|This is exactly what Denpasar doesn't look like. (Source)|
It's weird that this time yesterday everything was ordinary and English, and now I'm on the other side of the world, where it's 30+ degrees and 75% humidity, and all the signs are in Indonesian, which I had to Google because I wasn't sure whether that was the name of the language, and people stare at me on the street. Or maybe that's just the social anxiety talking. I feel like I went from being in a lecture in York one minute to watching the sun rise in Malaysia the next.
|We're not in Phonological Variation and Change any more, Toto.|
I would have seen the sun set in Indonesia, but by then I was sleeping the jet-lagged sleep of the dead, which I will later regret when I can't sleep tonight and I have nothing to do but watch incredibly dramatic Indonesian soap operas, where the acting is on a par with a school play or YSTV's Checkmate, which has been described as "worse than ebola" and "the best and worst thing", and "I showed this to my 8 year-old niece then she killed all her friends with a staple gun to prevent them from ever seeing it". Just watch it. It'll change your life.
As I was sitting at Heathrow, it suddenly struck me that I was flying to Indonesia, via Malaysia, on Malaysian Airlines, reading a book called Infidel. Which, while I'm in sales pitch mode, is awesome and you should all read it. (But maybe not on your way to Malaysia.)
|Can I have my cultural sensitivity certificate now? (Source)|
I managed to sleep and read through most of the first flight, so it wasn't a completely torturous 12 hours. Kuala Lumpur airport looks shiny and exciting, which is lucky, considering that I have the world's longest stopover there on my way home. I sensibly used my hour transfer time to scout out chocolate shops and benches suitable for sleeping on, because I have priorities like that.
A few hours later, I was in Denpasar. My first impression of Indonesia was that it was simultaneously just like Durban, and unlike anywhere I'd ever been. (Actually, my first impression might have been the humidity punching me in the throat. So just like Durban, but even more so.) I spent the time queueing at passport control and customs worrying about whether I was going to get falsely detained as a drug mule and if I could convince them to x-ray my dreads for absence of drugs instead of just executing me right off the bat, but they waved me through without incident, which was a relief.
|Helpful tips at the airport.|
I felt like a proper Westerner on the taxi from the airport, gaping at everything for being so exotic.* The heat and the lush greenery are so Durban, but at the same time, everything's totally different. There are shrines all over the place, and great big crazy statues, and the rules of the road seem to be more guidelines than anything else. The roads are full of people on motorbikes, with babies and shopping and extra passengers and women in smart skirts sitting delicately side saddle. My taxi driver seemed to work by echolocation, hooting every time we passed an intersection or a driveway, which evidently worked, since we didn't die, as I occasionally thought we might.
|Sure, why not? (Source)|
|The view from my hotel window.|
The hotel feels oddly sci-fi. I'm disappointed not to be sleeping in a pod (only not really, because I'm still claustrophobic, even here in the future)
|Look at the colours!|
|So many colours!|
Also, can I just point out that I'm staying in a hotel? As if booking my own ticket, getting to the airport, and going through airport security by myself didn't make me feel grown up enough. The idea of staying in a room that doesn't contain 18 other people, even when I'm paying for it myself, still feels wholly unnatural to me. I think another tiny dance party is in order. Until Lauren joins me tomorrow, whereupon we can have a slightly larger dance party.
I keep asking myself questions that make me think I should maybe have done, like, five minutes of research before I arrived here (in my defence, I did look up the currency, the weather forecast, and the many, many things that could kill me). Can I drink the tap water? (No.) Does the hotel have a kitchen? (No.) What language do they speak here? (Indonesian.) What day is it now? (Um.) Which hemisphere am I in? (Southern, but only by 8 degrees.) Can you tell me what my name is? (What?) What is there to do in Denpasar? (Leave Denpasar.)
Finding out the answer to that last question made me feel a bit better about my total failure to be a decent tourist today. When I eventually struggled out of my air-conditioned room in the middle of the afternoon, I only made it to the supermarket, where everything was confusing and I decided that bananas and peanut butter would have to be supper, and back to the hotel. I'd feel guilty if I thought I was walking distance from anything worth walking to. But as it is, walking along a busy road in ridiculous heat just didn't seem worth the effort, so I blamed jet lag and retreated to my room to eat peanut butter off a highlighter, because the downside of hotels is that they expect you to be the sort of classy adult who goes out to eat. (For my next trick, I'll be working out how to make tea without a kettle or a mug.)
Tomorrow I'll be a proper tourist. Maybe I can catch a bus to somewhere interesting.
Or just get lost in the hotel again.
*Edward Saïd was turning in his grave. And now he's doing it again because I'm representing the East as other and taking authorship of the narrative and shut up Ali and get on with the story.