I paid a couple hundred bucks for a nonrefundable membership at a well-known yoga studio, but it didn’t work for me. The classes weren’t the ones I wanted, there were literally hundreds of people jostling for space in each classes, and the few times I did go I got a killer sinus headache from being in the face-down position too much. Apparently I’m allergic to Bali, and I have had a low-grade headache since I got here, and yoga exacerbates the hell out of this and makes me miserable.
Next, I tried Pilates.
I researched and went to a class, and enjoyed the 55 minutes of workout on the special machinery. I didn’t enjoy the price tag though, $25 for a single class!! This was way higher than advertised on their website, and the few classes they offered were inconvenient for me. Upside: I met a Taiwanese woman at the class and have continued hanging out with her.
I walked near my guesthouse. Every 10-15 seconds a tout tries to finagle me onto his scooter and pay for a “taxi” ride. I get irritated. I get on my own motorbike instead and find a different spot to go walking. Same thing – multiple insistent requests and demands every minute to get on someone’s motorbike and pay them. I try yet another spot, with the same problem. After three tries on different days, I feel anger bursting over, and like I want to scream at someone.
I don’t blame them, either. They’re just trying to feed themselves and their families. Yeah, they’re annoying to me. They see me as a walking ATM, but the truth is that even though I am barefoot-dirt poor by USA standards, I have plenty of food, comfortable shelter and enough income to help me travel the world. And God knows I have access to way more cash and luxury than they do.
What DOES make me angry is the cycle of poverty. The system that allows so many destitute people to barely eke by an existence, largely supported by cash cows flying in on planes to enjoy their services. I judge myself for being annoyed at them. I just myself at being white, a tourist. I judge myself for not being more generous, and after each walk I end up more upset and angry than the last.
Strike three. You’re out.
So I rented a bicycle.
I hopped on the bike and went for a 45-minute ride. I had to wear a face-mask to avoid sucking in all the fumes, as I was riding on high-traffic streets surrounded by hundreds of motorbikes. The bike felt unsafe, as both wheels were wobbly, and the area has many steep hills. Also, incredibly, the touts still kept shouting “TAXI?!?” at me as I flew by on my bike, which astounded me even as it tried my patience.
When I arrived back to my guesthouse I felt “okay.” I wasn’t super excited about using the bicycle regularly as my mode of exercise, or even as transportation. But when I got off the bike and my right foot touched the concrete, I felt the entire right side of my back seize up in an excruciating spasm, and I nearly fell over from the agony. I couldn’t walk for three days, and felt ready to give up.
So I parked the motorbike on the side of the road and said “screw it; I’m just going to walk along the road and see if I find something.” It was nerve-wracking, as I was in the middle of the island, and I was the only non-local for a long ways. People stared. People gave me shocked looks. But most also smiled, and I persevered… I was dead set on getting thirty minutes of exercise in come hell or high water, after nearly two weeks of trying and failing.
I came to the end of the road after less than five minutes, and the looks people were giving me really started to creep me out, and I felt frankly unsafe. I sighed, and got ready to turn around.
But wait! As I am turning around, I notice that at the side of the road, there is a little path into the forested area. Oh heck yeah, I am so going in there!! On entry, I warily eye the heaps of trash on the side of the forest path, and I wonder uneasily if I am walking into a homeless camp, or a squatter’s area, and wonder what the hell I think I am doing.
A couple of people on motorbikes go past, their mouths making an “oh!” of astonishment at my presence, and I am just about ready to turn around. But then I see the stairs and rejoice!
I know instantly that I have found my exercise spot, and gleefully begin bounding up the stairs, only to leap back down thirty seconds later. There is a temple at the top, which I am prohibited form entering, as you must wear a sarong to go inside. I can’t resist at least one little peek though, so I scoot in, snap a couple of photos, and zip right back out.
Then, I spend a glorious twenty minutes running joyfully up and down the concrete stairs. Some kids see me from a clearing a couple hundred feet of and yell at me. I yell gleefully back at them, having no idea what they’re trying to tell me, but vaguely aware that they are probably trying to tell me “get the hell out of there you idiot foreigner!”
I am now convinced that I have found my exercise spot, and plan on coming back every day, hopped up with runner’s high from my exercise.
That’s when the woman with the knife showed up, waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.
At first I wasn’t even sure she was trying to rob me. You see, she was old. Like, 65-but-looks-more-like-85-lived-a-hard-life old. She wasn’t aiming the sickle very convincingly, either, and the demands she made of me were incomprehensible, due to not having many working teeth, not to mention the landing page.
I pretended like I didn’t understand why she kept gesturing at my purse and brandishing her sickle at me, and gestured back at her to go away. When she didn’t, I simply leaped off the stairs to the side of her and ran away. Ashamed. Unhappy. Judging myself and life and the universe.
I continued my “pretending” by utterly convincing myself for two days that the incident had not even happened. I didn’t tell a soul, and refused to think about it even in my own mind. It was a coincidence. She wasn’t trying to rob you, or hurt you. It didn’t really happen.
But then I started feeling incredibly depressed and angry for “no reason.” I went internal in my meditations, and realized that I was feeling understandably traumatized by the event and my emotional response to it.
So I have to share my story with the world. Even if it isn’t pretty. Even if I’m judgmental or hurtful. Even if someone tried to do something awful to me, against their own morals. Even if I’m scared. Even if I feel like an idiot for putting myself in the position in the first place. I have to speak my truth.
Thanks for listening.