844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Ubud Rotary Club (Bali, Indonesia)

For an updated version of this post, go here.

Feb 18th, 2009 - Last night was bizarre. While in Ubud I have met a rather interesting fellow. His name is Cyrus. He lives in Manhattan, has published three books, is an expert on the art of writing eulogies, is half Iranian, so on and so forth. You get the picture. He has no trouble keeping up his end of the conversation. I am reading one of his books now (Farewell, Godspeed: The Greatest Eulogies of Our Time). It is a novel idea for a book and an extremely interesting read. I just finished Fidel Castro’s tribute to Che Guevara. But I digress. Cyrus recently spent a month visiting Iran and has some truly fascinating tales to tell. It was this trip that led to his invitation to speak at the Bali Ubud Rotary Club. Fortunately, I was invited along to hear him speak. What is the Rotary Club? Well, here you go:

'Rotary is a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. Members of Rotary clubs, known as Rotarians, provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. There are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. As signified by the motto Service Above Self, Rotary’s main objective is service — in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world.'

This meeting, held at a restaurant in Ubud, was brimming with odd right from the start. By chance both Cyrus and I are tall fellows and, on this night, both happened to be wearing black t-shirts. We do not look very similar but this did not prevent people from mistaking me for Cyrus on numerous occasions.

The woman who served as the liaison between the Rotary Club and Cyrus for the purpose of his presentation showed up about forty five minutes late. This could have been easily glossed over but the club president kept referencing her absence over the microphone. He struck me as the Balinese version of a gay hairdresser. I was close. When not fulfilling his duties as club pres he is an interior designer. I am not sure about the gay part but it would not be front page news if it turned out to be true (not that there is anything wrong with that of course).

He started the meeting off by ringing a bell, calling the meeting to order, and then speaking about god knows what in barely comprehensible English. He seemed to be talking erratically and moving from one topic to another in a whimsical manner. At one point he was passing around the microphone to people at the meeting to facilitate introductions. They have a meeting every week and from what I gathered new people show up each time. It felt a little like no one really knew each other on this night. I attempted to get to know some of the folks in my vicinity but this proved difficult as the microphone was in constant use. Luckily, it did not make it my way. I was happy to avoid spouting off something along the lines of “uhhhh...I have nothing to do with Rotary. To be honest I am not even sure what the hell it is you people do. I came for the food and the presentation. Ciao!”

And about the food. Everyone at the meeting pays 50,000 rupiahs for dinner ($4.50) with the money benefiting the club. Now clearly this is not a lot of money but it is a little bit pricey for Bali. Normally, this restaurant serves ten course meals but the club has an agreement to receive three courses at a discounted rate. It is no exaggeration to say that I could literally put all three courses into the palm of my hand and stuff them into my front packet with some room left over for spare change. A small salad, three mushroom ravioli, and a heart-shaped dessert (not really sure what it was but I can say the heart was roughly the size of the Grinch’s when he was still a miserable prick). Delicious but not exactly satisfying.

And then there were the people. Now let me say to those of you thinking I am a judgmental asshole that these people are extremely nice and welcoming. They are good people. They donate their time, their money, and most importantly their energy (as far as I can tell there is an age minimum for Rotary as most of the individuals there were 50+) to help the people of Bali. Their kindheartedness cannot be overstated. I am only a tourist. These people are much more.

They are also a little off, albeit in a cute quirky way. There is the gentleman who kept confusing me for Cyrus and making random remarks outside the context of any actual conversation. He kept making comments to me (believing I was Cyrus) involving Iran and continued to do this even after Cyrus had given his presentation. I only made the correction when he addressed me by name (i.e. Cyrus). After I told him that I was in fact Richard and the guy across the table was Cyrus he curiously replied that he’d been mistaken because he had removed his glasses. I say 'curiously' because he’d had his glasses on at the time of the other misidentifications.

And then there was the woman I believe to be his wife. She was disappointed to hear that Cyrus would not be speaking about his eulogy expertise, only his trip to Iran. Apparently, she had three friends about to pass out of “the living realm” (her words) and felt a “shiver down her spine” when she learned he was going to speak. Later I kidded him that he really pissed all over her parade. However, I should mention that he did, magnanimously one might say, offer to give her any advice she requested and also offered a copy of one of his books.

At one point she stood up with the microphone to inform members about upcoming events. I basically tuned out but was abruptly brought to attention when she informed everyone that free pap smears would be given to the locals at the upcoming event (some sort of dance benefit). If only someone were there to capture my expression at that moment. She made the statement with such a perfect combination of nonchalance and conviction that I believed it to be accurate. When I found out she was kidding and that it was ok to laugh I nearly soiled myself.

Imagine being in room with a dozen or more people, most of which seem to have slight to moderate attention deficit disorder. For most of the affair I dared not look Cyrus in the eye for fear of an uncontrollable giggle fit. At the close of the gathering a gentleman told a joke for reasons I am unaware of (perhaps they always end with a joke?), that, not unexpectedly, ended with a golf reference. I should have grabbed the microphone and said, “Ok folks, I’ve got one. How do you get a witch pregnant? Give up? You fuck her! Duhhhhhh! Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all evening.”

And then there was the bathroom. A single bathroom for both males and females. It could, quite possibly, be the nicest restaurant bathroom I have ever been in. The floor was dug out a bit and filled in with carefully placed flat smooth rocks. There were small plants placed about and the toilet itself was placed directly in the center of the room. Imagine executing number one or number two in Adam and Eve’s garden bathroom, perhaps the one adjoining their master bedroom. This is a shitter fit for the Pope.

As I stood there emptying my bladder I began reading one of the many framed posters decorating the wall. Upon closer inspection I realized that almost every one had some sort of salacious, if not downright pornographic theme. They resemble those licentious t-shirts you can buy on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. One was adorned with ‘Casual Encounter Wanted’ followed by Dick and Jane type stick figures in numerous sexual positions. There was the ‘Why a Beer is Better Than a Woman” poster and the cartoon depiction of the different types of dicks, containing drawings of the various types of penises (my favorite was Santa Dick). There was the ‘Woman on a Bicycle’ which portrayed a woman with no underwear and a hiked up skirt riding a bicycle accompanied by a cryptic explanation as to when one might see such an individual riding past. My favorite was the drawing of a penis-shaped mushroom beneath a tree with an ass-shaped pear hanging above. Your guess is as good as mine on that one. Keep in mind that this is a unisex bathroom.

When I returned to my table I instructed, make that commanded, Cyrus to use the bathroom. Strange. Very Strange. I could not wait to leave the restaurant so we could analyze the evening’s events.

No comments:

Post a Comment

'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim