Sarah Jane Doe

Category Archives: Western Guilt

This is your captain speaking

‘Welcome to Denpasar airport and the island of Bali, where the local time is 7 p.m. and the weather is a fine and mild 26 degrees.

On behalf of Captain GrooossmetterwhitzelIfrunke and the crew, we thank you for choosing to fly with KLM. If you don’t recall making the choice to fly KLM, we thank the internet search engine you used. We’d also like to thank Air Asia for neglecting to service this route adequately, as well as our corporate lawyers and the strange protectionist policies of various countries and agencies for allowing us to get in on this air-space stitch up. Danke!

For those passengers who have never flown KLM before, we are delighted to have had the chance to impress you with our Smurf-blue everything, our disconcerting sense of humour (did you like how the Captain laughed at his ‘jokes’ all the time? In two languages? No other airline offers this, we are loving of ourselves in this minute!), and the hilarious accents of all on board, especially the cabin crew who made the safety instructions sound like they were being spoken backwards, underwater, with a suffocating catfish lodged in their throats.

If you are connecting to an onward flight, KLM thanks you for flying with us and wishes you a safe and pleasant journey. Hopefully you’ll catch the end of Albert Nobbs on the next plane.

If this is your first time in Bali, KLM welcomes you to the one that got away. Did we say that out loud? For the ease and comfort of our passengers during their visit, we wish to advise you that the local language is simple and the primary industry is you. That’s bule. Say it: boo-lay. It means white but not whitey, so don’t be offended. And it’s OK. Everyone’s winning. Your country is cold and expensive and you’ve had to outsource. In doing so you’ve become a major resource. We are letting you know so that you stop trying to get everyone to just ‘go about their business’ while you take artful photographs of them. You are the business. Luckily for you it’s a family business, so as soon as you join in you’ll become Balinese much faster than by poisoning yourselves at five cent food vendors. Go to the 50 cent food vendors and create a micro economy, we dare you.

If you are returning to Bali, KLM would like you to acknowledge that the Dutch got here wayyy before you. We had Bali on vinyl. Accordingly, if you are returning to Bali after a few years away you may also wish to claim bragging rights to the island, such as the man in seat 18 C who is currently reminiscing about how Ubud used to be a ‘sleepy little fishing village.’ Ubud is a mountain town, hat-of-ass. Apart from paddy-eels, the only live fish in the Ubud area are the small flesh-eating kind in those streetside-stunt-tanks that bule wish to put their feet in to have their dead heel-skin eaten in gross-bule-flesh water along with other bules, and the sleepy golden koi in ponds for bule to look at while taking the shoes off those same manky feet outside of Yoga Barn. It was never a fishing village man, get over it or get off my craft.

If Bali is your home, KLM wishes you a warm welcome home. As you have just travelled with us from outrageously expensive Singapore, we predict you are still laughing about how wonderfully cheap it is to live, eat and drink like kings in Bali, unless you are earning rupiah, in which case you might be understandably glum that Singaporeans have none of the natural resources that you do and technically should be your poor and awkward neighbours but instead have a populace dressed largely in stuff created under the LVMH umbrella of wanko-luxe, while drinking water right from the tap and never smelling their own – working – sewerage systems. Don’t worry, the bule find your lack of access to these things ‘charming’ and, as I’ve just pointed out, they’re your primary industry. What’s a little dysentery between friends every now and again, eh? It’s the only way it travels after all. Everyone else chooses to travel with KLM*.’

*Note: this author would certainly choose to fly Royal Dutch again, having been roundly charmed, not least by their offer of ‘red wine, white wine, or Amarula Cream?’ with dinner.

Room for coffee and deserve?

sarahjanedoe in Ubud

Room for coffee and deserve?

It’s been less than a week since I ran away from winter and started this blog in Bali. Each day that’s passed has seen a gradual loss of order, makeup and clothing. The thousand cords accompanying hyper-modern life (all my devices apparently need to talk to each other if not to the wall socket, and they require a career puppeteer’s worth of wires to do so) are now out of the careful figure-eights I learned at film school and into a mess of squid-ink linguine in my bag.  Day two saw the abandonment of perfume, day three concealer, and by day four using my duty-free mascara purchase seemed as ridiculous as applying any of these things and hopping into the shower. Even regular underwear has now migrated to the deep space in my luggage occupied by on-plane woollens and chic silk dresses designated optimistically as ‘For France’.

The gain column is much larger. Embarrassingly large. I think that adverb is why it’s been so hard to write about. And why the collective noun for riches is often ‘an embarrassment.’ Too many beautiful things are happening (and/or being eaten) over here in Bali. Sunshiney roads and vintage cars deliver us to suckling pig and lobster dumplings, sunsets and new friends, Baja fish tacos and fresh sugar cane spritzers, ceremonies, house parties, deep jungle pools and airy mountain-top retreats. Every hour of the day brings a new treasure more shiny than the last. And it’s been making me uncomfortable. Do you really want to know how perfect my tamarind and lemongrass juice was this morning? How wonderful Alejandro’s coffee was at Bar Luna? Or how many colours a simple frangipani can arrive on your doorstep in? Do I really want to write about it?

In the middle of happy baby pose at the incredibly beautiful Yoga Barn yesterday, our incredibly beautiful instructor asked the incredibly beautiful bodies in attendance to feel the incredible beauty of where we were; to feel the warmth and softness of the air, to see the lotus blooming on the water-ponds around us, to understand the blessing of living in Ubud and practising yoga. And my growing discomfort ratcheted up to stomach-ache level. Then she said something that gave me the name for it. ‘Feel the magic of this place,’ she said, ‘and know that you deserve to be here.’

I do. Feel the magic. Get that I deserve it. But doesn’t everyone? Deserve means to be worthy, to be entitled, not by chance or luck but work and merit. There were roughly thirty souls getting bent and blessed out in the Yoga Barn yesterday. It seemed like a lot at the time, but it’s pitifully few. It might not be everyone’s idea of the perfect afternoon, but it must be for many more than were there. Don’t most people deserve to feel limber and luxurious, loved and limitless in tropical paradise on a Tuesday afternoon? I worked hard for it, but I know that most people work much harder than I do. So when does everyone else get their great coffee and deserve? And is it wasteful of me not to enjoy it for this reason? Or do I turn into an unthinking lotus-eater* the second that I do?

*Note: deep-fried lotus-root is currently one of my favourite Bali bar snacks. It may be too late in the literal sense.