Though I’d planned on spending two weeks in Bali, I heard of a smaller island off the eastern coast, and decided to leave one island for another. I figured I could spend three days there, and then return to Bali. A three day island vacation turned into a week. That is the captivating power of Gili Trawangan.
The boat ride from Bali to the Trawangan Islands was a choppy one. I spent most of the ride trying to keep my leg away from the seat in front of me. The day before I’d gotten into a scooter accident and the pus-filled scrape flared with pain whenever it rubbed against anything.
I climbed off the boat and waded to shore. I didn’t have a reservation to stay anywhere, but as soon as I had put on my backpack, I found myself in a swarm of Indonesian hostel workers.
“I’ll give you a cheap room,” one long haired man said to me.
“100 a night. Including breakfast.”
I squinted, debating paying the $10. “I think I can get cheaper,” I told him.
“Maybe…” I walked away from him to barter with others.
“100 a night,” someone shouted. I shook my head.
“I have the cheapest rooms,” another man said.
I started laughing. I turned and walked back to the long haired man, who was smoking a cigarette and watching me barter. “Okay. 80 a night. I’m in.”
He nodded and turned. I followed him, wishing he’d offered to carry my backpack.
We walked from the beach to the main road, which circled the island. Then we turned to a side street and walked as the ground turned from a paved street to a dirt alley. I wondered if I’d signed up for the only ghetto portion of the tiny island.
The courtyard area was lush with plants, and my room was one of the five rooms there. I had a double bed, a fan, and my own porch, so I overlooked the fact that the room didn’t have a sink inside. I figured I could scope out the island for a day and move on to a nicer place if I felt the need to.
I left my room immediately and went for a swim. As I looked at the people across the beach, it was obvious who was a tourist and who was local. The tourists were either tanning or super burned. Most of the local girls were Muslim and didn’t go out, while the local boys all had smooth, hairless brown skin, rippling abs and low-hanging shorts. I bit my lip often to catch my drool.
While walking back from the beach, an Australian woman said to me, “Hey there girl, that leg is infected.”
“Shit,” I said. Her certainty confirmed my worry. “I was afraid of that.”
“Go to a doctor today. I’ll find out where one is if you want. I had an infection the last time I was in Bali. I waited to see a doctor until I got home, because I was here for work. And the infection had gotten so bad that they had to dig it out of my calf all the way to the bone.”
I was convinced. Ten minutes later I was in the doctor’s office. He gave me 12 antibiotics and said, “No alcohol or swimming for three days.”
It was total bullshit, of course. I was on vacation on a tiny island. There weren’t even cars, and I could walk the perimeter in an hour. No swimming? No drinking? I mean, I could try…
That night I watched a reggae show while I ate dinner. And then I smoked a hookah. And then I drank a beer. One beer is pretty much not drinking by vacation standards.
The next morning I put on a dress and went to my porch as soon as I woke.
One of the four men who I’d seen around the hostel came up to me. “Hello! Me Andy. Me make you breakfast. You like breakfast? Me make you eggs, me make you pancake. What?”
“I’ll have some eggs, thanks.”
“Tea is great, thanks.”
Soon after I had a stained mug filled with tea and a plate full of eggs that I ate off the bent tines of my fork. I was pretty set on moving on to a nicer place when Andy came back up to me.
“How is food? Is good?”
He pointed to my scraped up leg, which I had lathered in ointment and was resting on the chair beside mine. “That bad. Scooter?”
“Yeah. In Bali. I went to the doctor yesterday for medicine though.”
“No! No medicine…” He turned and called out some Indonesian things to his coworkers. Two of them came walking out. They gathered around me and leaned over my leg, looking and talking to each other.
One walked away from my porch and up to one of the plants in the garden. He started picking the leaves off. Then he came back to me and began to lightly brush the stem ends on my wound. Each leaf provided about a drop of orange gooey liquid, but the men were more than happy to pick away at their plant and douse me in plant juice.
“This is more better than medicine,” Andy said. “Me had bad scooter crash, me use this, okay! No problem! You understand?”
I smiled. “Yes, thanks,” I said, touched by their concern.
All of a sudden, there was screaming coming from the alley. The tall wall that surrounded the hostel’s courtyard blocked me from seeing what was happening, but it sounded like a chick fight. All the boys ran out to see. I, though curious, stayed where I was.
As I listened, I was positive it was two women yelling. The louder one had a chicken-like quality to her voice. The yelling was continuous for a few minutes.
The shyest of the hostel workers stepped back into the courtyard. “Fight?” I asked, miming punching fists. He nodded, and motioned ‘come here’ with his hand.
I jumped up and followed him out the door.
Once outside, I found the situation to be a bit anticlimactic. The chicken-voiced lady was screaming from her veggie booth down the alley to another lady. Occasionally the other lady turned back to yell, but mostly she just wandered away.
I couldn’t understand a word of what was said. “What’s happening?” I asked the workers. They were watching the ladies’ interaction and laughing.
“She is crazy,” the shy boy told me, pointing to the woman down the road. She looked grandmotherly and un-crazy to me, but then again, I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying.
Just then, another hostel worker came outside to see the drama. He was dripping wet, and wearing only a towel and flip flops. He must have heard the commotion from the shower and been too curious to put on clothes or dry off.
Now, I’d been in a long distance relationship for the past year, and I hadn’t seen my boyfriend for six months. As much as I’d been enjoying the male scenery in Indonesia, I now felt slightly unnerved by the nearness of a practically nude man.
Then his friend started trying to pull off his towel.
Though everyone was still focusing on the screaming fight between the women in the alley, I was a total pervert. The toweled man jumped back from his friend, clutching the top of his towel with one hand while his friend repeatedly tried to grab and pull the ends of the towel. I was rooting for the friend. GET IT! I thought.
And then the alley exploded in laughter. Everyone around me was doubled over and wailing. I whipped my head back towards the distant woman and saw her standing up from a bent position and straightening her dress.
“Oooh hoo hoo!” Andy laughed. “You see?” He asked me. And then he imitated her, bending away from me and spreading his butt cheeks.
The other hostel workers laughed too, and mimed the cheek-spreading action. The chicken-voiced lady wasn’t mad anymore. She had one hand pressed lightly against her eye and she shook her head, laughing.
I was shocked. The butt-hole flasher didn’t look grandmotherly anymore. I had been so distracted by the prospect of male frontal nudity that I’d missed the grand finale of an Indonesian chick fight.
Gradually, all the men from my hostel walked back into the courtyard, and I followed. The one in the towel walked back to the showering area. I walked back to my porch, smiling. I’d changed my mind on moving to a new hostel. I was happy exactly where I was thanks to a little plant juice and an old woman’s butthole.
(written in 2011)