Saturday, September 03, 2005

Wayan and the Denpasar Bird Market

I went to the Denpasar Bird Market, and the Central Market, with the driver associated with Puri Tantra, Wayan from Candi Dasa. I liked him tremendously. He seemed a good advertisement for Hinduism, which he espoused with some enthusiasm. He seemed quite content, and devoid of envy, like a HIndu version of the chuckling Dalai Lama. If I were Hinduism's PR man, I would be using Bali as my source, not India. He never went to school, and was reading a spineless, dog-eared English text of a quality which serves to explain the nation's menu writing. I told him the English in it was quite wrong. He pulled out another, fallen into about 6 parts, and I told him that its English was right. Frigid, but correct, it was, nothing but a very long phrase book.

This poor fellow relies for his income not on his capacity to drive but on his capacity to joke with tourists, the highest reach of any language of course. He has no experience of study, and says that he finds it very difficult to memorise words and phrases from books. Private English tutors seem not to be terribly common: the tourist industry provides more lucrative means of employment for expatriates.

He says that English classes are outside his means. Of course one has to take such claims with a grain of salt. He stands to earn in the vicinity of 100,000 to 250,000 Rp (A$14 to A$35) each day that one of the 6 groups of guests at the bungalows wants to use the attached driver, while a senior teacher in a government school might earn in the vicinity of $280 per month (2 million Rp), or A$3360 per year. Petrol is not a major expense at A$0.35 per litre or so.

Wayan's career started out helping his sister sell fruit at the Denpasar fruit market. She still works there. Then he sold ice cream on the streets of Denpasar, and then worked as a conductor on bemos, the local public transport, before becoming a driver for tourists (who seem to be described universally as "guests").

I bought some pork satays at the market for 1,000 Rp each ($A0.14), double the local price. I offered some to Wayan, but he said he could not eat chilli. He said his stomach had given up on chilli a while ago, and I felt sorry for this unfortunate state for an Indonesian, which did not sound right, and suggested a want of medical treatment. Even if that were not the case, then I still felt sorry for him.

The bird market was two alleyways of fighting roosters, birds from all over Indonesia, mice, rats, squirrels, tortoises, monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, and great tanks full of crickets. Birdcages and penjors got a look in, along with fish, and some plants. Some of the birds didn't look too flash, as if they had worn out their feathers by crashing in a panic of flapping wings against their small bamboo cages. Some were spectacular.

The vendors looked like hard men, tough, and poor. One felt uncomfortable greeting them, and overcoming that discomfort did not produce any response. The monkey man in particular seemed scowly, as if a lifetime of keeping such closely related beasts chained by their necks on short short lengths of chain had stained his soul.

The squirrels are kept by boys, though it is best to possess them from when they are young. Then they will travel everywhere with their possessor, resting in a shirt pocket. The garden of the Puri Tantra bungalows rustles with squirrels, and geckos abound, though we only saw today our first gecko proper, a beautiful spiderman creature which has no diffficulty at all walking on walls. It is a handspan long, and has a head as big as a 50 cent piece.


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