feel terrible. Missing a scheduled workout causes pandemonium in my universe. All that being said, attempting to put myself on “Island Time” and live like a local has been something of a disaster. Want to be somewhere at 11am? You’ll need to tell your driver you want to be there at 9. Think you’ll be hungry for dinner in a couple hours? You probably should start talking to your island friends about eating now… it’ll take at least two hours to talk about it, one hour to leave home, and another hour to get there. I’ve probably sent an average of three hours waiting for my Balinese homies to get moving whenever we have something to do that day. I try desperately not to become exasperated by the lack of hustle, but the American over-achiever in me just can’t help it sometimes. I admire the lackadaisical, no-rush lifestyle that is so popular here and absolutely understand why it reigns supreme… I just don’t think I’ll ever adjust to it, which is definitely my loss.
People use their hands. This isn’t strictly a problem you find only in developing nations. It’s a problem everywhere outside of the United States. People use their hands to talk. They use their hands to eat. They use their hands to dig a hole and then light up a cigarette before shaking your hand. It’s charming and wonderful, but seriously… I’ve been slapped across the head twice since arriving in Bali. It’s been an accident both times (I think), but still. It’s an unintentionally dangerous world out there.
The American Accent. People think we sound either adorable or idiotic. There is no middle ground.
Soccer. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, makes me miss home more than the world’s obsession with soccer. DEAR GOD, WHEN DOES FOOTBALL SEASON START?
[Note from editor: This was originally published on Itinerant Brooke]