Not the Eat, Pray, Love moment i had in mind…
When your tour guide asks you to marry him.
The moon disappears at 10pm in Lovina. The golden crescent hovers, alone, just above the horizon and slowly makes its way down until completely vanishing.
I couldn’t figure out the sky there. The sun seemed to set in one direction and rise again in a place that wasn’t quite in the same path. I would have loved to sit and watch the sun make it’s way from end to end. If I had any sort of patience to do such a thing.
That afternoon I had hired a tour guide. He was the same man who picked me up when the van from Ubud dropped me off, promising to take me to cheap accommodation. The same man who had organized the dolphin-watching boat for me that morning. I hadn’t particularly wanted to go to any of the places he took me on this tour. But I didn’t want a boring day at home. And I’d done so little my last month in Thailand that I’d been overcompensating on the tourist attractions here in Bali. I think I did more that day alone than I had in six weeks in Thailand.
I can’t tell you this guide’s name. Because I forgot it as soon as he said it. Asian-specific names I still have trouble remembering. I have no frame of reference to help me along.
He was a little pushy, and not someone I completely trusted. But, I can be lazy, sometimes, and he was there.
And so, that afternoon, he took me on the back of his motorcycle to the Buddhist temple. To the hot springs. To a waterfall. And to lunch.
At the waterfall he asked me if I’d ever had rice wine. When I said no he said that I should try it and he offered to get some with me that night.
Part of me wanted to say no. I could tell that he was interested in me. And I had no interest in him. But, at the same time, it’s always nice to hang out with locals. So I thought what’s the harm.
He picked me up that night and we went to a convenience store where we bought a bottle of arak and a can of Sprite. The guy behind the counter mixed them together into an emptied water bottle.
And then we drove to a quiet area of the beach. No one else was around.
He lit a fire of coconut rinds, leaves, seaweed, and whatever he could find discarded on the beach.
The only sounds were of the water hitting the sand and the hum of a motor on a far off boat.
He poured a double shots worth into an empty cup and downed it in one gulp. He poured another and handed it to me. I sipped it, slowly. It was sweet but strong and anisey.
He continued this ritual, passing the cup back and forth. Whenever I had the cup and he wasn’t looking I would pour most of my share into the sand. It was too strong. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting too drunk.
I kept trying to watch the moon disappear. I kept trying to make out the stars in the sky. But he kept interrupting.
“I like you,” he said.
“Marry me and bring me to America,” he said.
“Stay in Bali with me,” he said.
“I’ll drive you to Amed and show you special places,” he said.
“I wanted to swim with you in the hot springs but there were too many people around,” he said.
“I can take you snorkeling for free,” he said, “if I tell my boss my girlfriend wants to go he will let me.”
To each of these I replied, “no.”
He said he wanted to take me to a discotheque, one where everyone would be Balinese. He’d buy me a Bintang. It was tempting, to see that side of Bali, but I no longer felt comfortable with him, and I was tired of having to turn down his perpetual advances. And so, I asked him to bring me back. And I decided I needed to leave for my next destination.
It’s hard, sometimes, to know where to draw the line between “authentic local experience” and “this is creepy, get me the fuck out of here.” It’s hard, sometimes, to want to hang out with locals when those situations always seem to turn into marriage proposals. Especially when those marriage proposals are solely based on the fact that I’m a female, a blond, and traveling alone.