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2013-02-22 14:47



A nice fancy hotel?


That's when suddenly I go deaf and the birds stop singing and I can see Wayan's mouth moving but I'm not listening to her anymore because a thought has just come, scrawled blatantly across my mind: SHE'S FUCKING WITH YOU, GROCERIES.

I stand up, say good-bye to Wayan, walk home slowly and ask Felipe point-blank for his opinion: "Is she fucking with me?"

He has not ever commented upon my business with Wayan, not once. "Darling," he says kindly. "Of course she's fucking with you." My heart drops into my guts with a splat.

"But not intentionally," he adds quickly. "You need to understand the thinking in Bali. It's a way of life here for people to try to get the most money they can out of visitors. It's how everyone survives. So she's making up some stories now about the farmer. Darling, since when does a Balinese man need to talk to his wife before he can make a business deal? Listen—the guy is desperate to sell her a small parcel; he already said he would. But she wants the whole thing now. And she wants you to buy it for her."

I cringe at this for two reasons. First of all, I hate to think this could be true of Wayan. Second, I hate the cultural implications under his speech, the whiff of colonial White Man's Burden stuff, the patronizing "this-is-what-all-these-people-are-like" argument.

But Felipe isn't a colonialist; he's a Brazilian. He explains, "Listen, I grew up poor in South America. You think I don't understand the culture of this kind of poverty? You've given Wayan more money than she's ever seen in her life and now she's thinking crazy. As far as she's concerned, you're her miracle benefactor and this might be her last chance to ever get a break. So she wants to get all she can before you go. For God's sake—four months ago the poor woman didn't have enough money to buy lunch for her child and now she wants a hotel?"

"What should I do?"

"Don't get angry about it, whatever happens. If you get angry, you'll lose her, and that would be a pity because she's a marvelous person and she loves you. This is her survival tac-tic, just accept that. You must not think that she's not a good person, or that she and the kids don't honestly need your help. But you cannot let her take advantage of you. Darling, I've seen it repeated so many times. What happens with Westerners who live here for a long time is that they usually end up falling into one of two camps. Half of them keep playing the tourist, saying, ‘Oh, those lovely Balinese, so sweet, so gracious . . . ," and getting ripped off like crazy. The other half get so frustrated with being ripped off all the time, they start to hate the Balinese. And that's a shame, because then you've lost all these wonderful friends."

"But what should I do?"

"You need to get back some control of the situation. Play some kind of game with her, like the games she's playing with you. Threaten her with something that motivates her to act. You'll be doing her a favor; she needs a home."

"I don't want to play games, Felipe."














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