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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Money and Things at a Bird Market

Sunday morning I got up at 4:00 and walked to the train station. I paid 40 cents for a 2 hour train ride to Malang, the 2nd biggest city on my end of the island of Java. Then I walked over to the fanciest hotel in town and paid $10 for a Western style breakfast – eggs, bacon, and croissants – a small fortune! But totally worth it. To put these purchases into perspective I should tell you that my discretionary income is $4 a day and the majority of that goes toward school supplies and copies that I give my 700 students.

Okay, well back to the adventure. After breakfast I walked to a flower market and bird market. I also took pictures of baby monkeys, little hamsters, a squirrel and other things that were for sale, but those pictures didn’t come out very clear.

Then I walked to the town square and watched a man play a drum while his trained monkey (on a chain) rode a little bicycle and put a mask on his face and scared the Indonesians who had gathered around to watch. At various times the monkey would “play dead” and then spring back to life and attempt to grab people. The teenage girls shrieked. I put 20 cents in the bucket as a donation for the entertainment.

I met a woman who wanted to know where I lived so she could come and live with me so that I could give her private English lessons. The desire to have a private tutor is pretty common. This is the first time I met someone who insisted that I let her live in my same house. It is impolite to say, “No.” in Indonesia. I have learned many new skills in diplomacy and ways to gently ease myself out of difficult confrontations.

Then I went shopping in a huge department store and all I bought was an iridescent bug sealed in plastic for $1.50. I just thought it looked so neat and that maybe my grandchildren would think so too. I spent a lot of time at a big book store but didn’t find anything that I really needed.

I had lunch at McDonalds – cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate sundae. $4. When I lived in America, in Utah, I lived across the street from a McDonalds and I made a promise to myself that I would never go there on my own and I never did. But here, well…

Then I walked to a place that I had read about in the Lonely Planet guidebook and I got a 1 hour massage from a blind woman for $2.50. It’s in a tiny little corner of a shop and there are several curtained off rooms where you lay down on a padded table and the blind person gives you a fairly vigorous massage and you pay the man who runs the convenience store out front.

It had started to rain when I was getting the massage so I came out a light drizzle and walked back to the town square where I caught a little mini-van (25 cents) to the bus pick up area. Then I got on a big bus (80 cents) for the 2 hour ride to my town. It was crowded and I had to stand for the first 20 minutes or so. A young man came and stood near me, pressing his arm against my purse-bag which I had slung around my neck. I turned my back to him, facing the back of the bus because I was pick pocketed once and I’d rather that not happen again.

I got off close to my house, walked home and showed my ibu-mama and my host father my purchase. My host father shook the little clear plastic container and told me, “It’s dead.” He was amazed that I would spend so much money on a dead bug in plastic.

And so that’s how I spent 5 days worth of income in one day and all I had to show for it was a green and black shiny dead beetle and a smile.

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