Going Native

19 12 2009

Padangbai is in many ways like a stereotypical Smalltown, USA. Everyone knows and is in some way related to everyone here, in the six degrees of Kevin Bacon and not the Deep South sort of way.  For instance, out of the 22 person staff at our dive shop, almost half are from just two different extended families.

It is a tourist stop, but at this time of year mostly for those on their way to and from the next island over.  As a white person, I first enjoyed a bit of anonymity (both good and bad) as just another passerby, but now I am pretty much a resident.   A typical convo with a stranger may go as follows (I’ll spare you the bad Indonesian version):

“What is your name?”

Jennifer, and you?

“Wayan/Nyoman/Komang/Kadek.  How long you stay in Padangbai”

Oh, about 2 months.  I am doing my divemaster here.

“Where?”

Absolute Scuba.

“My cousin/sister/brother works for Absolute Scuba!”  “Where do you stay?”

Tirta Yoga

“Komang’s place.  New rooms, right?  How much do you pay?”

This of course eventually leads to whether I am traveling alone, am married, have a boyfriend, and other questions the Western world would consider too personal for an introductory conversation.

I am not sure how I would feel about this whole scene in the long term, but so far it has been quite enjoyable. Every day, I get up and have breakfast at my homestay before making my way over to Absolute Scuba around 8:30.  We work on some combination of classroom, pool skills, stamina, and diving until about 4-6.  I have started joining the young Bali boys in volleyball in the evenings- fun for me, and at the very least highly entertaining for the Balinese as I am the only white person and only female who plays.  I don’t really get hassled anymore for sarongs, transport, sunglasses- now they ask me how I am doing and if I am diving today.  My Indonesian is coming along ever so slowly, but progress is progress!  I meet cool travelers, but most of my friends are Balinese.  As my instructor says, ‘She is going native.’

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