Gili Trawangan is a small Island north of the larger Lombok Island east of Bali. You can walk around the island in a little over an hour. They have an open market that serves amazing street food from a dozen or so vendors every evening. They have this Nutella peanut butter pancake that we all split. As usual, a sweet thing too late has me awake too early.
Today, as I walked down the worn, busy bodied road, I saw a younger looking man and was oddly drawn to talk to him. It was as if we were not strangers. Here was our conversation in brevity:
Me- 😏Hey what are you up to?
Billy- 😌Nothing. I tried to fish today but couldn’t catch any thing. Shows me line neatly spun in a circle with no hook.
Me- I am Antonio ( it’s easier to say than Anthony) What is your name
Me- Very nice to meet you (Cool hand shake)
Billy- So what do you want me to do for you?
Me- (I’m a bit taken back. What’s he mean? Do to me?) I don’t understand. I don’t need you to do anything to me.
He repeated the phrase. Then followed...
Billy- Do you want mushrooms, weed, to get high?
Me- ahhhh well Billy, you know I’ve never done that before. You’re my sons age, and I’m pretty old, and well, I’m afraid if I did that I would fall over and die or something. All said with a smile..
Billy- No you will be ok, just a little for your first time.
Me- Well, how much is it?
Billy- 150...( meaning about 10$)
Me- So here’s what I propose Billy. I will give you the money and we will call that good.
Billy- So where do you want me to bring it to you?
Me- No... here is what I mean, you can have the money. I don’t want the drugs or anything. It is a gift from me to you. That’s it. We are brothers and so we help one another. I am not on holiday. I live here for a short time and work. I WANT YOU TO BE BLESSED!
At this point Billy didn’t know what to do. His countenance lit up as a gracious and puzzled look was also painted on his face. As I went on my way, he continued to thank me. I would look back and smile and give the aloha wave. It's sort of contagious, but more and more people I met and would see me later, would use the greeting.
Later as I walked through the busy little street, I hear someone yelling "brother, brother." Billy was out and about. He was the one yelling waving to get my attention! Thanking me again.
Billy like many locals on these islands struggle to survive. Liz talked about this in her post, Leaving Gili Trawangan. Tourists come because of the beauty, and their money goes a long way. A salaried position ranges from $250 -$350 a month. Most do not have those positions. That can mean, as one massage therapist told me, getting up early to prepare meals for the family and twin babies, leaving the island at 8:00 am to go to the next, working all day until 11:00pm, every day.
For instance it’s 2:00 am now and I still hear horses trotting by carrying visitors. They have been under load since we went walking at 6:00 am. “The locals must work a lot,” a street vendor selling grilled corn on the cob told me. Btw, it was amazing corn! I was his first customer that night as people began to arrive at the market. I decided to tip him more than he charged me for the corn. I could easily pay $2 US for it and go on, but it created another great opportunity to do good, which was such a small thing. For him, it was apparently larger than I realized as tears welled up in his eyes. A young guy in his 20’s named Umetik. We began to chat about life and family. Once married he works to live, to survive and help provide for the larger family. “For some reason I understand everything you say, but these others I do not. Why is that?” I had no clue on what to say about that, but kept talking. Like others, Umetik and I had a conversation of being human, and supporting one another. He went on to say, “We know your money goes along way and are grateful. Some people are so rude however and come here expecting us to just know what they are saying, and for me to get them drugs. I don’t do that. I could get them and make money, but it’s not the money I want to make.”
More customers came up and I was on my way. He didn’t want me to leave, and I could have chatted hours with him. I love the common bonds we have with others and the opportunities to know them and their cultures. These encounters today are comparatively as beautiful as seeing a sunrise at the beach or on top of a mountain. Interactions with others, if embraced can be powerful! If you ever plan to come to Bali, you can make it more of a holiday by actually talking to those who love to serve you. They are observers as well. A little charity, and an open ear will go a long way as you Java Llama... drink coffee, eat corn on the cob or walk down the street looking to do good.
Tony Liz Grace
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