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For the last week and a half, I have been isolated from the world. I had no phone and no Internet. I went from being addicted to my “Crackberry” (I still carry it in my backpack out of habit) to nothing.
Being in Bali has been a complete 180 of everything I have ever known. The streets are the size of small alleyways. I eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My showers consist of pouring buckets of cold water over my head. Instead of dogs being faithful companions, families keep dogs but do not give them names or show any affection; they’re more like lawn ornaments with heartbeats. Toilet paper is hard to come by. But what strikes me the most is how different it is to shop here.
I have not been to a single store since I have arrived here. Or at least I don’t think I have. A lot of the stores look like a concession stand you would find at a high school gymnasium. Even the cell phones are sold from the small stands.
For the first week, I stayed in the rural village of Kerambitan. There are no restaurants here and the town revolves around the market, where we would go to get an ice cream cone for 4,000 rupiah, or about 40 cents. It isn’t nearly satisfying as Glacier (probably the first place I will have to go when I get back), but for 1/100 of the price, I was willing to deal with that.
The market is lined with stands selling exotic fruit. There is one, the durian, which is about the size of a soccer ball and smells like the dead mouse that’s been ignored in the corner for too long. It’s considered a delicacy here, and has a sweet taste if you can get past the smell. So far, I haven’t been able to manage that. Next to the fruit vendors, women sell palm leaves in different shapes and colors, used in their daily Hindu rituals.
A huge part of Balinese culture is bargaining. They think it’s fun and good for a few laughs. I’m sure even more so for them to watch westerners who have no idea what they’re doing or saying.
Vendors call out, trying to grab the attention of anyone who passes. Sometimes they go as far as literally grabbing. The women rule the marketplace during the day. We are told it is because they are better at bargaining. The men are too soft. They show off their wares, and in the meantime take the time to socialize. I haven’t learned quite enough about the language to figure out what they say.
At night, the market really comes alive. Students go to get drinks and ice cream, and fathers go out for a dinner after work. Lights come on above the food stands, illuminating the streets. The dogs wander around, looking for leftovers. The sound of gamelan troops and roosters fill the air and the smell of cooked chicken is impossible to avoid.
When I come back home, I’m almost afraid malls will intimidate me. I do know, though, that I am looking forward to seeing Pearl Street Mall again and eating Glacier as I watch the people walk by.
Contact CU Independent Contributor Stephanie Davis at Stephanie.email@example.com.