“Don’t Trust Anyone”
As I exit the back of the restaurant to walk to find the bathroom, he begins to follow me. Continuously giving me directions, he edges a little closer with each new sentence. At about 40 years my senior, but more or less my same height, I figure I could take him. The sun set on Canggu hours before now, so I’m creeping around under the moon, bladder full of Bintangs.
As I hover inside the muggy bathroom, I ready myself for combat. I breathe in deep the humid air, my skin sticky from dousing myself in insect repellent and my head filled with distress. I make a weak fist and fling open the lightweight wooden door to see no one. He hasn’t followed me. He was making sure I got to the bathroom okay considering it was dark outside. Why would he follow me? Most people don’t follow anyone to the bathroom unless said follow-ee was giving them free drugs. Or a BJ. I make my way back inside the restaurant, face to the floor for thinking the chef who had been chatting with my friends and I all night long would follow me to the bathroom.
The night had started innocently, as four of us had gone to an unknown warung for some nasi goreng and maybe a beer. We were already a couple deep from watching the sunset beforehand. We finally had the liquid confidence we needed to practice our Bahasa Indonesia with the men working. We ordered using Indonesian numbers and felt pretty fly for some white guys.
Inviting Dewa to join us was more or less the beginning of the end. He helped us to pronounce Indonesian words and introduced us to two more men who were working there; getting pictures with us seemed like a usual trend. He started to give that story of not having work, as he just hangs out with the guys down in this restaurant that we were gorging on French fries in.
Here it is: that’s why he’s being so friendly. He’ll probably need some money.
But he never mentioned cash. Instead, he brought out a ukulele and passed it around while blowing into a harmonica, just for some practice. His friend jokingly sang along as we joined in on the laughter. Soon the chef came out for us to compliment his meals – “Want to try some Balinese rice wine?”
Sure, sounds low-key, why not? Chef then returned with four shot glasses – he wasn’t playin’. “Arak,” he gestured towards the shot glasses, his fingers creating divides between glass and condensation as he placed them down onto the table.
Arak – that’s the Balinese vodka that makes you go blind and shit. No way. Maybe he IS playing us. No way.
I politely declined and handed my shot to Dewa. Everyone did the classic “we’re all drunk and new to each other so let’s awkwardly cheers” and threw them back. While waiting for screams and fiery pits of death, I was greeted by only smiles and twisted faces of strong alcohol.
By about the third shot of arak being passed around, the music started. We were then the only people in their five-tabled restaurant and all four men were out of the kitchen and around us. “Kamu teman saya (You are my friend)!” gets thrown across the table – some of the very little Bahasa Indonesia that we understand. By round four of arak, Dewa had told us that we are all family, and that he was going to ask the owner to write our names on the wall.
It wasn’t long before I threw my phone on to play music and left it unattended by the speakers, surrounded by men I don’t know.
Make sure you keep an eye on your phone; maybe they’ll take it or something. Supervise the guy scrolling your music Alysha.
Dewa soon gave in to his seemingly overwhelming happiness. He told us to write our names across the painted mural lining the main wall; writing ‘Special Guest’ above it. As the dancing on the tables commenced, I also left my bag with my cash in it on the table in front of us.
Be careful of your bag, that’s got AT LEAST 20 Aus dollars in it.
At one point, we got our cash together to pay the 92,000IDR bill. We left almost 400,000 on the table stamped under an empty Bintang, and no one even so much as flinched. Not one of these four men bent down to grab it, nor did they eyeball it in any way or even try to make us pay the bill – contrary to stereotypical belief. Chef also didn’t charge us for the copious amounts of Arak he had been giving out – arak that was distilled by his own family.
Three more of our friends turned up unannounced and were immediately greeted like family. They joined in on the dancing on the tables and entered into dance battles with a then-shirtless Dewa. The sweat beads dripped down our moving bodies as we got down to Beyoncé songs and reggae remixes. “DJ Alysha!” they all screamed, during attempted splits on the floor.
The Balinese have this closeness among their own people, and they extend that closeness to the people who visit their island. But this welcoming attitude is not all too common. In fact, this type of thing hardly ever happens in western culture. We are all too scared to talk to each other; too scared to be seen as raw and vulnerable, and that’s such a shame. The media constantly feeds us with this stale message that other countries – Bali especially – are horrible places where death is inevitable.
Sometimes it is hard to trust people and situations because of all the things that could go wrong – but maybe we need to start thinking of the things that could go right.
During the five or so hours that we were there, I left my bag unattended. I left my money unattended. I left my phone unattended. And ultimately, I left my fears unattended.
And you know what happened?
I had a fucking blast.
Cover by Jaimie Morgan