Monday, October 29, 2007

Food (Bhina Ria, 1993)

I am sitting with an American, a nurse who works per diem, from Miami. Travelling around the world. She has long wavy blonde hair and we are eating nasi goreng at Suki's restaurant. It is okay but kind of bland, made for the tourists. Garlic but not enough chili. Not the original Balinese rice, which is expensive to buy in the market these days.

I haven't wanted to talk to fellow Americans in weeks, or even speak English. But for some reason I am down here by the beach and am drinking ice tea and playing with the ice cubes that no longer make me sick. I am bored at Suki's restaurant and she gives me a shy smile so I ask her to sit down.

Sit down she does, and we order the rice and beers to go along with it and then she is telling me about the love notes she received today from the restaurant owner (handsome: long shiny black hair, rich brown angled face, regal nose, tall). She looks American in that way that if she stays in Asia any longer she will be telling stories about being hired off the street for a low-budget Hong Kong movie to represent America, blue-eyed.

I like her. It is good to speak a little English. I can feel my constructions are a bit awkward, following Indonesian syntax though the words come out in English. A large white cockatoo clings to a wooden perch near our table.

"Where you going next?" I want to know.

"Bangkok."

"Easy travels in Thailand," I say, as the cockatoo squawked. "Except riding the elephant hurt my butt."

She nods, slipping a spoonful of rice into her mouth. Everybody goes to Thailand, the hill tribes, the elephant training camp. Patpong Road.

"How much time do you have off from work?" I ask her, wondering how the fellow escapee did it. I always ask this.

"Well I work per diem, so I can take off when I want," she tells me.

I contemplate nursing school.

Suki is over by the open-air kitchen, saying something to the cook who is his aunt. I know his aunt from the village, and Suki is Pasek's cousin.

"Do you know if he's married?" she asks.

I know. I am deciding whether to tell her.

"Tomorrow come up to the village and have a real Balinese dinner," I offer, as if I am inviting her to my own home.

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