Improving your life shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg

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Memories of Bali

I should note that this was originally posted in 1998.

It’s good to be home.

Emily had gone to Bali a few days earlier, as she had some business and both my son and I still had school. On Christmas Eve we got to the airport and boarded our flight to Bali.

Like the song goes … “the weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew …” We made three passes over the Island of the Gods, but it wasn’t meant to happen.

The rain was buffeting our sturdy craft. It was impossible to see anything, and then the peanuts ran out.

Well, next thing you know … ol’ Wayne’s back in Surabaya. And Boy howdy, was I ever happy about that. I peppered the air with cries of gosh golly and dad burn it. I’m not happy.

Emily is waiting at the airport for me and her handphone is obviously not working. My handphone has previously given up the ghost. Now I’m using a phone card and trying to find a compatible phone. I find one, but unfortunately, it’s sandwiched between two phones occupied by men talking louder than seems necessary.

I can’t hear a bloody thing. I’m trying to explain the situation to my mother-in-law. She’s a nice lady who I communicate quite well with in person, yet her English doesn’t exist, my Indonesian is poor, the connection sucks and the surrounding noise is unbearable.

Well, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas at the top of my lungs, I compliment their country and their courtesy and I wish them on their way. My son thinks dear old Dad is ready for a new sports coat in that lovely wrap-around style.

Finally, I get through. Everybody’s okay on that side. We waited in Surabaya’s Juanda airport for an hour and a half. Finally, the plane boarded again. It was now 10:00 pm. The flight to Bali is about 35 to 45 minutes. Bali is an hour ahead of Surabaya.

We arrive in Bali at 11:40 p.m. Bali time. It’s drizzling. The taxi driver asks for Rp 40,000. I decline. We walk out to the taxi booth and buy a voucher. We pay Rp 26,000. Christmas Eve passes in the back of a taxi. We arrive.

My wife is at work preparing a shipment of fruit to Hong Kong. I am now a fruit packer. By 12:00 p.m. Christmas day the fruit is packed and on its way. We shower, eat and almost everyone sleeps.

Me, … I’m wired. The rest of our merry band has fallen asleep. The nanny and the cook are watching the kids. The next day the lost sleep will catch up with me. I take a long walk. We were in Denpasar, Bali and it’s hot. I walk for an hour and come back drenched in sweat.

Christmas night we head to Jimbaran.

Jimbaran beach is a long strip of seafood restaurants. You order your food fresh. You pick a table. On the beach, if it’s not raining, under the tents if it is. On a clear night the sound of the surf, the smell of barbecued fish and the majesty of a star-filled sky conspire to bewitch even the most cynical traveler.

The day after Christmas I sleep until 11:00 a.m. I’m still tired when my two nephews and my niece wake me. Chinese-Indonesian children do not play outside and are generally spoiled. I’ve brought some cartoons with me. The VCDs keep them occupied for half an hour.

We head to Kuta that afternoon. We don’t go to the bars or the shopping malls. We find a relatively quiet beach and play in the surf. My son, who’s eighteen, seems more interested in the spectacle of topless women frolicking close by. My head may have turned one or two times. The surf-kissed sand has been rendered almost mirror-like. The sky is a rich blue with traces of white clouds. Gradually the blue becomes purple and the sun is a descending red ball. Pale pinks and rich oranges dominate the fading palate. A tropical sunset is beautiful and abbreviated.

In fifteen minutes it is dark. The stars are brilliant. Aside from a few moments of temper, the week passes uneventfully. We watch videos on New Years’ Eve. Two days later we hop in the car and head to Lovina. We’re going to see the Dolphins.

Last episode we left for Lovina to see the dolphins.

Along the way, we pass the site of Gunung Agung’s 1963 eruption. The devastation was massive and thousands died. The Balinese believe that this was because prayers had been interrupted. Now the boulders, once part of Gunung Agung’s crown, are strewn about, but they are covered with lush vegetation. It was another example of nature’s power to repair itself.

I was reminded of a walk through Canada’s Algonquin Park.

Granted, it probably doesn’t need to be said that it certainly wasn’t similar terrain. A picture from the early years of the last century showed a devastated mountain.Trees, and earth torn away to run a rail line through. Then in the fall 0f 1995, I walked down that same path and tall, healthy trees shaded me. Waist high grass surrounded me. I was shaded by mature pines. Nature will right itself, once given a chance.

Now I stood in the lushness of Gunung Agung’s revival. Gunung is the Indonesian word for mountain, and the center of Bali is a spine of mountains. Many of them are still active volcanoes. As late as 1994 there have been eruptions. They don’t call the Indonesian archipelago the Ring of Fire because of the hot food. We arrived in Lovina. We looked at one place. They wanted RP 300,000 a night. That’s the price of a luxury hotel in Surabaya.

We found the Hotel Padma. We paid Rp 120,000 for each of two rooms, barely enough for myself, Emily, her sister Suzy, our son Adryan, Suzy’s three kids and a family friend. So, it’s guys in one room, and women in the other. The pool was clean large and warmed by the sun. We ate a large dinner and turned in. At 5:00 a.m. we were up and by six o’clock, we were in two traditional boats heading out to see the dolphins. We were about 20 minutes out when the first small pod appeared.

They surfaced, played about and were gone – only to reappear in another area. This went on for half an hour or so. Then a larger group appeared. The two groups surfaced, dived, disappeared, raced the boats and delighted their audience. It is impossible not to feel a little like an alien watcher, privileged to witness a very personal kinship with nature.

The surrounding mountains were mist-cloaked shadows at the water’s edge. The water was black in the pale early morning light, briefly disturbed by our bright-coloured boats and the sleek gray bodies that danced and dived around us.

Then it ended. We had spent almost two hours watching. It was impossible to tell who was more excited, the adults or the children.

After breakfast, Adryan and I went snorkelling.  A reef lay about halfway between the shore and where we watched the dolphins. Again, we were in a traditional boat. A narrow canoe like craft with twin outriggers, a small (5.5 horsepower) outboard motor and an inverted, triangular-shaped, lanteen sail that also serves to shade our driver/guide as he naps. We don masks and flippers and enter the now blue waters. Colors explode around us. Angelfish, rainbow-hued fish, blue neon tetras and unfortunately a few too many jelly fish. We moved location twice. Adryan managed to find a French coin. Once cleaned, it was revealed as a 1995 coin, but still a find. I had to rescue it from the pool bottom later that evening, so the excitement of discovery was obviously short-lived. We stayed two days then headed back to Denpasar.

We flew home that Saturday.

Disturbing and Familiar

Watching the president elect’s inaugural address last Friday I was struck by two things; one that this was a remarkably coherent speech and two that bits of the address were eerily and disturbingly familiar.

The coherence was not expected as the President’s streams of consciousness, ramped up by contempt and vitriol, rarely are focused or logically ordered. A recent speech at CIA headquarters supports this opinion.

The president started off well. His respectful tone towards Chief Justice Roberts, Presidents Obama, Clinton, Bush, and Carter were appropriate and dignified. His exclusion of Mrs. Clinton was perhaps not nice, but one wonders if ‘President’ Clinton would have mentioned Trump or Bernie Saunders. Trump then got to the meat of his discourse. In a movie-trailer worthy synopsis, he pointed out the perceived problems with the ‘carnage’ happening in the United States.

He proceeded to isolate the USA, on the way to making it great again. ‘From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.’

The familiar echoes were the ‘giving power back to the people’ and ‘building with American hands’. And then there was the Charlie Sheen moment, when ‘America will start winning again, winning like never before.’ The echoes of Bane, of John Frederick Paxton, and oddly of Bernie Sanders seem at odds with a speaker, who rarely evokes anyone but himself.

The imagery of an American heartland littered with broken people, rusting dreams, and crumbling infrastructure is not altogether untrue. Coming from the newest resident of the White House, the statements seem a tad ingenuous. To be fair, the image of the 45th president striving mightily to protect people, and using every breath in his body to change the course of mighty rivers may fill some with hope.

Now comes the big moment. ‘Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who ‘are all talk’ and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it.’ I am reminded of the scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian where the talk is all of ‘not just talking’.

‘The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.’ As if the point needed to be underscored.

That this individual, so long divisive, so long derisive and so often disinterested in anyone but himself, could talk of healing, of racial harmony, of a shared creator. That he could speak of caring what happens to a child in Detroit or Nebraska under whatever sheltering skies he may see in his mind’s eye. These statements can only bring back the impassioned question of Joseph Nye Welch, “Have You Left No Sense of Decency?”.

 

Passport in the car(continued from At the Mechanic)

Late or early

 

Mechanic:        Hello

Customer:        Oh, did I wake you?

Mechanic:        Did you wake me? Who is this?

Customer:        You’re fixing my car.

Mechanic:        Do you know what time it is?

Customer:        It’s late

Mechanic:        Or early – depending on how you look at it.

Customer:        I’m sorry. I didn’t know …

Mechanic:        Okay. What do you want?

Customer:        I’m at the airport and I don’t have a passport.

Mechanic:        What?

Customer:        It’s in my car.

Mechanic:        What?

Customer:        My passport. I left it in my car.

Mechanic:        And …

Customer:        I need it. Can you bring it to me?

Mechanic:        Are you insane? I’m a mechanic, not a courier.

Customer:        Could you have it sent here?

Mechanic:        What time does your flight leave?

Customer:        At 5:30.

Mechanic:        It’s – it’s 4:40. I don’t have enough time to get to the garage and get your passport to the airport.

Customer:        But I’ll miss my flight.

Mechanic:        Why don’t you take a later flight?

Customer:        I don’t know? …

Mechanic:        You’re not going to make it. It’s too far.

Customer:        Why is it too far?

Mechanic:        First I have to get to the garage; then I have to open up, and then I have to find your passport in your car. Next, I have to call a courier and wait for him to arrive. Finally, the courier has to get to the airport. The fastest that’s going to happen is two hours.

Customer:        Two hours?

Mechanic:        I think we’re really looking at three or four hours …even if I can find a 24-hour courier.

Customer:        What should I do?

Mechanic:        I think you should reschedule your flight.

Customer:        Reschedule? … for when?

Mechanic:        If I were you I’d reschedule for later in the afternoon.

 

This is a good chance to try an activity on intent and inflection. Call a student aside and tell them to be happy when they read, tell the other to be angry. Next time try one sad and one happy. Try energetic and really tired. Ask the audience to judge how effectively the speakers communicated. Don’t let the audience in on what the subtext is all about. With time, they can identify things for themselves.

At the Mechanic

At the mechanic

Customer:   Will this take long?

Mechanic:   It’s going to take as long as it takes.

Customer:   May I ask you a question?

Mechanic:   Sure.

Customer:   Is this going to cost a lot?

Mechanic:   How much do you have?

Customer:   What?

Mechanic:   Have you brought a lot of money?

Customer:   Have you lost your mind?

Mechanic:   It’s a joke. Can I ask you something?

Customer:   Okay.

Mechanic:   Do you like slamming on the brakes?

Customer:   Why do you ask?

Mechanic:   The brake pads are in horrible shape. I’ll have to replace them.

Customer:   I don’t want you to replace anything.

Mechanic:   Maybe you’d enjoy crashing.

Customer:   I’m not going to crash.

Mechanic:   Have you ever been in an accident?

Customer:   No.

Mechanic:   You’re going to be in an accident if these brakes fail.

Customer:   Okay. What else is wrong?

Mechanic:   Have you hit something?

Customer:   Maybe.

Mechanic:   Your radiator is leaking.

Customer:   You’re going to replace it?

Mechanic:   No. It’s a small hole. I’m going to fix it.

Customer:   Good. I don’t like paying for extra work.

Mechanic:   It’s okay for me too. I don’t enjoy doing extra work.

Customer:   It’s hot in here. May I turn on a fan?

Mechanic:   Have I ever visited your office?

Customer:   No.

Mechanic:   Have I ever eaten your cooking?

Customer:   I don’t think so.

Mechanic:   Have I ever slept in your bed?

Customer:   I hope not.

Mechanic:   Good. Don’t touch my fan.

Customer:   It’s so hot in here. Have you ever noticed that?

Mechanic:   Why don’t you take a walk?

 

Note: This is an exercise to illustrate the use of the present perfect simple in statements and questions. It could also be used for pair or group practice of emphatic statements and responses.