Poop coffee, metaphysics, and clove fires
Bali is a sensory explosion - all five of them. If you were blind, gagged, deaf, and wheelchair-bound, you'd still know the moment you stepped out of the airport (or were wheeled out) that you were here. Because, right away, you inhale Bali. Mix clove cigarettes, teakwood timber, and the dense wet of tropical vegetation, and then light them all on fire. The result is a heavy, smoky musk, and it defines the place. I can't believe that Dolly Parton hasn't already been out here to bottle what is obviously meant to be her namesake's scent: "Bolly".
And then there's the taxi ride from the airport. While you're remarking to yourself on the fact that every single facade, doorway, lamppost, shutter, and rooftop is carved in the most intricate, delicate pattern, usually found elsewhere in the world only in museums, you're taxi companion is talking about the metaphysics of following one's dreams in life. Of course, that sort of thing was always going to happen, and this time his name was Michel. In his fifties and hailing from Pune, India, where he'd just completed a course on, really, what I just said - the metaphysics of following your dreams, Michel's next stop was motorcycling through the Himalayas via the Indian border. You know, it's people like him that make the rest of us who supposedly "backpack" look sad and small and so-not-adventurous-at-all.
The next morning, this morning, I woke at dawn to the shrill bleating of my iPhone. Grumbling with some annoyance that I'd not only left the ringer on, but turned it into a cloying duckish birdsong, I realized that I hadn't done anything of the kind. The cacophony was coming not from my phone, but outside my window, where a cloying, duckish bird was performing his morning ablutions, and a crew of roosters had begun to crow with a severity that suggested they were about to be executed for lunch purposes.
"Forget about the five senses!" I hear you saying, shivering in your frigid, snowing-in-March, non-tropical dwelling somewhere in the northern hemisphere. "Tell us what you're doing today!" Why, thank you, I will. Actually, I was getting to that, via the five senses. But I see you're getting impatient, so I'll cut to the chase.
Today, I will be tasting poop. It comes in a cup, after it comes out of a feral cat's bottom, and here they call it coffee. More precisely, "kopi lumak", or "coffee lumak". Named for the animal that defecates it, this particular brew is one of the most expensive in the world. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why, although I'm looking forward to finding out.
Photo by the esteemed Lori Davidson: Typical Balinese stone and wood carvings